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UK – US T.V Shows: Good Remakes or Big Mistakes?

Skins, The IT Crowd, The Inbetweeners, Shameless, The Office, and now BBC’s ‘Gavin and Stacey’ has joined the ever-growing list of UK shows to be remade for an American audience.

In January of this year, the US television network Fox confirmed that a pilot episode of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ – or ‘Friends and Family’ as it will be called – is in the pipeline.

Unlike most other UK to US remakes, ‘Friends and Family’ is set to have involvement from James Corden and Ruth Jones as executive producers, who were the original show’s writers and actors – Corden and Jones played Smithy and Nessa respectively.

If successful, it will be considered amongst ‘The Office’ and ‘Shameless’ as the lucky few UK shows to be triumphantly reproduced in America. The Office US has received particular acclaim; having been renewed for nine seasons and also having obtained four Emmy Awards. Shameless first aired in early 2011 – only two years ago – but has already been renewed for its fourth season, and has gained a mostly positive reception from critics.

These shows are in the minority however, with others such as ‘Skins’, ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘The Inbetweeners’ all failing to make it across the pond.

Whether or not these shows suffered due to bad translation is trivial. The majority have had pretty direct interpretations, apart from the essential addition of Americanisms of course. Perhaps the unsuccessful remakes were so because they were meant to be British.

This raises the question of why American TV networks feel the need to extinguish the Britishness out of these shows. Other British TV shows that aren’t tampered with are often hugely successful in the States. Top Gear, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey are just some of the much longer list of untarnished UK entertainment that is aired in America, and they have all had their fair share of success without losing their British style.

Gavin and Stacey will have to maintain some kind of balance between keeping to its roots (which Corden and Jones will inevitably ensure) and creating an American twist for it to be successful in the States. Until the release of its pilot episode, we can just hope that ‘Friends and Family’ doesn’t land itself in the “trash” amongst the previous flops.

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