Not Ready for Primetime: 8 TV Remakes That Failed
Sometimes, you just can’t duplicate a good thing. Take this list of shows, for example. They were all based on popular and successful foreign TV shows, so it was assumed the American version would do just as well. Unfortunately, more often than not, that isn’t the case. Many foreign remakes aren’t even able to make it past the first season and often struggle with ratings. Ready to see what TV remakes were the biggest flops? Check out the eight shows that failed miserably in America.
The American version of Spaced never stood a chance. The original was created by Simon Pegg, writer Jessica Stevenson, and director Edgar Wright. Running from 1999 to 2001, it was a comedy rich with pop culture references and was filled with quick wit and rapid-fire dialogue, per Mental Floss.
In 2007, Fox announced it was planning to make an American version, starring Josh Lawson, Sara Rue, and MADtv alum Will Sasso. But after receiving horrible feedback from the original series’ creators and fans, Fox decided there was no way they’d be able to mimic the original’s success.
When the American remake was in the works, Pegg released a statement showing appreciate for his loyal fan base. “The whole affair seems to have inspired some spirited debate and some heartening displays of loyalty and love. All this for a show which is almost 10 years old, is all rather wonderful and a vindication of all the blood, sweat and tears (both of joy and pain) we shed in the show’s creation.”
2. Fawlty Towers
Producers in America have attempted to recreate this show three times. First, they attempted a show called Chateau Snavely (1978) starring Betty White and Harvey Korman, which never even made it to a pilot. Then they tried it again with Amanda’s, and finally with a show called Payne, starring John Larroquette, per Buzz Feed.
Fawlty Towers premiered in the U.K. in 1975 and centered around hotel owner Basil Fawlty’s extremely short fuse and incompetence that often created a bunch of headaches and accidents. Amanda’s came on the air in 1983 starring Bea Arthur as Amanda Cartwright, owner of the struggling hotel Amanda’s by the Sea. The show didn’t survive past its first season.
The third time was not the charm in this case; producers tried to remake the British show again in 1999 with Payne, which starred Larroquette as Royal Payne and JoBeth Williams as Constance Payne. It only made it to nine episodes. Hopefully, producers are ready to just leave this one alone.
3. The Killing
This AMC remake was based on a popular series in Denmark, Forbrydelsen (The Crime), which aired in 2007 and ran until 2012. The AMC version aired in 2011 and actually did quite well in its 13-episode first season. However, Forbrydelsen had more success from the start. It had a 20-episode first season, which allowed it to delve into a more intricate plot.
Both shows focus on the investigation of the brutal murder of a teenage girl. While Forbrydelsen thrived in its first season, Mental Floss writes that The Killing’s Season 1 finale was so disappointing it actually ended up losing many of its viewers. Sure enough, after two seasons the show was canceled. Many thought that was the end of the line for the mediocre show, but in 2013, Fox Studios made a deal with Netflix and AMC to bring the TV series back for a third season.
It’s almost the end of the road (again) for the crime drama. Netflix will release the fourth and final episode Aug. 1, according to zap2it.
Premiering in 2006, the show was basically just 30 minutes of sex jokes. But seeing the British version’s success, NBC decided to give it a try. Flavorwire writes that while the British version’s humor was well done and spot-on, the American version was more like a hot mess. The U.K. show, which ran from 2000 to 2004, focuses on six friends and the baggage each of them brings to their romantic encounters.
The American episodes followed the same storylines as the original, but many of the jokes fell flat, in part due to the mediocre acting. The show starred Colin Ferguson, Jay Harrington, Lindsay Price, Christopher Moynihan, Rena Sofer and Sonya Walger. It hit American TV screens in 2003 and didn’t even survive a full first season.
5. The IT Crowd
The IT Crowd, a show about two pop-culture fanatics who are working in the basement IT department of Reynholm Industries, ran for four series in the U.K. beginning in 2006, even winning a BAFTA for best sitcom in 2009, according to What Culture. Hoping to duplicate the British show’s success, NBC attempted to make its own version. Joel McHale replaced Chris O’Dowd, while Richard Ayoade decided he wanted to try and carry over the U.K. show’s success, and committed to playing his same role in the American version.
A pilot was filmed and in 2007 the show was picked up for a full series. What Culture writes that due to negative early reception, NBC had a change of heart and decided not to go through with it. Splitsider writes, “With American audiences already going ‘bazinga’ over nerd-based and workplace comedies, the combination seemed like a homerun. But it’s all in the execution, and The IT Crowd has a hard time letting go of its British base. Of course, while it uses the same script as the pilot, it also keeps the mix of multi- and single camera footage found in the British version, star Richard Ayoade, and the cluttered sets of the original. The show has a decidedly British look and feel to it with nothing to distinguish itself from its source.”
6. Life on Mars
Life on Mars was about a modern day police officer who wakes up in 1973 after he’s in a car accident. The original British series ran for two series on BBC One (from 2006 to 2007), and was well received by critics and audiences, even scoring a nomination for a BAFTA award, according to What Culture. The show ended after two years because producers’ wanted to end on a good note rather than dragging the story line.
Fast forward to 2008 when the show came to America. It had everything – a great premise for a show and an all-star cast, including Harvey Keitel, Jason O’Mara, Michael Imperioli, and Gretchen Mol. The show even premiered with decent ratings. So what was the problem? For some reason, TV executives put the show on a two-month hiatus and moved it from its great timeslot, causing the show to drop many of its viewers and only survive for one season. It was almost self-sabotage in this case.
Bill Cosby was responsible for this American failure. The original version, One Foot in the Grave, ran from 1990 to 2000 and centered around Victor Meldrew, a retiree with a bad attitude and a lot of bad luck. The American version premiered in 1996 and ran through 2000. Cosby portrayed Hilton Lucas, a man who is forced into early retirement from his job as an airline customer service agent.
Where did this show go wrong? The show significantly lightened up the original humor for American audiences, but still included some of the strange jokes from the original, according to Flavorwire. In one episode, Cosby even incinerates a live turtle. The show managed to hang on for ninety-five episodes but ended as much funnier shows, such as Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens, pushed it out of its primetime TV slot.
8. Kath & Kim
The original version, about a dysfunctional mother and daughter relationships, got its start in Australia in 2002 and was an immediate hit with both viewers and TV critics. Mental Floss writes that Australian writers Gina Riley and Jane Turner created Kath & Kim and also played the main characters in the show. The original ran for four seasons and resulted in a TV movie and full-length feature filming, proving just how well-liked it was.
The American show? Not so much. It came on the air in 2008, starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair. The show had a hard time fulfilling its twenty-two-episode season and was canceled after seventeen episodes in 2009. An SFGate review of the American version of Kath & Kim states, “NBC sent the first two episodes of “Kath & Kim,” and both were jaw-dropping in their awfulness. In fact, by the end of the second episode, a stray thought occurred: Maybe an apology to Australia is unnecessary because the American version misses the mark so badly that it’s barely recognizable as a distant cousin to the original.”