The Office was a TV Remake that Worked

The American version of The Office defied almost all expectations, but how have other British remakes faired?

Credit: NBC

The Office is one of the rare U.S. remakes of British series that actually succeeded

The Office is Proof that American Remakes of British Hit Shows are Doable

Back in 2005, when I first learned that NBC was planning an American remake of The Office, my initial thought was that this was a horrible idea that would result in a mediocre sitcom that would only sully the sheer brilliance of the original from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. 

Nine seasons later, it’s pretty clear how wrong I was. In fact, NBC’s version wasn’t so much a remake as it was an entirely new show, an ensemble comedy that introduced an array of indelibly quirky characters who only got funnier the better we got to know them. 

The Office and Other Successful British Remakes

Of course, The Office is far from the first successful U.S. remake of a British hit. Shows like All in the Family and Sanford and Son were based on Britcoms, while American Idol and The X Factor were also spawned from British series. 

Yet when you go back through the annals of TV, there are far more failures than successes when it comes to reshaping a British show for American audiences. 

Remake Failures

One of the most glaring examples is Fawlty Towers, which, three decades after it aired, remains one of TV’s all-time funniest comedies. U.S. TV networks have tried to replicate the show three different times, with Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur and John Larroquette all stepping into the shoes of surly hotelier Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) in Chateau Snavely, Amanda’s and Payne, respectively. All three were miserable failures.

Absolutely Fabulous is another show that has seen multiple remake attempts with zero success. As early as the 1990s, in fact, sitcom star Roseanne Barr was involved in developing a U.S. version that would have starred Carrie Fisher and Barbara Carrera as boozy BFFs Eddie and Pats, but it never materialized.

In 2009, Fox revived the idea and ordered an AbFab pilot starring Kathryn Hahn (Crossing Jordan) and Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From the Sun), but ultimately decided it wasn’t good enough to make it on the air. 

Perhaps the all-time worst example came from NBC’s brutally botched remake of Coupling, a Brit hit that was essentially Britain’s answer to Friends. When Friends finally left the air, NBC attempted to fill the void by producing an Americanized Coupling, even going so far as to use the same scripts as the U.K. original.

The show was a train wreck that was axed midway through its dismal first season, never to be heard from again.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.