Top US TV Remakes
Okay, we’re just going to say it: American remakes of TV shows get a bad rap.
Yes, there have been some clunkers (ahem, the Rob Schneider version of Men Behaving Badly) and yes, there are some that have been so bad that they didn’t even get past the pilot stage. We may never see the single pilot of The IT Crowd, and that’s probably for the best.
But in fairness, when it hits, it really hits. The difference between a remake hit and a dud seems pretty simple: It all hinges on whether the remake team truly understands what makes the original special. And as this list shows, there is a lot of understanding out there…
House of Cards
Like many American remakes, this one boasts a much bigger budget than the original. And while we love the British version, the Kevin Spacey/David Fincher remake has the same political intrigue, Shakespearean drama and dark humour. It also adds on some topical storylines (tension with Russia, gay rights, modern news cycles) and it looks absolutely exquisite. Beautiful music score too, by the way.
Okay, this one might be a bit of a cheat, as it’s not strictly a remake of the Benedict Cumberbatch version, but it is a take on a British character and it shares many parallels with the UK Sherlock – the same characters (natch), a modern setting and slick production.
However, one key difference is that Elementary is more concerned with solving cases than in an elaborate back-story. And Johnny Lee Miller brings a different energy to Holmes – not as commanding, but more kooky and lovable.
The US Office
The US Office is like a case study in how to remake a TV show: It brings over the key storyline, setting and characters, has the same style of comedy, but put its own spin on it. It’s interesting to see similar situations as the Ricky Gervais comedy (work dissatisfaction, office romance and a clueless boss), but with an American spin. While Scranton, Pennsylvania is every bit as dreary as Slough, the show has a strain of US optimism absent from its UK cousin. And we dare say that Steve Carell is at least as good a comic actor as Gervais.
The American version of Shameless made some changes to the British original: While the English Frank Gallagher was on the dole; the American one (played by William H. Macy) is on long-term “disability”. And the English council estate is swapped for working class Chicago. Despite a better-looking cast, many of the qualities from the original remain – a bold mix of edgy comedy and drama, a strong ensemble cast and a nifty pace.
House of Cards and Shameless are available on Netflix. Elementary plays regularly on Sky One.
There’s always room to improve.
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