Remakes - Dear John to The Lucy Arnaz Show

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Dear John
Original UK Series: Dear John (1986-88). Written by John Sullivan (Only Fools And Horses), Ralph Bates starred as a newly divorced man who joins a singles club.

American Remake: Judd Hirsch (Taxi) took over in the US version that ran for four seasons, 1988-92.

Comments: It must be some level of success that the American version ran many more episodes than the British original.

Don't Forget Your Toothbrush
Original UK Series: 1995 game show where contestants must be prepared to travel anywhere to perform outrageous stunts.

American Remake: Transferred the format to Comedy Central in 2000, hosted by Mark Curry.

Eleventh Hour
Original UK Series: Patrick Stewart stars as a special advisor to the government who is the first (and seemingly only) defense when science runs amok and threatens Britain.

American Remake: Rufus Sewell plays an American helping keep America safe from dangers of unchecked science.

Comments: I thought the original series was completely unbelievable, Stewart's character was virtually unaided even when a major incident was about to occur, and made far too many pompous speeches (albeit in that great Shakespearean voice). Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI) was the producer of the remake which despite good ratings was not renewed for a second season.

First Years
Original UK Series: This Life (1996-97) was a cult drama series about twentysomething lawyers on the BBC for two years before it was unceremoniously canceled. However it made household names for its stars, most of whom appeared naked at one point or another during the show.

American Remake: NBC adapted it in March 2001 with help from producer Jill Gordon (My So Called Life) and set it in San Francisco.

Comments: NBC's poor track record with remakes (Cold Feet, Coupling) continued unabated, and they canceled it after only three episodes.

Foot In The Door
Original UK Series: Tom, Dick and Harriet (1982). Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint) starred in this comedy about a recent widower who moves in with his son's family.

American Remake: Harold Gould starred in this short-lived adaptation in the spring of 1983.

Comments: The idea of a wild 'n crazy dad living with his uptight son didn't really set the world on fire on either side of the Atlantic.

Getting On
Original UK Series: Low-key BBC comedy set in a hospital geriatric ward created and starring former real-life nurse Jo Brand along with Joanna Scanlan. Future Doctor Who Peter Capaldi directed the series, which was similar to his The Thick Of It.

American Remake: HBO picked it up in November 2013 with Laurie Metcalf and Alex Borstein.

Comments: If any network in the USA were going to run this very dry, observational comedy, it would be HBO where ratings don't really matter.

Original UK Series: Broadchurch, a huge hit for ITV which managed to keep the mystery of whodunnit secret until the final moments of the last episode.

American Remake: One of those shot-by-shot remakes that makes you wonder why they bother. Particularly when David Tennant is playing the exact same character as he did in the British version.

Comments: The supporting cast in the UK version was filled with familiar British actors, whereas the American version on FOX is all no-name Canadian actors. Hit-or-miss, at least Tennant has the second season of Broadchurch in the UK to fall back on.

Holding The Baby
Original UK Series: Rather dire 1997 ITV comedy starring Nick Hancock who has to care for an infant.

American Remake: Appeared briefly on Fox in 1998.

Comments: Canceled after only seven episodes on US TV.

Hope Island
Original UK Series: Ballykissangel (1996 - 2001). A sort of Irish Northern Exposure, that originally focused on the relationship between an English priest and a skeptical publican in small town in Ireland. The cast has changed over the years but the series continues to be popular both on the BBC and in the U.S.

American Remake: Hope Island ran for one season on the PAX network in 1999, changing the setting to a small island off the coast, starring hunky Australian Cameron Daddo (F/X: The Series).

Comments: The PAX series only lasted one season, while the British original ran for six years.

House of Cards
Original UK Series: The first adaptation of Michael Dobbs' novel was by the BBC in 1990 as a four-part mini-series (with two sequels). Ian Richardson had a career-defining turn as the wily MP Francis Urquhart whose catchphrase, "You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment" is still in use.

American Remake: Netflix first original series in 2013 was this prestige version starring Kevin Spacey in his first TV series as an ambitious congressman who longs to be President.

Comments: Spacey is amazing and the series has run for many seasons, but in expanding the plot they've made his machinations so complex and unlikely it seems incredible they would ever pan out.

Life Is Wild
Original UK Series: Wild At Heart features a British family (run by Stephen Tomkinson and Amanda Holden) who relocate to a South African game reserve in this on going ITV drama. 

American Remake: Life Is Wild began on The CW in September 2007 in the old "Seventh Heaven" timeslot featuring an American family (with more focus on the daughter) who move to South Africa.

Comments: The ITV series (2006-to-present) has lasted many seasons, but the CW (formerly the WB network) didn't show a lot of patience and canceled it after 13 episodes.

Life On Mars
Original UK Series: Sam Tyler (John Simm) is a modern day police detective in Manchester who has a car accident and wakes up in 1973.  Is he in a coma, dreaming, or has he traveled in time?  Still a policeman, but without modern equipment or attitudes to support him, he must deal with his bigoted, opinionated boss Gene Hunt, to solve crimes and figure out how to get home.

American Remake: Relocated to New York City, it was initially developed for American TV by David E. Kelley (Boston Legal) with Colm Meaney (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) cast as Gene Hunt.  The pilot was reshot with new producers onboard, and Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs) now playing Hunt. It lasted for one season but the producers were given enough notice to do a final episode and wrap things up.

Comments: To me there is a mile of difference between Britain in the early 1970s and the US.  In Britain they didn't even have daytime TV yet, and race and gender equality issues had not been addressed.  By that time in the US, blacks and women were at least being given opportunities in the workplace and society. The big question about the American version was: would ABC let Gene Hunt be a bad-ass?  (My vote: Keitel is no Philip Glenister.) Fans were torn about the ending which radically departed from the UK version, but the clues were all there and I suspect as a DVD box set, the series will age well on rewatching.

Lotsa Luck
Original UK Series: On The Busses (1969-73). This long-running situation comedy about bus conductors ran for seven seasons and spawned three feature movies.

American Remake: Lotsa Luck, a vehicle for Dom DeLuise, ran for one season in 1973.

Comments: Old-time veterans of PBS can still recall On The Busses reruns (which still turn up from time to time).

Love Thy Neighbor
Original UK Series: Love Thy Neighbour (1972-76), a comedy featuring a white bigot whose new neighbors are West Indians much to his horror, ran for 55 episodes.

American Remake: This 1973 summer replacement series on ABC had a black family moving into an all-white neighborhood.

Comments: Despite 70s relevance, American audiences obviously preferred the similar All In The Family.

Lucky 7
Original UK Series: The Syndicate (2012-2013), a BBC drama series about how the lives of five employees at a supermarket about to be shut down are affected when they suddenly win millions from a lottery ticket they collectively purchased.

American Remake: ABC canceled this show in September 2013 after running only two episodes. Entertainment Weekly said, "I switched this off faster than any other new show this year."

Comments: Familiar British actors (Timothy Spall, Joanna Page) helped the UK audience identify with the characters and their problems, the American version set a record for low ratings with its first episode.

The Lucy Arnaz Show
Original UK Series: Agony (1979-81). Maureen Lipman starred in this ITV comedy as an "Agony Aunt" (an advice columnist, like Dear Abby) whose personal life is a mess.

American Remake: A vehicle for the daughter of Lucille Ball, The Lucy Arnaz Show ran briefly in 1984.

Comments: Agony is fondly remember, and in fact a sequel series, Agony Again, ran in 1995 on ITV updating the characters. Lucy Arnaz was never heard from again.

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