The Brit List: Five British Versions Of American TV Shows

Lord Sugar, from The Apprentice

The Apprentice

This is a franchise which is so popular in the UK, and has made such a household name of Lord Sugar (known to his mum as Alan) that most British people (including me) would not realise it’s an American formula, or that Donald Trump is the original star of the show, unless specifically informed otherwise. Hell, I’d even go so far as to say that we’re fairly sure our version is the best one, not least because Sir Alan (or “Sraln” as the contestants invariably call him) is less objectionable than Donald, while still being every bit as tough, and his hair is less bizarre.

Family Fortunes (Family Feud)

For some reason – decorum, most likely – the transition from America to Britan robbed Family Feud of it’s fighting nature and put the emphasis on the prizes at the end. Either that or TV bosses were worried that their audiences would pronounce it “feeyud” around whatever passed for a water-cooler in the 1970s office: a tap, maybe? However, the basis of the show, that there’s a survey, and you have to try and second guess the public without leaving your brain in the green room, remains constant. And so began a 30 year love affair with idiotic on-the-spot answers and that weird “EH-ERRR” computer noise.

Blankety-Blank (Match Game)

America, what happened? You come up with a genius idea for a panel game, with tons of potential for double-entendres every time a question is read out, where you have a panel of six celebrities whose only job is to make the game more entertaining and who all know they’re involved in something brilliantly silly, and you decide to call it Match Game!? I mean if you’re going to dabble in generic supermarket own-brand labelling for TV shows, why not go the whole hog and call it Cheap Panel Show, or Probable Ratings Hit Game. It takes a certain kind of sauce to claim that the British version is superior to the American one having only seen our version. Nevertheless I do have that sauce, and am happy to claim that whether hosted by Terry Wogan (self-mocking uncle), Les Dawson (despairing grouch) or Lily Savage (sour-faced harridan) Blankety-Blank beats Match Game into a cocked hat.

Note: This clip is fairly self-explanitory (and is included chiefly because of David Tennant), althought you might need to know that Paul O’Grady used to present the show in drag, as Lily Savage. And yes, he was every bit as bitter when he did it.

Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model (America’s Next Top Model)

Don’t imagine that the addition of the “and Ireland” is the thing that makes the title of this show clunky. It was clunky from the start. “Next top”? Is that the best you can offer your winners? The implication of your sudden demise as a top model once the cameras stop rolling is in the title of the show before you even audition, and since when was being a top model a thing anyway? Supermodel, I could understand. America’s Next Supermodel makes sense (although it’s still clunky). So yes, while calling a show something that sounds like a buildings and loan company from the 1930s is by no means a guarantee of televisual excellence, it’s clearly no barrier to getting strutting feet onto the catwalk.

Geordie Shore (Jersey Shore)

(Note: this clip is NSFW)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbXIc1Xst8k&feature=related

You know the drill: young people, out and about, getting wasted and doing bad things and swearing like construction workers, and all the while being followed around by a camera crew. It’s reality, but in quite a scripted way. Although oddly we’d already had The Only Way Is Essex as a response to The Hills and Jersey Shore before the punningly titled Geordie Shore arrived. Oh and there’s been Desperate Scousewives too. Clearly people are starting with the pun and making the show around it now. So we should expect to see Jersey Shoreditch or Aberystwythnail and I any day now.

Which US TV show would you like to see a British version of? Tell us here:

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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