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Why Americans Always Screw Up Remakes of British Comedies

American remakes of British shows are easy targets. Rarely do the new iterations match up to their predecessors, even when episodes are replicated almost shot for shot. It’s hard to justify their existence when the originals are readily available to American audiences and, in some cases, are still airing across the pond. But the biggest problem with remaking shows for American sensibilities isn’t creative or cultural deficits — it's the humor.

When I spent a few months in London in the early aughts, everyone was obsessed with a little singing show called Pop Idol that was soon to debut in America. I remember watching the finale and scoffing that American audiences would never be suckered into entertainment that was so blatantly plastic and cheesy. So clearly my skills as a prognosticator of crossover success are suspect. But one thing I do know from years of consuming British television is that our Anglo friends take their comedy much as they take their tea: black. At the core of the three most recent shows to get the remake treatment — MTV’s controversial, much-hyped Skins, Showtime’s Shameless and Syfy’s Being Human — is a fatalism that is anathema to our sunny American perspectives. It’s not that American TV shows can’t pull off black humor (see: Dexter), but when British shows come to our shores they’re usually stripped of their dark hearts. READ MORE