The BBC in The US: 5 BBC Shows That Have American Versions

Friday, November 18 by Marina Szaven

The Beatles may have broken up decades ago, but the British Invasion continues on with a slew of BBC shows that have American versions. Although comedy seems suited to mocking the peculiarities and personalities of a specific locale, some comic situations are universal the office, the family and the quest for hidden treasures. These 5 BBC shows had their start across the Atlantic, but each one became a cultural phenomenon in the United States, as well as in other countries around the world.

"The Office" began as a humble six-episode experiment on BBC 2 in 2001. The mockumentary-style sitcom covered the day-to-day tedium of office life at the Wernham Hogg Paper Company in Slough, England. The show centered on David Brent, the prototype for every bad boss ever, played with withering wit by Ricky Gervais, who also created, wrote and directed the series with collaborator Stephen Merchant. Gervais and Merchant met as co-workers and turned their own cubicle experiences for the show’s caustic take on work life. A second series of six episodes and a concluding two-part Christmas special completed the story arc. The show won innumerable awards and has now spawned versions in Brazil, France, Canada, Chile and Israel with Swedish and Indian versions in the works The American version premiered in March 2005 with Steve Carell as the insufferable Michael Scott of the Dunder-Mifflin paper company and continues to be a ratings and critical hit.

"Antiques Roadshow" This long-running PBS series gives everyday folks the hope of finding treasure originally began in Britain in 1979. The premise of the show is very simple: the show travels around the country with a group of antique and art experts who evaluate the heirlooms or garage sale finds of the local folks. The show provides tension as the item owner listens to the historical, artistic and trivia associated with the piece(s), while awaiting the big reveal of the estimated value at auction. The show started an American version in 1997. Sometimes there really are million dollar moments. At a recent Tulsa, Oklahoma, episode, five rhinoceros horn cups from China from the late 17th century received a $1 million to $1.5 million value.

"Dancing with the Stars" had its start as "Strictly Come Dancing" on the BBC in May 2004. The show was an instant hit in Britain and an American version quickly went into production as a summer series in June 2005. This celebrity challenge show pairs professional ballroom dancers with minor celebrities in lots of spangles and spandex. Contestants survive week to week by virtue of their dance scores and public votes, often suffering injuries or embarrassing moments in rehearsal. The last three pairs compete for the coveted mirror ball trophy. The US and British versions remain popular shows with 32 other countries producing their own versions.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" has been running on the BBC since 2004 and has included UK luminaries such as “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons and even American talk show host Jerry Springer. The show traces the genealogy of celebrities with historical facts about their family’s past. The US version began in March, 2010 on NBC and has traced the background of the show’s executive producer, Lisa Kudrow of “Friends” fame and Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Gwyneth Paltrow.

"All in the Family," the long-running CBS sitcom that captured the cultural conflicts of the 1970s, was actually based on the BBC’s “Till Death Us Do Part.” The British original, which began in 1965, followed the Garnett family living in the East End of London, with the father Alf holding highly racist and anti-socialist views. In the American version, Archie Bunker shared similar intolerance but lived in Astoria, Queens in New York City. The CBS show spawned many spinoffs, including “The Jeffersons,” “Maude” and the follow-up series “Archie Bunker’s Place.”

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