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15 Failed American Remakes Of Foreign TV Shows

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While American TV shows like Friends, The Nanny, and Married With Children have been exported to foreign markets, Americans have seen their fair share of poorly adapted remakes of foreign TV shows. Once in a while, there are imports—The Office, Sanford & Son, and All In The Family among them—that find their place in American pop culture, but every now and then, there are some straight up duds. Here are 15 that just didn't translate.

1. The Killing

In 2011, AMC premiered a new crime drama called The Killing. It was based on a popular TV series titled Forbrydelsen (The Crime) that first aired in Denmark in 2007. While both versions focused on the investigation of the brutal murder of a teenage girl, The Killing seemed to have plateaued in its 13-episode first season after its pilot episode, while Forbrydelsen thrived with a longer and more intricate 20-episode first season. The Killing’s season one finale was extremely disappointing and angered viewers, who didn’t return when the TV series came back for season two the next year.

The Killing was canceled after two seasons, but was later resurrected after Fox Studios, the studio behind the crime drama, made a deal with Netflix and AMC to bring the TV series back for a third season, which premieres June 2. Perhaps the third season will be the charm. 

2. Kath & Kim

Premiering in Australia in 2002, Kath & Kim was an instant success with viewers and TV critics alike. Australian writers Gina Riley and Jane Turner created Kath & Kim and also played the title roles, respectively. Although the original series ran for four seasons and spawned a TV movie and full-length feature film, its American counterpart—which starred Molly Shannon as Kath and Selma Blair as her daughter, Kim, and aired on NBC—struggled to sustain a full 22-episode season of TV. It was unceremoniously canceled after 17 episodes in 2009.

3. Spaced

Before actor Simon Pegg appeared in the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, he created a very popular TV comedy in the UK with writer Jessica Stevenson and director Edgar Wright. Spaced was a surreal, pop culture-heavy comedy with rapid-fire dialogue and jokes. The original British TV series was critically acclaimed and was thought to be a good fit for American audiences.

In 2007, Fox announced that director McG would make an American version of the show with actors Josh Lawson, Sara Rue, and Will Sasso in the lead roles, but the idea was scrapped after negative reactions from the original series' creators and its fans.

4. Fawlty Towers

The creation of Monty Python alumnus John Cleese and his then-wife, writer and actor Connie Booth, Fawlty Towers is considered one of the best British TV series of all time. The comedy surrounded the staff of a fictional seaside hotel and their zany misadventures.

There were actually three attempts to remake Fawlty Towers for American TV. In 1978, a pilot starring Harvey Korman and Betty White called Chateau Snavely was in development for ABC, but never saw production because of the numerous changes to the source material.

The second starred another Golden Girl: In Amanda’s, Bea Arthur played the owner of a seaside hotel. The show ran for 10 episodes before it was canceled in 1983. The third and final remake was called Payne and starred John Larroquette. It was a mid-season replacement on CBS and only aired for a month before it was canceled in 1999.

5. Cold Feet

Airing at the tail end of 1998, the British TV comedy-drama Cold Feet—about the up-and-down relationships of three couples—was considered ahead of its time. British critics applauded the show's depiction of social issues and use of pop music, as it was relevant to its contemporary audience.

The TV series was adapted for American audiences the following year, but received low ratings after its premiere episode, despite mostly positive reviews from critics. It was canceled after airing only four episodes of its eight-episode season.

6. The I.T. Crowd

The UK’s Channel 4’s The I.T. Crowd gained a cult following in England, but failed to make it to American TV when NBC commissioned a remake in 2007. Actor Joel McHale played the awkward Roy, originally played by Chris O’Dowd, while Richard Ayoade reprised his role as Maurice Moss from the original British sitcom. A pilot was made, but NBC’s new chairman, Ben Silverman, rejected it. In 2010, the original sitcom’s creator Graham Linehan stated a new American remake was in the works, but ultimately the project was junked after negative fan reaction.

7. The Weakest Link

In 2001, after the success of ABC's primetime game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, NBC tried to replicate that success with another foreign import. The Weakest Link was a similar game show that focused on a team elimination format rather than an individual one. The new version even imported the original host, Anne Robinson, to moderate the American contestants. 

At first, The Weakest Link saw strong ratings, but soon after it plummeted; American audiences seemed uninterested in the game show’s rules and the gimmicky catchphrase, “You are the weakest link—goodbye.” The show lasted just one year on NBC, with a follow up year in syndication on PAX TV and the Game Show Network.

8. The Ex List

Based on the Israeli TV series The Mythological X, The Ex List was developed for American TV by CBS in 2008. The comedy-drama followed Bella Bloom (Elizabeth Reaser), who is told by a psychic that her future husband was someone she used to date. According to the prediction, if she doesn’t find him within one year, she will remain single forever. This led Bella to explore her past relationships, hoping to find her future husband.

Although The Ex List received mostly positive reviews from critics, general audiences didn’t take to the series’ unappealing characters. It was canceled a month after its premiere.

9. Skins

The British teen drama Skins met commercial and critical success in the UK. The show followed a group of teenagers in Bristol, South West England, and depicted teen social issues including adolescent sexuality, substance abuse, and death. It was an unconventional series that changed out its main cast of characters every two years to keep the teen drama as accurate as possible. When it was adapted for American TV, it found a home on MTV.

While controversy surrounded both versions of Skins, American advertisers abandoned the teen drama because of its very candid subject matter. The U.S. version lasted just one 10-episode season, while its British counterpart enjoyed six good seasons of quality TV.

10. The Inbetweeners

While Skins was a dramatic depiction of teenage life, The Inbetweeners took a more comedic approach to the subject matter. The comedy followed a group of four awkward high school boys who weren’t cool enough for the cool kids, but not anti-social enough to be considered losers—hence the title.

The UK version spawned three highly rated seasons and spun off a successful movie adaptation. When The Inbetweeners was developed for American TV in 2012, it was picked up by MTV, but suffered the same fate as the American Skins. It was canceled after two months.

11. Sit Down, Shut Up

After the cult-classic Arrested Development was canceled in 2006, writer Mitchell Hurwitz developed a new animated TV series called Sit Down, Shut Up that was based on a short-lived Australian TV series of the same name—but while the American version was animated, the Australian version was not.

The remake reunited some of the Arrested Development cast, including Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler. Both series followed the staff and students of a dysfunctional fictional high school. The U.S. Sit Down, Shut Up only aired four episodes on Fox before it was canceled in 2009 due to very low ratings. 

12. Coupling

Created by Scottish writer Steven Moffat, Coupling was a big success in the UK from its premiere in 2000 until its cancelation in 2004. It followed a group of friends consisting of three men and three women, and even drew comparisons to popular American TV shows like Friends and Seinfeld.

When the TV series was imported to the U.S. in 2003, it failed to connect with American audiences, who didn’t appreciate the word-for-word translation of the original pilot episode. (By the time the show premiered, the British version had already gained cult status after it aired on PBS and BBC America.)

NBC canceled Coupling after five episodes. Former President and CEO of NBCUniversal Jeff Zucker later said that it “just sucked.”

13. Life On Mars

The science fiction TV series Life On Mars was also a police procedural that followed a modern day police detective who fell into a coma after a terrible car accident. When he woke up, he found himself in 1973 instead of his own time. The show was such a hit in the UK that it spawned a successful spinoff series, Ashes To Ashes.

When it was developed for American TV, critics gave the cop drama glowing reviews for its vision and premise. Then, the show took a two-month hiatus, and after it returned, it could no longer sustain the interest of American audiences. To add insult to injury, the American version’s season one finale was one of the most perplexing finales in TV history: It revealed that the detective was actually on the first manned mission to Mars, and that both the 1973 and 2008 "realities" he experienced were created by the ship's computer while he was asleep. Fans across the board were furious.

14. Free Agents

Although the original British version of Free Agents was short-lived, the U.S. remake’s life span was much shorter. The series was a black romantic comedy that followed two co-workers dealing with a harsh breakup. The UK's version was raunchy and explicit, but the US remake had to tone down its language and subject matter to placate American censors and networks. It was canceled after airing four episodes in 2011. The remaining episodes were released on Hulu.com a few months later.

15. Football Wives

The American show Football Wives was based on the very popular British TV drama Footballers’ Wives, which followed the fictional Premier League football club Earls Park F.C., its players, and their wives. The American remake changed the sport from soccer to American football as the series followed the fictional NFL team the Orlando Stingrays.

While Football Wives had an all-star cast, including Lucy Lawless, Gabrielle Union, and James Van Der Beek, ABC did not pick up the TV drama after its pilot episode tested poorly with audiences in 2007.

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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