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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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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

Michael Ochs Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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12 Facts About the Smithsonian's Collections
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With 19 museums spread along the East Coast, the Smithsonian Institution has become the country’s richest repository of American history. From culture to science, zoos to space exploration, the federally-backed archive has spent nearly 200 years preserving and educating. Check out some facts on its history, how a new species of dolphin was found hiding in its archives, and how the founder eventually became part of the collection.

1. ITS FOUNDER NEVER SET FOOT IN THE STATES.

Wealthy British globe-trotter James Smithson (1765-1829) had acquired an estate worth roughly $500,000 at the time of his death and ordered that all of his assets be inherited by his nephew, Henry James Dickinson. There was one twist: The estate was to be turned over to the United States in the event Dickinson died without an heir of his own so the country could build a hub for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Henry, then 18, died just six years later, and so President James Polk signed the act approving the Smithsonian Institution into law in 1846. Curiously, Smithson had never even visited the U.S. Why leave such a legacy to a foreign nation? Smithson never commented on his decision, leaving people to guess that it was either because he was impressed by democracy or because he wanted to enrich a country that, at the time, had only a few educational hubs.

2. NO ONE WAS REALLY SURE WHAT SMITHSON WANTED.

A portrait of James Smithson

“Increase and diffusion of knowledge” can be interpreted pretty broadly, and it took the United States a long time—roughly 10 years—before anyone could agree on what to do with Smithson’s gift. Educators, politicians, and civilians all had a unique notion of how to spend his fortune, including opening a university, a library, or an observatory. Ultimately, the Smithsonian Institution was a compromise, involving many of these ideas. By 1855, construction on the main building was complete at the National Mall in Washington; it was designated as a National Museum in 1858 [PDF].

3. THEY HAD TO HIDE THEIR COLLECTION FROM AXIS FORCES.

At the height of U.S. involvement in World War II, museum curators knew that Axis forces would have designs on destroying the vibrant culture housed at the museum’s main location at the National Mall. To protect these irreplaceable items, the Smithsonian arranged to have them shipped to an undisclosed location—now known to be near Luray, Virginia—and stored in a climate-controlled warehouse. They didn’t return until 1944.

4. SMOKEY BEAR LIVED AT THEIR ZOO.

Smokey Bear takes a bath at the National Zoo

Yes, that Smokey Bear. (And there’s no “the” in his name.) In 1950, a bear cub that survived a raging forest fire in Capitan, New Mexico, was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service and named Smokey after the popular ad campaign mascot of the era. As a living symbol of the effort, he spent his remaining 26 years at the National Zoo, a constant recipient of visitor attention and hundreds of jars of honey.

5. THEY DISPLAY JUST ONE PERCENT OF THEIR COLLECTION.

In order to execute Smithson’s mission statement, the Smithsonian has had to morph into the greatest display of hoarding the world has ever seen. All told, the Institution’s various artifacts, specimens, and other arcana is believed to number in the neighborhood of 137 million, with an official museum estimate of 154 million. Just 1 percent of that is available for viewing at any given time.

6. ONE CATEGORY IS USUALLY OFF-LIMITS FOR VIEWING.

17th century human remains found in Jamestown, Virginia

Evolving public attitudes over the decades have prompted the Smithsonian to be very wary of displaying human remains. While they’ve collected everything from shrunken heads to the “soap man”—a corpse whose body turned to a soap-like substance thanks to a chemical reaction to soil—most of it remains out of public view.

7. AN EXHIBIT ON NUCLEAR WAR STIRRED CONTROVERSY.

For a planned exhibit of the Enola Gay, the bomber plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II, museum organizers drew criticism in 1994 for presenting material that some veterans groups and members of Congress felt was politically charged. The museum agreed to omit text near the display that some felt dwelled on the horrific effects of the bomb, as well as references estimating the U.S. and rival casualties that might have been suffered if the bomb had not been deployed.

8. THE WEIRDEST ITEM THEY’VE CATALOGED IS A CRAPPY VIDEO GAME.

The box art for the Atari 2600 game E.T.

Amidst many internet lists of strange Smithsonian catalog items—taxidermied animals, beards, and other miscellanea—nothing seems more incongruous than the 2014 inclusion of a 1982 Atari video game based on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Renowned for being produced quickly and for helping to fuel the video game crash of the early 1980s, supplies of the cartridge were buried in a New Mexico landfill and only recently excavated. One went into the museum's archives.

9. THEY TURNED DOWN JIMMY DURANTE’S NOSE.

In the 1950s, actor and comedian Jimmy Durante was easily identified by his bulbous nose, a three-inch-long (from bridge to tip) feature that led to his nickname, “the Great Schnozzola.” Sensing a publicity opportunity, Durante’s management arranged for a makeup artist to create a plaster cast of Durante’s nose and offer it up to the Smithsonian as a piece of Americana. Frank Setzler, the museum’s head of anthropology was unimpressed. “Heavens, no,” he was quoted as saying. “Who would want that? The only place we could use it would be in the elephant display.”

10. AN UNDISCOVERED SPECIES OF DOLPHIN WAS LURKING IN THEIR INVENTORY.

A dolphin skull from a recently-discovered species

With so many specimens, the bowels of the Smithsonian almost certainly harbor secrets that can surprise even scientists. In 2016, two researchers in search of fossilized marine mammals stumbled across the skull of a 25-million-year-old river dolphin they named Arktocara yakataga. Said to have been found in Alaska, the dolphin may have dwelled in the Arctic. It was estimated that the skull—plucked from obscurity because one of the researchers found it “cute”—sat on the shelf for 50 years before being identified.

11. THEY’RE COMMITTED TO PRESERVING DOROTHY’S SLIPPERS.

Possibly the most iconic pair of footwear in pop culture, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz have become a Smithsonian trademark. In 2016, the Institution successfully raised over $300,000 on Kickstarter to build a state-of-the-art preservation case to protect the kicks from deterioration. While star Judy Garland wore several pairs during filming and the Smithsonian’s are mismatched, it’s clear that visitors want to keep them in condition for any future travels along the yellow brick road.

12. SMITHSON EVENTUALLY BECAME PART OF THE COLLECTION.

James Smithson's final resting place within the walls of the Smithsonian

In 1904, some 75 years after his death in Italy, Smithson’s remains were about to be disturbed. U.S. Smithsonian officials were alerted that his grave site would be displaced because of a nearby stone quarry expansion. The Institution took the opportunity to have his casket shipped to America so he could be interred at the site of his legacy—the Smithsonian itself. Escorted by Alexander Graham Bell, the casket traveled 14 days by sea. The body was entombed and topped off by a marker in the Smithsonian, where it remains viewable by the general public.

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