American television is great. Across channels and streaming programs, shows are only getting better and better. It seems like production companies and major broadcast networks have got the pilot algorithm down these days as they're making hit after hit. But some of these companies have figured out a secret to success that's a little more of a shortcut and a little less of a spark of genius: adapting foreign shows. From The Office to Dancing With the Stars and every talent show you can think of in between, the US has been reimagining shows for years now, sometimes earning way more acclaim and success than the originals did.
Is this a problematic idea? Maybe a little bit. It's a little concerning that our TV producers might be running short on ideas of their own, continuously borrowing without a whole lot of upfront acknowledgment to their predecessors. Often times, we wouldn't know our favorite shows weren't originals without a little background research. But, at the same time, it's hard not to be thankful for the creativity in these adaptations, and we're definitely willing to dish out the gratitude now that we know. So to everyone in the UK, this is our thank you for a whole lot of quality pop culture and binging time. Without you, we'd never get to witness Kevin Malone spilling a full pot of chili. Check out the rest of the shows, and countries that gave them to us, we're thankful for below. Here's our list of 20 TV shows we love that were originally started abroad.
We have to say it — we're surprised it took until 2019 for the US to hop on the Love Island boat. With how much America loves reality TV, you know they'd definitely be into a show that airs every single night of the week. The original show, which aired in 2005 and 2006 and was then brought back in 2015 for good, is kind of like the British Bachelor in Paradise. Ten contestants are brought to a beautiful villa in Mallorca where they spend weeks coupling up, competing in contests and more, with the goal of finding love and maybe, just maybe, winning a cash prize at the end. Between having to share beds with their couple, surprise dumpings, arrivals at the villa and more, this show was definitely a fit for American television. Comedian and actress Arielle Vandenberg hosted the first US season in the summer of 2019 and it was renewed for a second season for the following summer.
Before William H. Macy was running around the streets of Chicago stealing, doing drugs and conning strangers as Frank Gallagher, David Threlfall was doing the same thing in Manchester. The original British black comedy ran from 2004 to 2013 with good reception and was adapted two years later for the US, which featured an almost identical character lineup, names, neighbors and all. The show was later adapted in 2017 for both Russia and Turkey. Shameless has found a way to be relatable across all screens and country lines, and we're not surprised. The US version would go on to be Showtime's longest-running original-scripted program with more than eight seasons to boot. We're glad the Gallaghers, as crazy and stressful as they may be, made their way to so many countries, but we're definitely jealous we didn't get to witness James McAvoy take on the role of Steve on our screens.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a '90s staple. From action figures to Halloween costumes and more, the show was a large part of the pop culture of the decade and continued to be many years after. The show, which premiered in 1993, was based on Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, an installment of the Japanese Super Sentai superhero series. Power Rangers regularly borrowed stock footage from all 50 of its episodes, and it would go on in later seasons to borrow from other installments of the series. Though the shows visually matched, the plots differed a bit based on where the rangers (or dinosaur-evolved human warriors on the Japanese show) came from, who the villains and other characters were, where the rangers got their powers from, etc. Still, we're thankful to Japan for literally letting us borrow the Pink Ranger. We've still got our suits hidden somewhere.
Iron Chef America says it all in the name: it's not the original. The Food Network's culinary game show is an adaptation of Iron Chef, which originally aired in Japan from 1993 to 2000. The US first tried to roll out Iron Chef USA in 2001 and failed, but the remake aired in 2005 and found many years of success thanks to initially showing only battles between the "Iron Chefs," or master chefs, instead of bringing on guests. Both shows center around the same idea. Chefs compete against Iron Chefs like Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Cat Cora in a one-hour cook-off with specific secret ingredients or a theme. The shows have four other spin-offs including Iron Chef UK and Iron Chef Gauntlet. Honestly, we're hungry just reading about them. As Iron Chef Chairman Mark Dacascos would say: "Allez cuisine!"
If you've ever watched Shark Tank and thought, "I could totally do this," then you're not alone. We've all been there, trying to think of what could be the next Snuggie or late-night informercial must-buy. But before people were bringing their ideas and inventions to Mark Cuban and co., contestants were vying for support on The Tigers of Money (also known as Dragons' Den) in Japan eight years earlier. The US isn't the only country in on the pitch either. The show has been adapted for over 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Croatia, Israel, New Zealand and more. The original show has certainly sparked success and the concept has led the US version to multiple Primetime Emmys for "Outstanding Reality Program." Has anyone patented a Snuggie with pockets yet? Yes? I guess we'll think of something else.
We'll give the UK one thing: they certainly have a knack for controversial television. Between Love Island's policies on airing the dirty deed (yeah, they go there sometimes) and Skins approach to teen life including mental health, disabilities, substance abuse and more, they've approached a lot of rough topics. The teen drama aired in 2007 and started making waves covering these big ideas, leading to the US's attempt at a remake in 2011. The adaptation featured an almost identical first episode with the only change being character names and some small character details such as hobbies or interests. Unfortunately, the show, which aired on MTV, was canceled for low ratings and backlash based on its depiction of teenage sexuality. The original was fairly successful and ran for seven series, including a number of full-cast changes. Well, while the US did their best, and we love that they tried to bring important topics to our screens, but this one was better left to its creators.
We'll be honest here — it took us an hour to write this blurb because we went down the rabbit hole of Silent Library throwback videos and we couldn't stop laughing. The MTV show, which ran from 2009 to 2011, featured friends trying to complete silly tasks in a library without laughing or going above the sound meter. It's safe to say we would definitely fail. Who do we have to thank for this incredible and hilarious gameshow? Japan, of course. The country really gets games, and their variety show Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!, which has aired over 1,000 episodes and three decades, gave us the segment that would later go on to become the Silent Library we know today. We're not sure what else this variety show has going on, but we're ready to search for some reruns.
Adaptations are one thing, but adaptations with matching spin-offs is a whole other. Three's Company was certainly a fan favorite as it ran from 1977 and 1984 and long after it ended. The lovable trio of Janet, Chrissy and Jack captivated audiences as they navigated life as roommates and their hijinks eventually led to the spin-offs, The Ropers and Three's a Crowd. Of course, there would be no Janet, Chrissy and Jack without Robin, Chrissy and Jo first. The US show was adapted from the successful British sitcom, Man About the House, which was followed by the spin-offs, George and Mildred and Robin's Nest, respectively. If it's not broke, don't fix it, right? The UK got this show recipe right, and we were lucky to give it a try.
The devil wore Prada and Ugly Betty wore braces. On ABC's hit show, America Ferrera, despite all her fashion flaws, got a job at trendy magazine Mode. Though this sounds like an ode to Anne Hathaway's time at Meryl Streep-led magazine Runway, it is, in fact, an adaptation of the Colombian telenovela, Yo soy Betty, la fea. The telenovela is considered one of the most popular and successful of all time and has spawned over 15 adaptations in other countries. As for the US series, it was received incredibly well and earned a permanent place in American pop culture. It became a basis for a number of spoofs and skits on one hand and earned America a "Best Leading Actress in a Comedy Series" on the other. We love to see it, and that's why we keep rewatching it.
Even if we used a lifeline and asked the audience, we're not sure they would know that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was based on a British television show of the same name. The British show ran for 30 series and 592 episodes, leading to adaptations in over 40 countries. The US show achieved great success after its start in 2002, and who's really surprised? We can't think of anyone who would pass up the opportunity to play trivia with Regis Philbin for a million big ones. The show lost a little steam as time went on, but it still remains a fan favorite US gameshow to this day. And that's our final answer.
If you find something good, share it with the world. That was actor Daniel Dae Kim's philosophy, at least, when he discovered the South Korean show The Good Doctor. After a lot of time spent working and then breaking with CBS, he brought the rights to the show to Fox and Sony, and the rest was history. The show follows Freddie Highmore's character, Shaun Murphy, a savant surgeon who is on the autism spectrum. Unlike its Korean predecessor, which spent most of its time in the number one rating spot, the US show has received mixed reviews in full. However, the leading actor's performance has been highly praised. We're glad Freddie is finally getting his praise thanks to Kim's dedication to a story.
The Office has cemented a legacy of being one of the most renowned television shows of all time. Steve Carell's portrayal of Dunder Mifflin's painfully obtuse but surprisingly lovable manager, Michael Scott, was genius. And across from John Krasinki's Jim Halpert and Rainn Wilson's Dwight Schrute, we had a comedic trio that would go down in history. But before these three were arguing about who'd be assistant to the regional manager or how to get a stapler out of jello, Ricky Gervais was across the pond holding down an office of his own as David Brent. The original Office was created by the lead actor and Stephen Merchant and only had 12 episodes and three specials before ending in 2003. Gervais has often returned to his character for YouTube skits , and would go on to be an executive producer with Merchant for the US version. We love that they were willing to share their vision for this mockumentary with us. Bears, beets, breaking TV records.
Maybe the next "Scenes from a Hat" suggestion should be "what it would be like if you met the British cast of the show." That's right. Another show borrowed from the Brits. The UK seems to be a gold mine of good shows, and Whose Line is It Anyway makes that list. The improv comedy show, which features four players coming up on stage to make up songs, tell jokes and work with props, first started across the pond in 1988 and went on to feature many of the comedians that would later join the US show like Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Greg Proops. We're still laughing years later at the "Greatest Hits" and "Hoedowns," so it looks like we have a lot to be thankful for.
Before Bindi Irwin, Drew Lachey, and Apolo Anton Ohno were winning the Mirror Ball on Dancing with the Stars, the Brits were unsurprisingly vying for the championship first. What can we say? America loves a game show, especially if Britain already made the idea for them. The British show, Strictly Come Dancing, has been the basis for at least 40 other dancing competition programs and led to the US adaptation, which has had over 25 seasons, more than five live tours and featured an array of athletes, artists, reality stars and more. We're open to an international celebrity dance-off if these shows are.
We're thankful for a lot of these shows, but we're really thankful for The X Factor. More specifically, we're thankful for Simon Cowell. The American Idol bad guy created not only the original British version of the show but also started the American version. On both shows, judges would select artists to mentor throughout the music competition, hoping to bring their contestants all the way to the finale and to stardom. The producer didn't always win the show, but he certainly won in other ways. Simon himself put together One Direction right on the X Factor stage and other bands such as Little Mix and, from the US version, Fifth Harmony have come from the show. Simon certainly knows a thing or two about the music industry. Unfortunately, his TV knowledge was lacking a little bit, and the US version didn't last long.
We're guessing a game show is the last thing George Orwell thought would come from his book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, but that's exactly what the Dutch did when they made Big Brother in 1999. The show features a competition where contestants are put in a house with no outside communication and are watched as they try to not get evicted or lose games. The last person in the house wins a monetary prize. The show is certainly controversial based on the surveillance of the contestants, the physical and mental strain it puts on the House Guests, and the contestants' treatment of each other. Of course, that means America optioned it for CBS. The show is one of the longest-running adaptations of the series and has surpassed 20 seasons. Ironically, the original show was influenced by MTV's The Real World, so I guess we'll take the blame for this one.
If you've ever walked into a friend's house and thought, "what were they thinking when they bought that couch," then Trading Spaces is the show for you. Originally based on the UK show, Changing Rooms, two sets of neighbors would get $1,000 to renovate a room in their neighbors home, and then surprise them, with the help of a professional. The US show, which premiered on TLC, lasted eight seasons and was revived in 2018 while the original ran from 1996 to 2004. The show featured carpenter and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington among many other talented designers. We wish our neighbors would come redo our houses, too. Can we sign up?
Maybe the US and the UK should just start making all their shows in tandem. We're seeing a pattern here. That pattern continues with Queer As Folk, a British TV series about three gay men living it up together in Manchester. The 1999 show made its way across the sea in 2000 and was adapted to portray five gay men living in Pittsburgh. The show was number one on Showtime and considered groundbreaking for showing the first simulated sex scene between two men in America. This show paved the way for many others, and we're glad to have borrowed it.
The contestants of Survivor have survived for two decades, and that's all thanks to Sweden. Charlie Parsons first thought up the idea of voting people off the island in 1994, and it finally made its way to Swedish television as the show Expedition Robinson in 1997. The US version has become one of the most loved reality shows in our pop culture history. With high viewership and ratings, it has continued to remain a staple in the "Best Of" lists. Who doesn't love watching strangers barter their own shoes and backstab each other, right?
And last, but certainly not least, we have one more game show. Can you guess where it's from? Nope, it's not the UK or Japan. The Voice, which features celebrity artists picking and mentoring contestants through a music competition, was based on the show The Voice of Holland. The original show began in Holland in 2010, and the US show followed along next year. These producers have learned to work quickly. The US shows follows its inspiration pretty closely, but we're glad to say we got to watch the one where Adam Levine and Blake Shelton fight. Thanks, Holland!