11 vintage American sitcoms that were inspired by British series

Not all ideas are born in Hollywood.

Image: The Everett Collection

Sometimes, the British beat us to the punch. American television producers have long looked across the Atlantic for inspiration. The idea exchange continues today, from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? to Top Gear.

You might not realize it, but some of our most adored series were clones of English originals. Even one of MeTV's biggest sitcoms.

There were some flop copies, too. Let's take a look at a few.

1. Cheers


British original: Fawlty Towers

Okay, this is the most tenuous inclusion on the list, as Cheers was merely inspired by Fawlty Towers. Initially, the creators hoped to set the comedy in an inn, as in the John Cleese masterpiece. The setting was shifted to a bar, but Cleese did get to pop in as a guest star in season five.

2. Sanford and Son


British original: Steptoe and Son

"I'm coming, Elizabeth!" The iconic British comedy about a cranky old rag-and-bone man and his son also developed Swedish (Albert & Herbert) and Dutch (Stiefbeen en zoon) iterations.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

3. All in the Family


British original: Til Death Do Us Part

Yep, the Brits even thought of this one first.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

4. Three's Company


British original: Man About the House

The generation gap between landlord and tenants fueled this beloved, madcap John Ritter comedy. The original was quite similar, down to characters named Chrissy and the Ropers. In fact, their Ropers got their own show, just as ours did…

Image: Wikimedia Commons

5. The Ropers


British original: George and Mildred

In 1976, Man About the House launched a spin-off with George and Mildred. Good idea. The American copy followed suit with its own spawn, The Ropers. This is a case of a triple duplicate: The main character of Robin Tripp in the U.K. original had an additional spin-off, called Robin's Nest. Our Jack Tripper followed with Three's a Crowd. Three is indeed company.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Dear John


British original: Dear John

Judd Hirsch followed his Taxi triumph with this NBC Thursday sitcom. It had a nice little run itself, running behind Cheers (later moving behind Night Court) and lasting for four seasons. Hirsch portrayed a dumped high-school teacher putting his life back together in Queens.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. The Lucie Arnaz Show


British original: Agony

Lucie struggled to replicate the untouchable success of her mother. The set-up was akin to Frasier, with a psychologist hosting a radio show. It lasted six episodes. On the other side of the pond, the original had its main character working as a "Dear Abby" type, or an "agony aunt" as they say.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Harry's Battles


British original: A Sharp Intake of Breath

Dick Van Dyke starred alongside Connie Stevens in this 1981 adaptation. The TV legend played a supermarket manager in Pittsburgh who struggled to keep his cool while cutting through the red tape of everyday life. Diagnosis: Unfunny.

Image: ABC / YouTube

9. You Again?


British original: Home to Roost

On the surface, this 1986-87 series first seems to be another "body swap" comedy of the era, with Jack Klugman and John Stamos switching brains a la Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. The premise was more mundane, however, with a son moving in with his divorced, cranky dad. The British version ran concurrently, and lasted until 1990.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. Lotsa Luck


British original: Off the Buses

Dom DeLuise starred in this one-season wonder centered around a downtrodden schlub running the lost-and-found at a bus company. The U.K. had its main character driving buses, and it ran for seven years. Perhaps the remake should have looked a little more to The Honeymooners.

Image: The Everett Collection

11. Too Close for Comfort


British original: Keep It in the Family

It's a good thing they reworked that title. Ted Knight starred as a cartoonist in what turned out to be a rather popular remake. The high jinks of Jim J. Bullock certainly helped. One interesting difference: In the U.K. the fictional cartoon was "Barney – the Bionic Bulldog," yet Knight doodled his "Cosmic Cow" with bovine puppet on hand.

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CraigGustafson 30 months ago
And the Stretch Armstrong Award goes to the MeTV Staff for the insane correlation that a sitcom about a bar has anything to do with a sitcom about a hotel.

RedSamRackham 43 months ago
* A TV critic joked that Lucy's lame mid-1980s failure "Life With Lucy" should've been titled "You Again?" ♣
BrianHenegar 61 months ago
Not to be pedantic, but two of the British titles are incorrect.

They should be “Till Death US DO Part” and “ON the Buses.”

Lifeline Anglophile here :-)
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