The Brits Did It First: TV


A healthy love of television is as American as a Corvette driving through a flag-draped apple pie—but some avid idiot box watchers might be gobsmacked to learn that when they wag off in front of the telly, they very well might be enjoying a show with roots across the pond. Here is a small sampling of television shows that started in the United Kingdom.

Man About The House/Three’s Company

Richard O’Sullivan, Paula Wilcox, Sally Thomsett in Man About The House; John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, Suzanne Somers in Three’s Company

Man About The House premiered on British television in 1973, with the Americanized version Three’s Company hitting U.S. screens in 1977. Both shows were considered daring at the time, exploring the bawdy hijinks that happen when a man shares a flat with two women.

Till Death Do Us Part/All In The Family

Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett; Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker

That’s right, all-American bigot Archie Bunker was inspired by a Brit, Alf Garnett. Till Death Do Us Part premiered in 1965, while All In The Family started in 1971. Both shows meant to parody knuckleheaded bigotry, but some argue they served to embolden racists in both countries.

The Office

Ricky Gervais as David Brent; Steve Carell as Michael Scott

Most viewers are well aware that Michael Scott started as David Brent, the brainchild of U.K. comedian Ricky Gervais in 2001. Most of the other characters also have mirrored versions in the British version—Dwight Schrute was once Gareth Keenan; Jim Halpert began as Tim Canterbury; and Pam Beesly started life as Dawn Tinsley.


David Threlfall and William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher

Both the U.S. Showtime version and its U.K. Channel 4 counterpart focus on working-class culture as seen through the lens of the dysfunctional Gallagher family, as they battle through a no-collar, grave-level poverty. But while the British version is set in Manchester, the Americanized Shameless calls Chicago home.

House Of Cards

Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart; Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood

America’s House of Cards is a taut political thriller that recently wrapped its fifth season on Netflix. Britain’s House of Cards was a taut political thriller that ran as a limited four-episode series in 1990. The U.K. version followed antihero Francis Urquhart, manipulating his way to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; while the U.S. version follows antihero Frank Underwood, manipulating his way to President of the United States.

—Lord Steve Mosco

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  1. The central characters of both versions of House of Cards aren’t anti-heroes, they’re villain-protagonists.

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