Friday, 13 September 2013

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: British sitcoms come to America

What do sitcoms “All in the Family”, “Three’s Company”, “Reggie”, “Amanda’s”, and “Too Close for Comfort” have in common? Wait a second, what are “Reggie”, and “Amanda’s” anyway, you ask? The answer is simple, they were all part of a trend in the 1980s of sitcoms in the U.S. that were inspired by British sitcoms.

It was easy to tell them apart too. If you read the end credits like I did, they always credited the show on which they were based.

The number of these sitcoms is quite surprising too.

All in the Family
The show about Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), a bigoted father, his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and her husband Mike (Rob Reiner) all living together was based on “Till Death Us Do Part”, which ran from 1965 to1975.

Three’s Company
The show about Jack Tripper (John Ritter), a man pretending to be gay so he can live with two women (Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt) in an apartment complex, is based on “Man About the House”, which ran from 1973 to 1976.
The show about a man daydreaming his life away, was short-lived in America, lasting about a month in 1983. It starred Richard Mulligan, fresh off his role in “Soap”, and Jean Smart, before her big role in “Designing Women”, and was based on “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin”, which ran from 1976 to 1979.

This show, starring Bea Arthur as Amanda, in her first role after “Maude”, and before “Golden Girls”, was also short-lived in 1983 lasting 10 episodes, but was based on one of the most famous British comedies of all: “Fawlty Towers”, which ran from 1975 to 1979. It also featured Canadian actor Tony Rosato as Aldo. That’s right, Bea Arthur was the American version of John Cleese.

Too Close for Comfort
This show about Henry Rush (Ted Knight) a cartoonist and his wife Muriel (Nancy Dussault) with two gorgeous daughters (Lydia Cornell and Deborah Van Valkenburgh) living in an apartment downstairs, was based on "Keep it in the Family", which ran from 1980 to 1983.

You Again?
This show starring Jack Klugman as Henry Willows, a grocer whose son Matt, played by John Stamos, comes to live with him, has the most unique history. "Home to Roost", the show on which it was based was still in production and, the actress who played housekeeper Enid Tompkins, played that same role in both shows. It made for a lot of travel for her. "You Again?" ran for two seasons from  1986 to 1987, while "Home to Roost" ran from 1985 to 1990.

Sanford and Son
Even this show, with essentially an all-African-American cast, about Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) a junk dealer and his son Lamont (Demond Wilson), was based on the British show, “Steptoe and Son”, which ran from 1962 to 1974.

It’s funny how I have been critical that Hollywood has no new ideas. Instead, they are resurrecting every TV show from the past, and a lot of movies, and remaking them for the big screen.

It turns out this practice is nothing new. It’s as old as some of the shows being remade.

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