America rocks out when it comes to television.
It’s a big deal because we make it a big deal. According to some counts, over 99% of American households have at least 1 television set. We talk about TV, we dream about TV, we have TV shows where people talk about TV shows. We even have a whole city devoted to producing TV content.
While many people consider America (specifically Hollywood) to be the worldwide Mecca for all things TV related, America is not the only country out there generating some high quality programming. America may be the biggest fish in the pond, but it certainly isn’t the only one.
Lots of American shows have foreign counterparts that are the spitting image of what you might expect to see here in the U S of A. While some of these foreign shows are derivatives of American creativity, a heaping pile of American shows stole the idea from somewhere else. So, let’s transcend cultural and political border to see what shows many people on earth have in common.
1. The Office
The Office is a hit show over here in America. It features a sort of dry humor that focuses on everyday life and thrives on uncomfortable, awkward situations. In fact, there’s a name for that type of humor. What do they call it? Oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue…
Oh, yeah. British humor.
The Brits came up with the original version of The Office, which I think is not really a giant news flash to any fans of the show, but what fans really do need to understand is that the show does more than just borrow the title and premise. It also operates entirely by borrowing that unique style of British humor.
While American comedy certainly has a tendency to be direct, physical, occasionally juvenile, and in-your-face, it’s nice to see that British shows can thrive over here in the States.
2. [Country’s] Got Talent!
Wait a second, are those Brits trying to show off how good they are? Do they think they’re better than us or something? We’ll show them! We’ll prove that we’re more talented than every last tea-sucking one of them!
Actually, America wasn’t the only country to jump on that band wagon. With other copycats like China’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent, and India’s Got Talent, it’s clear that England opened up a Pandora’s Box that has yet to close.
And yet, with 39 “Got Talent” spin-offs and 6 seasons of America’s Got Talent (and counting), the world has yet to produce anyone more gripping than Susan Boyle.
3. Mythological X (Israel) & The Ex List (US)
I could go on all day about all of the stole we stole from England, but I think that would get dull pretty fast. We use their language, we robbed their colonies from them in the American Revolution (YOU-ESS-AY! YOU-ESS-AY!), and we shamelessly rob every show that the BBC pumps out. Let’s spread the love (read: plagiarism) and check out shows from other countries that we’ve swiped.
Israeli creator Sigal Avin thought up a clever little romantic comedy that Americans promptly stole, quickly crossing out every instance of “falafel” in the script and replacing it with “burgers.”
Mythological X follows a woman trying to find the one ex from her past who, according to her psychic, is the love of her life. American writers fleshed her out a little bit by giving her a career and hobbies other than boy chasing, but the show still flopped. Maybe she should have asked her psychic about how the ratings would look.
Evidently, we learned our lesson not to steal from our Israeli friends, as the show was cancelled after a measly 4 episodes.
4. Takeshi’s Castle (Japan) & Wipeout (US)
Takeshi’s Castle is a Japanese game show.
That’s pretty much the only thing that non-Japanese can tell you about this show, because any episodes that Americans see are dubbed – and badly at that. Ignoring the fact that the writers intentionally ignore and butcher the dialogue, it’s still pretty easy to get the basics of the show.
A hundred or so contestants struggle their way through a brutally unforgiving obstacle course to see how many people make it out the other end.
Many of the collisions are obviously painful, and virtually every game is designed to make failure as embarrassing as possible. Combine that with a bunch of Japanese Average Jo’s who are smiling and optimistic despite the pain they’re enduring, and you’ve got a hit show.
America swiped the idea from the Brits, who stole the idea from the Japanese. Despite the fact that the game got telephoned two stages, it’s still fairly similar.
The US version has a much bigger budget, which has resulted in much more elaborate and involved obstacles. That’s neat and all, but sometimes simpler is better. You don’t need Seussical death traps to create humor. Sometimes, a tightrope and a pit of water is all you need for hilarity.