From Across the Pond: Shows that You Didn’t Know Came from Britain

Even though Americans threw off the yoke of their British overlords centuries ago, we’ve still remained obsessed with their art and culture. A survey by CNBC suggested that 49 percent of the American population planned on watching the recent royal wedding, and that’s just the beginning. Online streaming services like Netflix have been a boon for people who enjoy British television, and don’t want to wait the six to 12 months for the shows to air on American cable.

However, many people don’t realize that the British have infiltrated more than we know since a ton of our favorite TV shows that are made with American actors are actually remakes of an already-popular British show. Here are a few shows that you may not have realized came from Britain.

The Office

One of the most successful American versions of a British TV show is The Office. The trick was that the American version took what was great about the British version but didn’t try too hard to make it exactly the same. Steve Carrell is an amazingly cringeworthy Michael Scott, but his performance is all his own. The British version of his character was called David Brent, and it was played with dry subtlety by Ricky Gervais. There are versions of Dwight and Jim in the original British version, but the American actors felt free to go in their own direction, which made the show extremely successful.

House of Cards

Although it seems like House of Cards is so quintessentially American that it’s almost terrifying, it was actually a British show first.


Based on a novel by Michael Dobbs, the British House of Cards only ran four episodes, and followed Francis Urquhart as he fought his way to the leadership of his party, and then the Prime Minister-ship of the United Kingdom. The American version of House of Cards is going on to its sixth season, after making a huge initial splash as one of Netflix’s very first original programs. In the upcoming season, the focus moves to Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, which is a major shift from the British version, where the wife of Frank Urquhart appeared very little.


Shameless follows a deadbeat dad raising six children after his wife walks out of their lives. In Britain, the show premiered in 2004, and was set in Manchester on a council estate. It was extremely well received, as it managed to dramatize the struggles of the working-class population while being quite funny at the same time. It spawned an American version, as well as Turkish and Russian adaptations.

The American version, which stars William H. Macy, premiered in 2011, two years before the British version came to an end. It provided some of the best ratings ever recorded for parent network Showtime and is adored by critics and fans alike.

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