The united states and the united kingdom are two very different countries when it comes to how they are presented in the media and how they present their own. In terms of comedy there are very obvious differences. What appeals to a British person may not appeal to an American. However sometimes the concepts of a programme are adopted across the pond, yet often to little success. Today we are going to see how.
the office was originally a british tv series written by and starring Ricky Gervais. The American version was actually quite successful, having Steve Carell play lead instead. The first season or so follows almost the same plot as the British version but after that it begins to deviate from the original script.
As it does so it not only lightens up the set slightly but also the comedy. In one episode Michael wasn’t invited to a party but goes anyway and comes off as hurt and bitter. He picks a duet song on karaoke but no one will sing it with him, reluctantly Jim joins in giving a happy ending to the episode. David in the uk version, it’s still funny but not in the same way. Nobody pities or cheers him, they just watch him in silence. There’s no happy ending.
The American version of The Inbetweeners was a failure, and got cancelled after just one season. The British version however, is one of the most beloved comedy series in recent memory. But why? Well, aside from the name and many of the same jokes the shows are very different: both in presentation and in the actual writing. One thing the British version achieved very well was making the series look realistic: What I mean by this is that the show was filmed whenever they could, so many of the days are overcast or even raining and nothing is made to look better or worse than it actually does; that’s just how it looks. The U.S. version however, often films things in slow motion and filmed almost everything at the ‘magic hour’ where the light level is at its softest.
But in terms of their actual comedy, things are equally as different but this time in reverse. The main reasoning for this, I think, is in the U.S. there are tighter restraints on what you can and cannot say. But the main reason the Inbetweeners was funny was because it was so outrageous; surely they would have known this would not have worked. One of the jokes borrowed from the British version was the Frisbee scene. And while the U.S. version is different, it is obviously the same scene. What the British version does well is give a good setup to the joke; there is a reason for it to happen. there is also more build up; we see multiple facial reactions of onlookers and we see their expressions change, then the initial joke happens. After the joke happens it is played with a bit more and then a lot more, which leads into another joke happening.
In the U.S. version however there is next to no reason for the joke to happen, there is very few reactions and the payoff to it isn’t exactly exciting.
So it isn’t exactly that one form of comedy is better but rather that they are different and this is evident by applying British comedy to an American audience and it not succeeding.