Ghosts 2.0: A study in America's obsession with remaking UK shows

Leah Graham discusses the recent remake of BBC's Ghosts and the American obsession with remaking British TV shows.

Leah Graham
18th October 2021
Gavin & Stacey, The Office, The Inbetweeners, Miranda and now Ghosts, for better or for worse the US has decided to remake another UK television series- will the obsession ever end?

Undoubtedly, BBC’s Ghosts has become my favourite binge-watch show during, and even before, the pandemic. Now it has suffered the same fate as many other popular UK television series - being remade for a US audience.

Despite my pessimistic tone, I actually liked the US version - I really liked it. Although it now is a glossy CBS comedy, I can still see the Horrible Histories cast’s influence.

Credit: IMDb

Both series follow a young couple who inherit a dilapidated mansion that is haunted by comedic ghosts. After an accident, the female series lead develops the ability to see the ghosts and antics ensure. It is notable that each series cater to their audience, with the US remake even swapping out some characters.

For example, the British love-struck poet, WW2 commander and seedy MP have become a 1920s flapper, a Revolutionary war veteran and a (much younger) Wall Street jerk. This was a wise move, as US viewers will identify with the CBS characters more, for example, after telling my British dad that the Revolutionary war veteran was jealous of Hamilton, he asked “who was Hamilton?”

Credit: IMDb

Another notable difference is the female protagonist’s reaction to being able to see the ghosts. Samantha (US) has a cheery optimism when seeing them, whilst Allison (UK) literally points and screams at each of them. Samantha’s ‘torture’ from the ghosts was less harsh, with the 1920s flapper telling her (intriguing!) stories of her life, whilst Allison lay awake all night with a burnt-witch ghost constantly repeating “get out” next to her face, leaving her on the verge of a mental break-down. Perhaps UK comedy just prefers to see people suffer.

Many jokes have changed, but dare I say the UK version is still much funnier. For example, in the US version the ghosts introduce themselves to Samantha calmly, upon her remarking that the Wall Street jerk isn’t wearing pants, he asks “you like that?” Whilst in the UK version they literally chase her down the hallway (non-threateningly!) and when Allison remarks “there’s a one with no pants” he quickly adds “and a first from Cambridge!” a phrase she then repeats incredulously.

Credit: IMDb

Other nuances include the ghosts slowly appearing through the walls, each whilst the camera tracks the horror on Allison’s face, whereas they just quickly appear to Samantha. Another difference is the status of the mansions they inherit. Samantha’s home apparently needs a lot of work despite it actually appearing VERY well-decorated (come on CBS, ghosts are believable but this is too much suspension of disbelief) whilst Allison’s house is literally falling down around her.

The US has remade a decent amount of UK television shows in recent years. Some proved to be hits, such as The Office (and Miranda which had atrocious ratings, was somehow nominated for an Emmy?) but others such as The Inbetweeners and Gavin & Stacey were so horrible that some episodes didn’t even make it to air.

Credit: IMDb

But where does this obsession come from? If Ghosts is anything to go by, the UK and the US have very different perspectives of humour. UK shows such as Sex Education and Bake-off haven’t suffered being remade yet but are universal enough to not warrant another version.

Perhaps it’s down to wanting to see how those across the pond live, but then again you can clearly have too much of a good thing. Let’s just hope the next remake isn’t something such as The Crown - now there’s a disaster waiting to happen.

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