The Office is one of the few UK sitcoms to receive a hugely successful transatlantic remake, and the upcoming remake of Peep Show could learn from it.
The latest attempt at a US remake of UK sitcom Peep Show could learn from the massive success of the American remake of Ricky Gervais’ The Office. Written by Atlanta‘s Stefani Robinson and executive produced by Peep Show and Succession creator Jesse Armstrong, it will mark the second attempt by FX to remake Armstrong’s classic sitcom for US TV. Stefani Robinson’s American remake of Peep Show is the fifth attempt overall, and hopefully, it will be a success.
It’s been revealed (via Hollywood Reporter) that the remake will use Peep Show‘s unique first-person aesthetic to explore “the relationship between a long-suffering assistant and her boss, an emotionally unstable tech entrepreneur.” Jesse Armstrong’s original sitcom was focused on the flatshare between former university friends Mark (David Mitchell), a socially awkward loans manager, and Jez (Robert Webb), an unemployed musician. The difference in the central relationship and the fresh perspective given by the female protagonists of Robinson’s version suggests that Peep Show could join The Office in the exclusive club of successful American remakes of British sitcoms.
Peep Show Can Be A Success (By Copying The Office)
The Office‘s American remake had an initially bumpy start when it tried too hard to stick to the structure of the UK original. The overall plot of the original US pilot was the same as the UK original, only with more Americanized cultural references. However, as the series went on, the differences between The Office‘s US and UK versions became more pronounced and allowed Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott to step out from behind the shadow of Ricky Gervais’ David Brent. Instead of adapting the stories and jokes of the UK original, the US Office used the workplace mockumentary format to tell original stories and also introduce a wider, more diverse ensemble cast.
It sounds like Peep Show’s latest reboot is doing the same, even adopting The Office‘s workplace sitcom. In using the first-person perspective and inner monologue that made the original so unique, Stefani Robinson is adapting the format of Peep Show instead of attempting to simply retell its greatest hits with American accents and locations. This is a smart move as, in only keeping the format, a Peep Show remake immediately reduces damaging comparisons to the original, allowing it to stand on its own two feet, appealing to new and existing audiences.
Why US Remakes Of UK Shows Often Fail
The Big Bang Theory‘s Johnny Galecki starred in the first attempt at remaking Peep Show in 2005, which bizarrely jettisoned the sitcom’s unique selling point of POV camera work. However, Peep Show is just one of many UK sitcoms that have been lost in translation to American screens. Fundamentally, there’s a difference in British and American approaches to comedy, and that can seriously hamper any successful remake, especially when working with what are often tweaked versions of the original UK scripts.
For example, the pilot for NBC’s attempted US remake of The IT Crowd is said to have used the same script as the UK original and even featured original cast member Richard Ayoade alongside Joel McHale, better known as Community‘s Jeff Winger. Despite the unquestionable talent involved, the jokes didn’t land in the same way with a US studio audience as they did with the UK one. It’s proof that remaking a hit UK sitcom for US audiences isn’t a simple case of changing the setting and actors, it has to take the core appeal of that sitcom and extrapolate it to a US setting. That’s why The Office was so successful, and early signs show that the Peep Show remake is avoiding the mistakes of its four predecessors.