During the final week of “The Hollow” our pre-show seminar host and Agatha Christie expert, Dr. Chris Chan, shared his fascination with American adaptations of British works. I thought readers of this column would be interested in that too! Without further ado, “Americanizations” by Dr. Chris Chan.
The Peninsula Players are performing the musical “The Full Monty,” about a group of down-on-their luck friends who are attempting to raise some much-needed money by becoming male strippers. The show is based on the original 1997 film, which was set in Sheffield, England. The 2000 musical, however, transposed the action to Buffalo, New York.
This is hardly the first production to “Americanize” a work originally set in England (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter). There are various reasons for the changes. Sometimes creative teams
think that American audiences won’t connect as well with characters from other backgrounds, or it might cost too much to film abroad or to replicate foreign locations, or perhaps certain actors can’t perform a British accent convincingly. Whatever the reasons, “The Full Monty” is just one of many British works to be revised and changed into an American setting.
Americanization is not a new phenomenon. It spans theater, movies, and television shows. In 1954, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel “Casino Royale” was turned into a TV movie for CBS. The super spy became
Jimmy Bond of the CIA. Ironically, the traditionally American intelligence agent Felix Leiter was reworked into the British spy Clarence Leiter.
The classic U.S. sitcom “All in the Family” was based on the UK series “Till Death Us Do Part,” both featuring a family with a bigoted patriarch who clashed with his politically opposite son-in-law. Ironically, the “All in the Family” spin-off “Maude” and Maude’s spin-off “Good Times” were Anglicized into “Nobody’s Perfect” and “The Fosters,” respectively.
It seems as if nearly every hit British television show has been Americanized, though many of these adaptations (such as U.S.-set versions of “Absolutely Fabulous,” “Are You Being Served?” and many
more) have never made it past the pilot stage. “Fawlty Towers” was adapted three times, none of which were successful despite starring talented actors like Betty White, Bea Arthur and John Larroquette.
One of the most popular and successful Americanizations of a “Britcom” is “The Office.” The original mockumentary set in a workplace lasted for two seasons of six episodes each, plus a Christmas special. The U.S. version’s pilot followed the original pilot closely, but later episodes soon went in new directions and developed different characters and avenues of characterization, running for 201 episodes over nine seasons.
The UK crime dramas “Cracker” and “Prime Suspect” both received Americanizations, though neither met with anything close to the critical acclaim and success of the originals.
Recently, the hit British crime serial “Broadchurch” received a close Americanized remake in “Gracepoint.” The biggest glaring change was the solution to the murder mystery, though the original star of “Broadchurch,” David Tennant, starred in “Gracepoint” as well, only with an American accent. Though “Broadchurch” is entering its third series, “Gracepoint” was cancelled after only one season.
The Netflix drama “House of Cards” is based on a series of novels and three TV mini-series set in England. Kevin Spacey’s conniving politician Frank Underwood is based off of Ian Richardson’s Francis
Urquhart, known as “F.U.” to friends and enemies alike. Over the course of three short miniseries, Urquhart schemes and murders his way to being Prime Minister, fends off a challenge from a newly crowned King, and uses a war to maintain his grip on power and secure his legacy. Though the U.S. version keeps many of these premises and characters, the dramatis personae is far larger and many more subplots have been added.
The UK is not the only country to have its entertainment Americanized. The Scandinavian television crime dramas “The Killing” and “The Bridge” received U.S. adaptations (the latter received a British/French adaptation as “The Tunnel,” too). The Japanese movie “Seven Samurai” became “The Magnificent Seven.” The Hong Kong movie “Internal Affairs” was Americanized to the Best Picture Oscar-winning movie “The Departed.” There are, of course, scores of other examples.
Incidentally, Simon Beaufoy, the original screenwriter of “The Full Monty,” turned “The Full Monty” into a play with music (mostly music from the movie, not the musical) in 2013, keeping the original setting. Beaufoy remarked, “Without Sheffield, there would be no Full Monty. It’s been a long road – via Hollywood – but finally the characters are coming back home to the place it all started.
Thank you Chris!
“The Full Monty” was adapted to the American stage by Terrence McNally (“Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Master Class”) with lyrics and music by David Yazbeck (“Dirty Rotten Scondrels”). “The Full Monty” had 770 performances on Broadway and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards.
Catch the lively and raucous “The Full Monty” at Peninsula Players before it closes August 14! Book ticket now by calling the Box Office at 920-868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com. Join us by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine!