Rinse, wash, and repeat is all too often the name of the game when it comes to the world of television show production. Even though there are plenty of original shows out there, there are moments when you can’t help but feel like television is just regurgitating the same old, stagnate energy, banking on the past success of various shows from years gone by just to cash in on their magic. Be it reboots of classic series like Hawaii Five-O or Battlestar Galactica, or remakes of foreign or British shows like The Office, Queer as Folk, or The Killing, or adaptations of popular book series like Gossip Girl, Game of Thrones or Sherlock, or even blatant rip-offs of once-popular shows like Manifest recently did by tapping into Lost’s mystique, it can make one feel a bit nostalgic for the days when classic television had more original programming.
The fact of the matter is remakes and rip-offs have been an integral part of the industry since the dawn of television. Whatever old original series you’re likely thinking about at the moment, chances are some of them were actually derivative works themselves. But that being said, it doesn’t mean they are bad shows per se. Quite the opposite, in fact, many of these series are highly regarded by critics and audiences alike, and you just might have seen some of these series before on one of those classic television stations like TV Land.
What shows are we talking about exactly? Well, the programs that we’re about to discuss might come as a surprise to you. So get comfortable, grab a snack, and get ready to learn all about 8 TV Shows that you probably didn’t realize were shameless Rip-Offs of other series.
I Love Lucy
It might be difficult to believe, but one of the most influential American sitcoms in history, I Love Lucy, wasn’t originally made for TV. It was actually an adaptation of a CBS radio sitcom called My Favorite Husband which was broadcast between 1948 and 1951. The serial also starred Lucille Ball as the female lead.
The show basically served as a training ground of sorts for Lucy Ricardo’s famous mannerisms, catchphrases, and idiosyncrasies. My Favorite Husband featured many of the same writers that went on to work with I Love Lucy as well.
In fact, Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll Jr. later reworked many of their favorite My Favorite Husband scripts into later episodes of I Love Lucy – most of which were in the series first two seasons.
I Love Lucy wasn’t the only television sitcom that had its roots in radio either. Many popular 50s shows like Dragnet, Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet were also based upon radio programs.
Both I Love Lucy and My Favorite Husband share essentially the same premise with Lucille playing the wacky housewife who is always coming up with some kind of oddball scheme that gets thwarted by her foil of a husband. But that’s where the similarities end. In My Favorite Husband, Ball’s character was named Liz Cooper and she was married to a white, middle-class businessman named George Cooper.
When CBS decided that they wanted to transform My Favorite Husband into a television series, Ball agreed to reprise her role as long as her on-screen husband could be played by her real-life husband Desi Arnaz. The network was apprehensive at first to show an interracial couple on one of their shows, but Ball refused to back down, and eventually they agreed to her terms.
Hey, not to get completely derailed or anything, but if you’re enjoying this video so far, do us a favor and give a like and subscribe. And don’t go anywhere just yet. Stay tuned to learn about the surprising origins of shows like All in the Family, Sanford & Son, and Three’s Company.
Despite becoming a cultural phenomenon that birthed all sorts of memorabilia, spin-offs, and even its own line of vitamins, The animated classic Hanna Barbara series The Flinstones was actually based on another classic sitcom, The Honeymooners starring and created by Jackie Gleason which ran from 1955 to 1956.
The Honeymooners itself was based on a series of radio and television sketches. It featured a duo of urban working-class couples, the Kramdens and the Nortons, who go through their daily routines while encountering all sorts of fairly benign troubles and wonky schemes.
The Flinstones and the Rubbles were essentially the stone-age counterparts to the Kramdens and the Nortons. Ralph was adapted into Fred. Ed was Barney, Alice was Wilma and Trixie was Betty. In fact, if you watch back-to-back episodes of The Honeymooners and The Flintstones, you’ll pick up on all of the obvious similarities between the two shows.
All In The Family
Norman Lears iconic sitcom All In The Family is all about a working-class white family living in Queens. The head of the family, Archie Bunker was an outspoken bigot who seemingly hated everyone who didn’t think as he did. His wife, Edith was a sweet yet naive individual that Archie routinely referred to as a ‘dingbat’. Archie and Edith had one child together, Gloria, who was generally speaking kind and well-intentioned like her mother but exhibited some of her father’s stubbornness and temper. But unlike her parents, Gloria was a feminist. She was married to a liberal graduate student named Michael Stivic who Archie routinely refers to as ‘Meathead’.
All in the Family was actually inspired by a British series called Till Death Do Us Part which aired on BBC1 from 1965 to 1975. That series which was created by Johnny Speight featured a family living in London’s East End headed by the equally grouchy, conservative patriarch Alf Garnett who held deeply anti-socialist views. His gentle and ever-patient wife Else and his Daughter Rita were essentially carbon copies of Edith and Gloria.
Rita’s Husband, Mike Rawlin, was a socialist slacker from Liverpool who often got into arguments with Alf over his views and politics. So yeah, All in the Family was pretty much just a clone of that series, re-imagined to appeal to the American audience.
Sanford And Son
This memorable sitcom was all about a cranky junk dealer named Fred Sanford, played by Redd Foxx, and his son Lamont, portrayed by Demond Wilson, who own and operate a salvage shop in South Central, Los Angeles. Most of the time, they focused their efforts on some kind of ill-fated get-rich-scheme, but the show’s most compelling element was arguably the addition of La Wanda Page as Aunt Esther, Fred’s sister-in-law and primary antagonist.
As he had done with All in the Family, Norman Lear based Sanford and Son on a British comedy, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s Steptoe and Son. That series which appeared on the BBC was a situational comedy about ‘rag and bone’ dealers Albert and Harold Steptoe. The older of the two served as the template for what later became Fred Sandford and was played by Irish actor Wilfrid Brambell.
Three’s Company was all about the antics of three single young adults living together platonically in an apartment. You had the ever-clumsy chef Jack Tripper played by John Ritter, the down-to-earth Florist Janet Wood played by Joyce DeWitt, and the ditzy blonde-stereotype secretary Chrissy Snow played by Suzanne Somers.
This co-ed living situation might not raise any eyebrows in today’s world, but when Three’s Company hit the airwaves, the idea of an unmarried man and woman living together was considered fairly controversial. So when you had three, young attractive people living together in such a situation, you can only imagine what people thought about that.
The show chronicled the escapades of the trio’s constant misunderstandings, financial problems, and social lives. While it seemed fresh and original when it first aired on ABC in 1977, it was actually based upon a British sitcom Man About The House that ran from 1973 to 1976 which shared a very similar concept and explored the same cultural taboos.
What you might think of as a distinctly American franchise, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which debuted in 1993, was actually based on a Japanese science-fiction superhero series called Super Sentai. Power Rangers was produced by Saban Entertainment and centered around a team of young teens recruited and trained by a mentor to morph into the eponymous heroes. They are given special powers and can pilot giant mechs called Zords to fend off a whole slew of villains. Much of the original footage shot for Super Sentai was reused for the American Power Rangers series. Pretty much every scene where the Rangers were either in their suits or in the mechs was taken directly from the original series while the remaining scenes were re-shot with American actors.
This innocuous, family-friendly PBS series features local antique owners who bring their cherished items to be appraised by experts. There’s an element of suspense here because items that are believed to be quite valuable often turn out to be fakes while seemingly worthless trinkets are sometimes found to be worth far more than their owners realize. The program is on its 24th season and has been nominated 16 times for Primetime Emmy’s.
Antiques Roadshow is essentially a clone of a show by the same name put out by the BBC which first aired in 1977. WGBH-TV the Boston, Massachusett’s PBS affiliate station created the American version of the show in 1996 under a license from the BBC. Starting in 2001, PBS began airing the original British version of Antiques Roadshow in the United States dubbing the program Antiques Roadshow UK to differentiate it from the American incarnation.
Despite what the name might imply, American Idol isn’t exactly a distinctly American sensation. The singing contest series was created by Simon Fuller in 2002 and is currently in its 19th season. The concept involves discovering stars from unsigned singing talents, with the winner determined by American viewers voting for their favorite contestants via their phones and internet-connected devices. The show has birthed such stars as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, and Jennifer Hudson.
American Idol is just one of 46 regionalized adaptations of similarly formatted shows aired in 150 countries across the globe. The first ‘Idol’ television series was 2001’s Pop Idol which aired in the UK on ITV. That show only was around for a couple of seasons before Simon Cowell announced the launch of The X Factor in April 2004, which subsequently also became an international sensation.
Well, here we are once again at the end of another Facts-Packed video. Really though, what we’ve learned today is that it’s really not that important to be original when you’re coming up with a new television show concept. Rather, what matters most is creating something iconic and entertaining regardless of how derivative it might be. The Office may have originally been a popular British series, but how many American’s prefer it to the version they are used to?
Actually, that’s a great question. In the comments section below, let us know which version of The Office you like best.
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