ATV Today take a look at some of UK telly’s worst re-makes.
Today at the BBC studios in Salford a television cult is being remade as Are You Being Served? goes back into production for a ‘one off’ return to the Grace Brothers department store. Will it be as successful as the return of Open All Hours? We will find out later in the year when it returns to BBC One screens. Of course the success of Still Open All Hours may be down to the fact it lured back many faces from the original sitcom including David Jason. Are You Being Served? has an entirely new cast including Sherrie Hewson and Roy Barraclough.
Here is our top 5 TV remake turkeys…
5 – Brighton Belles (1993, ITV/Carlton)
It was going to be quite a challenge to capture the magic of stateside sitcom The Golden Girls, but Carlton Television were game to give it a try in 1993. The original series, created by Susan Harris, starred Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, as four older women sharing a house in sunny Miami. Bea as Dorothy the divorced intellectual, Betty as widowed Rose, nice but dim, Rue as the tarty widower who loves men – and herself – and Estelle as the sharp witted mother of Dorothy.
The NBC series ran for seven series and 180 episodes. The Golden Girls received 68 Emmy nominations, 11 Emmy awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and two Viewers for Quality Television awards during its years on air between 1985 and 1992. All the lead actresses won Emmy Awards for their performances on the show. In the UK the series ran on Channel 4, proving a hit with viewers, so it wasn’t a surprise that a year after the American production ended a UK version was to be launched on ITV.
The Brighton Belles starred a distinguished cast of leading ladies; Sheila Hancock, Wendy Craig, Sheila Gish and Jean Boht. Scripts from the stateside plots were adapted for the UK audience and with such quality actors and a proven funny dialogue it surely should have proved a ratings winner for ITV. After only eleven episodes the series was dropped half way through its run, ratings were so dire. Viewers preferred the real thing, not a poor imitation. The Golden Girls continues to air currently in the UK on TLC.
4 – The Price Is Right (2006, ITV/Thames TV)
Another format based on an American series, the original The Price Is Right proved a big hit for ITV in the 1980s, and later Sky TV in the 1990s. Hosted first by Leslie Crowther from 1984 to 1988, and later Bob Warman from 1989 to 1994, the show saw contestants plucked from the studio audience to ‘come on down’ and try to win big prizes by playing various ‘luck’ games. The Central Television produced series when it launched on ITV in 1984 was quite different to much that had gone before in the TV game show stakes, it was glitzy, loud, with a frenetic pace and screamed showbiz. Some declared it grotesquely downmarket but it was a massive hit on Saturday nights.
Now we’re not talking about the first revival by Yorkshire Television for ITV with Bruce Forsyth which was pretty good and was popular with audiences across its run from 1995 to 2001. No we’re talking about the horror that was the Joe Pasquale version of 2006. Joe is nice enough, but enduring his squeaky voice across an hour long game show was a little much to take. Simply, this revival would have worked with a less annoying host… The show, produced by Thames, was also seemingly playing on the nostalgia of the Leslie Crowther era with cheap prizes and over excited contestants, this seemed strange considering the Bruce Forsyth version had only departed screens a few years earlier.
It may seem amazing that Joe’s version ran for 124 episodes, however many were recorded in bulk before hitting the air. While Channel 4 was pulling in over 2 million viewers in the 5pm slot Pasquale only managed to pull in 800,000 to The Price Is Right.
3 – Blockbusters (1997, BBC Two/Fremantle)
It was another format based on an American production. The US original launched on NBC in 1980, it wasn’t until 1983 that Central Television in the UK developed a teatime version of the game show for British audiences. Blockbusters was aimed at a teen audience on ITV, airing usually after the children’s strand of programming on the channel. Later episodes were produced for Sky Television first, and later aired on ITV.
Fronted by the genial Bob Holness, the series saw a solo player compete against a pair of contestants, setting out to prove or disprove the old adage that two heads really were better than one. A board of letters inside a hexagon represented a question ‘What A is a…’ and so on, the first to connect a string of hexagons across the board won the round.
The Holness presented era ran for 1340 editions between 1983 and 1995. In 1997 BBC Two revived the format for a daytime grown up audience. Michael Aspel was drafted in as host, which was nice enough – but the show was so far removed from the much-loved series it failed to lure in the viewers. The BBC version changed pretty much everything, a new theme tune, the board colours and the sides the contestants sat. While it was possibly trivial changes in the scheme of things it was quite a jump from the popular previous incarnation. The Aspel era ran for just 60 episodes.
There were later more successful revivals. In 2001 Sky Television returned to the format, this time with Lisa Tarbuck as host. A reworked version of the original Central era theme tune was produced for the series by its composer Ed Welch. Lisa’s version ran for 100 episodes. In 2012 Challenge commissioned a new run of episodes, this series is the most like the Bob Holness era, with the set, theme tune and colours all based on the 1980s series. Even the board and letters were a modernised style of the original.
2 – Stars in their Eyes (2015, ITV/ITV Studios)
It must have looked a great idea on paper, the ITV executives cooing at the prospect of bringing in big ratings via the wit of Harry Hill and the ongoing popularity of search-for-a-singer-sound-a-like series Stars in their Eyes. The original series continues to be screened on Challenge in the UK although the show had left ITV screens in 2006.
Launched by Granada Television in 1990 the programme was first fronted by slick presenter Leslie Crowther, later episodes were hosted by Matthew Kelly and finally Cat Deeley. Running for sixteen series, as well as numerous celebrity specials and children’s spin-off show, over 170 editions were produced. The format was a simple one, members of the public would appear as a famous singer with the audience voting for the best sound-a-like. To add to the fun the Granada costume and make-up department would also attempt to make the performers look as much like the real star as possible – although this was not something the studio audience was asked to vote on. The highlight would be the live final where the best of the best battled it out to be the Stars in their Eyes champion.
The 2015 series, hosted by comedian Harry Hill, was said to be ‘sending up Saturday night TV’ however airing it on Saturday night when people expected to be watching ‘proper’ Saturday night entertainment was the first mistake. The second was hardly any, if any at all, of the contestants sounded like who they were supposed to be performing as and the whole thing seemed to be just taking the mick out of the original format as Hill pranced about singing ridiculous lyrics to the theme tune at the start of each edition. We’re sure just over the sound of Hill’s drones we could hear Leslie Crowther turning in his grave.
Pointless and time wasting sketches between the performers were not particularly funny and entirely un-needed. It seems Harry Hill couldn’t front a show without taking his off the wall comedy with him. Which is possibly a shame, as if Hill had hosted the show with simple wit and none of the gimmicks and pratting about the revival may have been a ratings banker for ITV. Its fair to say viewers were left unimpressed and after six episodes, one being a ‘non-live final’, Stars in their Eyes was put out of its misery. Let’s just hope Harry doesn’t convince ITV to allow him to put sketches between the clips on You’ve Been Framed! next…
1 – Crossroads (2003, ITV/Carlton/Central)
Another from the executives at Carlton Television, who in their wisdom revamped a previously successful revival of the classic ITV soap opera Crossroads. Originally running from 1964 to 1988 the first outing proved to be a ratings hit across its 23-year-run. Set in the fictional village of Kings Oak and centered on the Crossroads Motel, Carlton initially returned to the programme in 2001. It proved a mild success for ITV daytime, but bosses wanted – depending on your views – either to boost ratings with a revamp or lose viewers in order to shut down the Central Television studios in Nottingham where the saga was produced.
Former Holby City executive Yvon Grace was drafted in to give the Crossroads Hotel a ‘camp revamp’ with the show notably setting out to appeal to ‘a gay audience’. Lured into the cast as bitch matriarch Angel Samson was Jane Asher – while actors from the previous version were given a ‘glamerous make-over’ such as Sherrie Hewson and Cindy Marshall-Day. The iconic Tony Hatch theme tune was turned into, as one viewer noted, ‘something that sounds like an ice cream van’s tune’ while Tony Hatch himself said it wasn’t that great a version. The opening titles featured lots of purple and flying hearts.
The plots went from dramatic to ridiculous at a tremendous pace, the acting was OTT, although this was no doubt intentional, and the scripts were in many cases re-hashed, but bitched up, from the first Carlton revival or outrageously daft. A guest was killed by banging her head on a drawer in one of the guest rooms in the first episode – and as one critic noted she had a lucky escape not then appearing in any further episodes. Crossroads of 2003 also enjoyed stunt casting with Emma Noble signed up to appear for a guest spot. Others lined up included Michael Barrymore and Daniella Westbrook – sadly or luckily (depending what way you look at it) the show was canned before those two turned up at the hotel.
It was a resounding flop. Just over three million tuned in to see the return to the midland saga in January 2003, within a week a million had turned off and by the end of its run it was below a million viewers. In total it aired for five months, but was axed after only a few weeks on air. Crossroads the first time round managed 4512 episodes, the camp catastrophe manged 98. The Central Studios finally closed in 2004.