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The Five Best American Spinoffs From British TV....And Win An Invention Of Lying DVD

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If you saw the Golden Globes -- or, more likely, if you surfed the net the next day for highlights (because Lord, those speeches were as long and pointless as the drawn-out walks to the stage) -- then you saw Ricky Gervais tear into the American version of The Office. All in good fun, of course.

(You also saw Gervais pimp the new DVD of his The Invention of Lying. You can win one of those if you like -- check out the end of the item.)

Do Americans always muck it up when they remake British TV shows? The evidence is strong that they do. There have been three different attempts at Fawlty Towers, for instance, starring such folks as Bea Arthur, John Laroquette and Harvey Korman. Incredibly, these all failed.

But sometimes Americans get it right. Here's five of the best.

Three's Company
"Come and knock on our door," indeed. This show blew. Watching it now is utterly painful, with the over-the-top mugging that accompanied every alleged punchline to the drearily formulaic plots to the utterly depressing thought that this is what passed for major-league entertainment in the 1970s.

But it was a hit, so we guess it counts as "getting it right." It was based on the British show Robins Nest Man About the House, which probably included a lot more Benny Hill-style boob jokes, given the differences between British and American censors at the time.

Anyway, here's Jack Ritter dancing.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire
Single-handedly revived the game show in America, leading to the birth of such hugely enthralling shows as Deal or No Deal.

Millionaire became an utter phenomenon, until the network milked it for all it was worth and induced fatigue in the audience. It still lives on in syndication and the occasional special.

Sanford & Son
An American version of Steptoe & Son; at least we got Redd Foxx. On the other hand, we got a totally bowdlerized Redd Foxx, and that's hardly Redd Foxx at all.

There was a lot of screaming at each other, fake heart attacks and sophomoric ethnic jibes. But the theme song will forever remain in the brains of those subjected to it weekly.

All in the Family
The granddaddy of them all. Again, for most people seeing it now, the reaction would likely be boredom and a shoulder shrug. But it was pretty cutting-edge for its time, and a huge, huge hit.

Enjoy the subtle interplay here between a racist and a preachy lefty, as you count the number of synonyms for "homosexual" and wonder if Archie will ever get his comeuppance on the subject by the end of the episode.

American Idol
Sure, all we added was some Paula Abdul madness, but did the British even think of using a pill-addled drunkard who sleeps with contestants? (Maybe they did, and that's part of the formula.)

Still, we ultimately have England to thank for William Hung and "Pants on the Ground," although we prefer the Neil Young version.

Want to win an Invention of Lying DVD? We're giving away three.

Tell us -- in the comments, or by e-mailing hairballscontest@houstonpress.com (put "Lying DVD" as the header) -- whether the British or American version of The Office is best, and why. Top three results -- for wit, logic, passion -- will get the DVD, judged on completely subjective criteria by us. 

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