I have a penchant for buying television programme box sets. Among my collection is every episode of MASH, Due South, Buffy, Angel, Father Ted, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Red Dwarf and i am presently halfway through the second of the four seasons of Quantum Leap.
The greatest difference between the American shows and the British shows is that a season on the British shows is 6 episodes long, while on the American shows a season is as many as 24 episodes long. The 11 seasons of MASH was a mighty 264 shows while the 2 seasons of Fawlty Towers a paltry 12 shows.
I have long harboured an ambition to write a comedy series but just never seem to be able to get started on it but if i did i would definitely pitch it at a British production company and have to write a quarter of the shows per season that i would have to for an American company.
I am not sure what accounts for the disparity in the number of shows for each season, whether it is budget or the size of the writing teams, but you have to give credit to the writers of shows like MASH which hardly flagged at all despite having to continually come up with ideas for such a large number of episodes over such a long period of time. Not a problem for the likes of John Cleese who made 12 brilliant episodes with Basil Fawlty and then called it a day and went off to do other things.
Recently, we have had some of our home-grown shows taken across the pond to America and remade with varying success. The Vicar of Dibley, massive here but with Kirsty Alley in the Dawn French role for American TV, flopped and likewise Seinfeld was a smash there but was quickly shunted off to a late night slot on BBC2 here.
I don't know why some shows travel better than others and I'm not sure why Americans remake our shows at all and don't just put them out as they are, our accents are not that hard to understand are they? OK, apart from Jimmy Tarbuck but we have kept him away from any TV Cameras for decades now. Imagine 264 episodes of anything with him in it. There wouldn't be a cupboard deep enough or dark enough to hide that boxset