The most famous example of this trend must be Simon Cowell’s empire of Pop Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor. Known and shown the world over, every country has its own version. But it’s not just Mr Cowell who is exporting these ideas and creating huge profits for the UK.
Similar formats where entertainers are put to the test are Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice where professionals and celebrities compete on the dance floor.
Then there are reality shows that include Super Nanny (Jo Frost is a big hit) and Wife Swap – a fascinating show where two families with completely different life styles and principles are made to swap wife/mother. It’s sometimes too excruciating to watch. There is also How Clean is Your House (grime is grim), Antiques Roadshow (show us your heirlooms) and not forgetting Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare and Cash In the Attic.
Quiz show exports have included Weakest Link, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here is a big hit in the UK (who know why!) but has not always succeeded in other versions.
The Top Gear format has been copied although it is difficult to be so critical in countries where it is shown on commercial television – you might offend the sponsors.
Of course, due to cultural differences shows that are a great success in Britain are not necessarily so abroad. Life on Mars was a great hit in the UK but did not last long in the US version. Spain made a version set in 1978 (rather than 1973) after the fall of Franco’s Spain. On the other hand, The Office was a huge hit in both countries although adapted to allow for those cultural differences. Other British dramas included Queer as Folk and Coupling (although short lived).
Not forgetting the kids – Teletubbies and Bob the Builder have been worldwide success stories.
Can we say anything in general about these shows? They are a fantastic revenue stream and some are pretty good if not brilliant. However, in many cases, people might ask us not export any more of this rubbish.