Timeless: All the foreign TV shows that inspired big US hits
Following the cancellation of NBC’s Timeless (again), fans have rightly been rooting for the time-travel saga to get a third season. Inspired by the save campaigns of shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, One Day at a Time, and Lucifer, the fans a.k.a. the Clockblockers got to work on requesting their show’s return.
Spreading the word on social media, launching a petition to bring the show back, and raising money to hire two helicopters to fly a #SaveTimeless banner over the SDCC were just some of the actions taken by the Clockblockers. And they were listened to, kinda. Late last month, NBC said it would bring back Timeless for a two-hour finale special to wrap up the story.
Is this enough to satisfy the dedicated fandom who have invested so much time in the Timeless characters and storylines? That would be a no, hence why so many Clockblockers are still fighting their corner online to see the show returning for a third season and beyond.
If you too are feeling robbed due to Timeless’s cancellation and you can’t wait to hear more from Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett as the unlikely time-travelling trio, perhaps you should check out the Spanish show that it ripped off.
El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time) follows the adventures of three strangers – two men and one woman – brought together to stop villains from interfering with historical events. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s more or less the exact same premise as Timeless.
According to Distractoid, the show’s producing company Onza Partners was in negotiations with Sony back in July 2015 to create a US version of the Spanish show. Just a month later, Sony unexpectedly terminated all negotiations and within that same day it was announced that a pilot for a show called Time was being produced for NBC, which went on to become Timeless.
“Onza Partners filed a lawsuit against Sony, NBC, and Timeless’ showrunners Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan,” added Distractoid. “The case dragged on for months until it was quietly settled. Timeless was canceled and then renewed for its second season. Ministerio, which was initially broadcasted by Spain’s RTVE, then had all its seasons available internationally on Netflix.”
There’s quite clearly a lot of bad blood surrounding not just the lawsuit, but the sudden cancellation of the show. But there is a notable positive to take from the conflict: Ministerio is a solid bingewatch if you’re yearning for more of Timeless’s riveting sci-fi storylines (it invented the damn premise, after all). And with all of its episodes available to stream on Netflix, it makes so much sense to add the show to your watchlist.
For more of the same, here are ten US hits that were inspired by foreign shows.
The Killing (US) – Forbrydelsen (Denmark)
Based on Danish series Forbrydelsen, AMC’s The Killing is an American crime drama show that fully respected its source material. With the storyline comprising a police investigation, the saga of a grieving family, and a Seattle political campaign, this might be an American show but its narrative, character arcs, and settings are Nordic noir at its finest.
Shameless (US) – Shameless (UK)
For US Shameless fans, there can only be one Frank Gallagher and that is the deadbeat dad portrayed by William H. Macy. However, across the pond it’s a totally different story as the original show of the same name was based in a Manchester estate and saw the beer-guzzling f-up portrayed by David Threlfall.
Either way, both versions of the show succeeded in creating a long-running comedy drama that centered on the single father as he dragged up his six children who had to learn to take care of themselves while he spent his days drinking and / or in search of misadventures. Both are worth a bingewatch.
Jane the Virgin (US) – Juana la Virgen (Venezuela)
There aren’t enough words to express the deep adoration we feel towards Jennie Snyder Urman’s romantic comedy, which plays on the telenovela beats presented by its source material: Venezuelan show Juana la Virgen. But while both shows center on a woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated during a visit to the doctor, they differ in a number of ways, including the age of Jane, her relationship status, and her career aspirations.
Furthermore, as Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times wrote, the US version is “refitted with ironic distance and much more artful cinematography” and “shot in a bright candy-colored palette that suggests a modern fairy tale.” Just a few of the reasons we absolutely love this modern update on the soapy tropes of the telenovela genre.
The Office (US) – The Office (UK)
One aired on the BBC. The other aired on NBC. One starred Ricky Gervais. The other starred Steve Carell. One was made in the UK. The other was made in the US. One was a groundbreaking leap forward within the comedic realm. One was an average at best comedy filled with jokes we’d heard a million times before.
Sometimes you’ve gotta stick to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule.
Ugly Betty (US) – Yo soy Betty, la fea (Colombia)
While Silvio Horta’s Ugly Betty had a successful run on ABC with four seasons, many might not know that it was in fact based on Fernando Gaitán’s hugely popular Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea. More than a dozen versions of the telenovela have been made in other countries due to the popularity of the plot, which follows an outcast in a prominent fashion company – a sweet-hearted and unattractive assistant – who falls hopelessly in love with her boss.
Homeland (US) – Hatufim (Israel)
Homeland is Showtime’s award-winning political drama, but did you know it’s actually based on the Israeli series Hatufim (Prisoners of War)? The latter premiered in 2010, centering on characters who had been held captive during combat, and went on to become one of the country’s highest-rating dramas of all time. Meanwhile, Homeland enjoyed similar acclaim from the off and is set to continue with its eighth and final season next year, with Claire Danes returning to the role as Carrie Mathison.
The Bridge (US) – The Bridge (Denmark / Sweden)
The Bridge stars Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia as a Swedish & Danish detective who must work together when a corpse is found on the border between their two countries. It’s an unforgettable Scandi noir, meaning FX had a huge job on its hands with the US remake.
Nevertheless, lead Diane Kruger gave a noteworthy performance as the socially awkward detective that challenged the traditional tropes of female TV cops. And, as pointed out by The Guardian, “shifting the action from the Oresund bridge that joins Denmark and Sweden to its altogether less picturesque equivalent marking the border between Mexico and the US, adds to the show’s subtext of social justice: the differences between the two societies are starker, more pronounced.”
Gracepoint (US) – Broadchurch (UK)
Gracepoint tells more or less the same story as its Brit predecessor Broadchurch, following a crime-busting D.I. who is brought in to a small town to investigate the death of a young boy. It also had the same writer, the same director, and the same star (the ever-wonderful David Tennant).
Why did they bother? We’re still not sure, but what we do know is that Broadchurch is far more worthy of your time thanks to Olivia Colman’s stunning performance as Tennant’s partner Detective Sgt. Ellie Miller. But also because Gracepoint is mostly a shot-for-shot copy of its source material that makes no creative decisions of its own.
House of Cards (US) – House of Cards (UK)
It’s hard to remember a time when Netflix’s MVP House of Cards wasn’t a household name. Although the show has seen somewhat of a demise in recent times thanks to the scandal surrounding its central actor Kevin Spacey, for five solid seasons it’s enjoyed critical acclaim across the world.
But its premise didn’t come from thin air, as the show is based on the British miniseries of the same name based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. Fans of the US remake would do well to check out the original, particularly if you’re into satirical takes on politics. Both versions of House of Cards are not to be missed.
The Good Doctor (US) – Good Doctor (South Korea)
The second season of the critically acclaimed medical drama about a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome is set to air in September following a successful first round. But that’s not all that surprising considering it’s based on the 2013 award-winning South Korean series of the same name and similar premise. The show’s lead actor Daniel Dae Kim had been trying to adapt it for US viewers since 2014 before it finally arrived in 2017 on ABC with Freddie Highmore as the central doctor.