One of the best-loved British series of recent years, The Office, has been remade in America. The two series of The Office were a huge success in Britain, but this article in the Guardian seems to suggest that its American remake is far from reaching the same acclaim. One anonymous contributor: "I’m an American, so how am I supposed to understand British? It’s practically another language."
The fact that British English and American English have evolved into two distinct languages has widely been studied, but in this case, I think there is more to it than "two countries separated by a common language". This show is so steeped in the day-to-day reality of office life in Britain that it’s hard to imagine how it can be adapted to a US office, considering how different the UK and US work cultures are. Besides, the timing of the release of The Office was perfect. It was aired at a time when every other TV program was a fly-on-the-wall show about "real people", and it was a breath of fresh air to see the reality TV "genre" turned on its head.
The cultural differences make this certain type of humour completely alien in an American setting. Humour is a result of the combination of several factors. You can’t extract one or several of these factors from a certain reality, place them in another cultural context and expect it to work. It is not that Americans are unable to appreciate British humour (the original version of The Office has been a cult hit in the USA), but rather that for this trend of British humour to work, it has to be in a British environment, with British characters.
So, good luck to the people in charge of making the US version of The Office. As a translator used to strolling the treacherous gateway between the UK/US and the French culture and language, I know it can’t have been an easy job.