Who did it Better?: Mistresses – UK vs. US

A couple of weeks ago the new Alyssa Milano show, Mistresses, premiered on ABC. Thanks to the wonderful world of twitter I found out the show was an adaptation of a British series. I checked out the American version after it aired and I was underwhelmed. Since the British version is available on Netflix, I decided to give it a go as well. The adaptation respects most of the plot lines [even some scenes from the pilot]; but, at the same time, it is completely different.

So, comparisons seem to be in order. Mistresses is the story of four female friends, each one involved in a complicated relationship. All the British characters have their American counterparts:

[SPOILER ALERT: The following contains general spoilers for Volume 1 of Mistresses UK and up to episode 4 of Mistresses US]

The Party Girl – Jessica (Shelley Conn) vs. Josslyn (Jes Macallan)


As I wrote in my REVIEW, my main issue with US Mistresses was that I felt they were trying too hard to be “risqué”. On the other hand, with the UK version, they weren't attempting to be anything other than a good drama. Interestingly enough two of the sexiest [and edgiest] plot lines of the British version were SO watered down in the American series; I didn't even realize they were happening. One of these plot lines involves the “party girl” character (Jessica/Josslyn). On both shows the character is a woman with commitment issues. She prefers to sleep with married men because it is the easiest way to avoid any and all emotional attachments. Suddenly, this woman finds herself falling in love… with a woman, a married woman no less. The storyline is very compelling in the UK version. The other woman is played by Anna Torv (Fringe) and she does a wonderful job. The fact that it is a girl/girl relationship is completely irrelevant, because it is really about someone finding true love for the first time and learning it can be the greatest source of joy and suffering at the same time. As I said, in the American version, there is also “party girl” (Josslyn), there is a couple of lesbians and I really can’t tell where that is going. It’s almost like they are scared of that plotline. Furthermore, the British character played by Shelley Conn (Terra Nova) is very relatable, putting up a strong front but hinting her hidden vulnerabilities. Oppositely, American Josslyn strikes me as a girl who just wants to have fun and I don’t really feel any emotional connection with the character.

The gullible mom – Trudi (Sharon Small) vs. April (Rochelle Aytes)


Once again, same character, same story-line. A widow raising her kids alone after her husband died is shocked to discover he had an affair and has another son. Trudi (UK) is incredibly likable and realistic. She acts and looks like a struggling single mom.  April (US) is a character I have absolutely no sympathy for. I think, in grand part, I dislike the American character because the actress does not have enough emotional depth. However, it is also a matter of the writing. I don’t get her behavior and her dialogue is too on the nose and oftentimes annoying. In addition, she looks like she spends 3 hours at the hair salon every morning, not exactly a realistic single mom look, if you ask me. Because of all the changes, the American character storyline feels particularly soapy, while the British version is simple and compelling.


The cheating lawyer – Siobhan (Orla Brady) vs. Savannah (Alyssa Milano)


I really don’t have anything against Alyssa Milano. I grew up watching Who’s the boss? Like so many others and enjoyed the preposterous episodes of Charmed during my teens. But, to be honest, I don’t immediately think “lawyer” when I look at her. Maybe she could have gone to law school if she wanted, what the hell do I know? But she doesn't really look like a lawyer. Orla Brady [she was also on Fringe BTW] was cast in the UK version. Orla is a gorgeous woman, but has more subtle beauty than Alyssa and she is much more believable as a lawyer. Again, the plot is the same: A lawyer, struggling to have children with her distant husband, has a fling with someone at her office and ends up pregnant as a result. In this case, I like the British character more, but I don’t dislike the American character. Alyssa actually did a pretty good job and it is probably my favorite character from the US version. Alyssa was paired with Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy), who plays the man with whom she has the affair. That is the one character, I think was better cast in the American version than the British one. Jason George is totally believable as the flirty player, yet remains likable. The British actor wasn’t as charming. Moreover the love scene between these two characters was the only one truly hot in the American pilot. The rest of the supposedly “sexy” scenes in that version were underwhelming. Having said all that, Orla Brady does an outstanding job in the UK version, elevating her character above what I’ve seen in the US show so far.

The unethical doctor: Katie (Sarah Parish)  vs. Karen (YunJin Kim)



This character has the most interesting storyline on both versions. In summary Katie/Karen is a doctor who had an affair with her terminally ill patient. After she plays a part in his assisted suicide, she is approached by his son. The son develops a fixation with her and in the UK version they end up having an affair. I guess that’s where they are going with the US version as well (they’ve kissed so far), but it looks like something else entirely.  Let’s discuss the character of the son, named Sam Grey on both versions. They may have the same name, but the characters and the actors are very different. American Sam is a 20 year old KID. He looks young and acts young. He doesn’t look like the kind of younger man an older confident woman would desire. British Sam is a 24 year old MAN. The UK character is played by Max Brown. He is charming and sexy; it is easy to believe the much older Katie may fall for him. The attraction and flirtation between British Sam and Katie is palpable from the beginning, while American Sam and Karen are just awkward. In the US version, this arc is more creepy than sexy. It feels wrong, somehow and it didn’t have to be the case. They did the “younger man/older powerful woman” thing very well on shows like Lipstick Jungle. I am also not sure about the decision to cast YunJin Kim on the role (US). I was excited to see her back on TV, but this is not really the role for her. She has a very quiet strength, but this character called for an imposing, confident woman. Watching Mistresses US, I feel they stripped YunJin of all her charm; don’t know if it is the bad casting, the writing or the fact she is not speaking Korean, but I am really not connecting with her. Plus I am having a hard time picturing YunJin with anyone other than Daniel Dae Kim, but that’s not really the issue.


So, who did it better? Well obviously my personal opinion is that UK did it better. It has a lot to do with the casting choices but also with the styling and tone of the show. The American version fails to be as racy as they pretend to be, doesn’t have the flirty charm of shows like Lipstick Jungle and lacks the emotional depth of the original British show. If you think it is an interesting premise, but aren’t impressed with the ABC show I strongly recommend watching the UK version on Netflix.  



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TVEmpress

The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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23 comments:

  1. I think everything with Max Brown is the Best! Thank you for posting it!

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    1. He was particularly dreamy on this one ;). Glad you liked the post.

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  2. I've been watching the US version and heard it was based on a UK show. I was wondering if the UK version had the same plot. I think the US version could be so much better, I'm not sure if it's the writing or acting - maybe just bad casting. I agree with your review of the US characters.

    April's storyline is pretty interesting but the acting is terrible. She's having a fake nervous breakdown, then she's fine. It's awkward.

    Karen's storyline could be interesting but she's acting way too weird. Her & Sam are really unbelievable and is he in love with her or is he going to murder her?

    Joss I couldn't care less about. She's too obnoxious.

    Savi's storyline is kind of dragging at this point. I don't get why she so easily cheated on her husband but now is over the top guilty about it and being so awkward at work toward everyone even the assistants.

    I'll have to check out the UK version

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    1. The basic premise for all the characters is exactly the same in the UK version. I believe the difference is that they took a less "soap opera-ish" approach and it could also be a matter of casting, but the UK show is a solid drama while the American one is lacking something as you said. I agree with everything you said about the US characters:

      Curiously, the UK equivalent of April was very likable.

      You were spot on with Karen! That's exactly how I feel, it's not sexy at all it's creepy and you don't know if he is in love, obsessed or wants to kill her. In the UK version that story-line was VERY steamy and it had a dark undertone but it was sexy above all.

      Same goes for the other characters, they have potential but something is not quite right. I highly recommend you check the UK version and you will see what I mean.

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    2. I agree completely the UK version is better.

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  3. I had the misfortune of watching the US version first and found even the first episode torturous. Bad acting, a bad script and just basically bad TV. I then gave the UK version a try and was hooked from the start. If you liked the brilliant UK show 'Cold Feet' then you'll love this. I definitely agree with every aspect to this article. Thanks for the thorough research.

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    1. You are welcome :) I think the Americans failed to capture what was the essence of the original show. Mistresses UK is a really good drama and the US version ended up being a soap... which some ppl might enjoy but it is a completely different type of show. I've never seen 'Cold Feet' I'll have to check it out...

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  4. I've watched both version, start with the US version. I my opinion:
    1. UK version is more realistic, their looks, appearance and fashion style is like ordinary people. While in US version they all looks gorgeous at all time. They were fashionably chic from head to toes.
    2. UK version dares to exploit the wildest and nasty parts of those women, while US version tried to play more decent role.
    3. Brett Tucker and Jason George are playing better role than their counterparts.
    4. Sam Grey in US version was creepy and dark, while his counterparts his very charming guy.
    5. I am a fan of Savi, Joss and Karen. But can't compare with Sharon Small and Orla Brady outstanding performances.
    6. Olivier cast in the US version is quite interesting. He can be compare equally with Jessica husband.
    In overall US version can be choosed if we only need an easy watching entertainment while if we look for deeper drama you should watch the UK version.

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    1. I agree with each and every single thing you said Mitha....

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  5. I haven't watched the US version but I fell in love with the UK one years ago :) the UK has a different way to do thing and to approach censorship. I personally don't think US version of UK shows ever work. Characters are never as real and always too pretty in the US version, which would be fine if it was the original version but it's not why can't they respect that. Also have you noticed how the UK just broadcast a US show without remaking them? They could have just done that!

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  6. After watching a couple of season 1 episodes of the US version I found myself longing for a repeat of the UK version which I last watched three years ago. I went to dig for my old dvds. That's how shallow and unsatisfying the US version was for me.

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    1. I honestly don't blame you

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    2. I don't blame you either..........the US version is just so poor and acting is so unreal. Having just finished empire, I was expecting the US version of mistresses was going to be good..........disappointing to say the least!

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    3. It's very very soapy (US version)

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  7. I agree that the uk version all round but i do like tucker and george better.

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  8. The US version was terrible, so I started watching the UK version instead. And I was intantly hooked. I love how charming it was (even amidst the drama), and I much prefer the british cast! I just finished the last season of the show, but I definitely will watch the series again :-)

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  9. Hi, recently I watch this show in US version and wanting to watch the UK version.. Do you guys know where I can watch it free? It's kinda hard for me to find it because some link only allow viewers that live in US only and I live in asia.. thanks

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    Replies
    1. Have you considered using a VPN service like tunnelbear? It works really well and you can watch things available only in the US

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  10. Watched uk version on bbc americe when it was new and loved it! Us version is garbage yuck!

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    1. I had to stop watching the US version, agree the UK was so good. It's like they made it into a different show... but kept a lot of the storylines... not sure where they went wrong.

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  11. Oh c'mon!
    Raza Jaffrey (Hari) & Adam Rayner (Dom) did it better.
    Brett Tucker & Jason George is way too hot to be true. Not convincing at all whatsoever.

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  12. This isn't the only t.v. Show the Americans have ripped off the British..... and every single time the British did it better. The U.S even tried to do their pathetic version of the Aussie show Kath and Kim which failed as well

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