Though reality TV may seem like a distinctly American beast, much of it bears strong connections to British counterparts — and some of the British versions came first.
"American Idol," the longest-running reality talent competition in the U.S., was spawned from the British series "Pop Idol." Interestingly, although "American Idol" is set to debut its 12th season next year, "Pop Idol" only saw two seasons in the U.K., from 2001 to 2003. Still, that was enough to franchise the series, bringing it to the U.S., Canada and dozens of other countries.
Following "Idol," both "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Britain's Got Talent" premiered Stateside before they appeared in the U.K., though Brits Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell, respectively, created those series.
Cowell also launched the Idol-esque series "The X-Factor" in the U.K. in 2004 before bringing it to American audiences last year.
With the international success of these franchises, North American audiences have gotten to know a few British TV personalities, the most notorious being the razor-tongued Cowell. He's shared his no-nonsense opinions on both "American Idol" and "The X-Factor," as well as their British companion series.
Other British personalities recruited to American reality TV include fashionable Cat Deeley, host of "So You Think You Can Dance" in both the U.K. and the U.S.; handsome but ill-fated Steve Jones, who hosted the first season of "The X-Factor" in the U.S.; and Piers Morgan, who's served as a judge for the "Got Talent" series in both Britain and America.
Speaking of talent …
Though not all competitors on British reality shows have seen their stars rise in North America, this has happened in a number of instances.
Leona Lewis, who won the third season of the British "X-Factor" in 2006, saw her single "Bleeding Love" reach No. 1 on the singles charts in Canada and the United States. It became the best-selling single worldwide in 2008. That same year, Billboard Magazine proclaimed her the top new artist, and she's been a three-time Grammy nominee.
Susan Boyle became a household name worldwide when her audition for the third season of "Britain's Got Talent" went viral online in 2009. The show's judges, as well as viewers, were shocked at the contrast between her breathtaking voice and her plain appearance. Boyle went on to place second in the series and has since enjoyed international success; she's currently recording her fourth studio album.
Undoubtedly most prominent among preteen girls these days, British boy band One Direction came together on the seventh season of "The X-Factor" in 2011. Harry, Louis, Liam, Niall and Zayn all auditioned separately for the show before guest judge Nicole Scherzinger urged them to join forces as a group instead.
Good thing they took her advice! The five-piece not only placed third in the series, they've enjoyed great fanfare internationally. The release of their debut album in the States in March 2012 made them the first British debut act to top the Billboard 200 albums chart. That's just one of many indications that fans across the world are falling asleep after staring at 1D posters on their walls.
by Chris Mejaski
Top:Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Thompson, Liam Payne and Niall Horan of One Direction, shown at the recent BAMBI Awards in Germany, were discovered on Britain's "The X-Factor." (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
Left: Leona Lewis was another British reality-TV winner before finding fame on this side of the Atlantic. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)