They do say 'Imitation is the best form of Flattery...'

Posted by DGN on 2:21 PM in
Something that I have seen crop up over the last couple of years is the "franchising" of television shows across the world. By this I mean, taking a program that is popular in another country, and re-working it for the local audience.

This is a very common theme in the reality tv genre, the most popular being "Pop Idol" out of the UK becoming "American Idol" stateside, and "Canadian Idol" here in the great white north. But I'm talking more so about scripted programming following suit.

The first recent instant of this occured in 2003. NBC, looking for a way to make up for the impending loss of "Friends" to its Thursday night line up, and decided to add a show that had done phenomenally well in the UK. This show was "Coupling", a show built around the same concept as friends, except for its very heavy content on sexual activity and relationships (no nudity, no swearing, but a lot of inference). The show was on air from 2000 - 2004 (British TV is known for their shorter runs). However, NBC wasn't airing the original, but instead opting to re-create it with American stars. The result: Not good. "Coupling US" didn't have the same chemisty, and in a culture known for exploiting sex, but not necessarily open about it, the subject matter didn't resonate with audiences, ending after only 4 episodes (Nine were made in total).

However, that didn't stop NBC (good for them in this case!), and in 2005 added "The Office" to their Thursday night line up. The original UK Office was another huge hit in its home country, and made Ricky Gervais a star. The plot revolves around a concept that everyone knows about...a boss you do not like. The main difference between the American and British version is the boss himself. When the job was offered to Steve Carrel, he decided not to watch the original, and played the role very differently. PLaying more of a goofy Michael Scott than the cocky David Brent that Gervais based his on. The result: A sleeper hit for the network. While people couldn't stop comparing it to the original, "The Office US" blew up with the success of Carell's film "The 40 Year Old Virgin".

There are more shows coming down the the line. NBC is bringing in "Kath and Kim" (based on the Aussie hit of the same name) this fall and ABC has "Life on Mars" (another British program - perhaps I should start watching more of their shows!), and sitting on Footballer's Wives (British soap, but these footballers play the Amercian Version!).

Of course America is not the only place guilty of this. Since the success of the American verison, other Offices have set up shop in France, Germany, French Canada and Chile. CBC (Canada) came out with MVP:The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives (ala Footballers Wives). While not a hit on Canadian or American tv (it aired on ABC to low ratings) the show is coming back on SOAPNet in 2009. Canada is also the starting point for franchise show "Little Mosque on the Prairie", which is a success in and out of Canada and will have an American version to air on FOX sometime in the near future.

So, the question is, is this a good thing or a bad thing. In the case of shows like "The Office", it seems like a great idea. People really enjoyed the antics of Michael Scott and company, and then forces them to watch the original. However, what if you watched "Coupling US" . Would you watch the original. Doubt it, even though it's one of the better written comedies we've seen in a while. Chances are, the more of these "franchised" shows we see, the more failures we'll read about. Very few knockoffs are as good as their originals, even if some of the originals are utilized. And of course, what about originality? Are we not going to see any new ideas anymore? I understand ripping off a concept, that's been done before. But now we're just going to copy the entire idea?!

We'll have to see how these new shows pan out... but it would be nice to see some new ideas being mixed around with these old one...

Your comments are always welcome :)



I do agree that there are only a handful original shows out there nowadays. Everything else seems to be more of the recycled or mixed with the old with the new concept of culture. This also ties in with fashion and music. I guess network shows and writers are more comfortabls with working with the existing formalas to make sure they profit of it more quickly. I find game and reality shows are growing more and more because we're losing that original aspect of t.v. shows. So with reality shows, it's live T.V. (sometimes) and it's claimed to be "unscripted".

This guy seems to have some great ideas for new shows - http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/entertainment-0/1220517092148250.xml&coll=2. I'm quite interested in the show "We Suck". lol

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