Their have been many very successful American sitcoms that are shown in Australia, Friends, How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family are just a few examples that come to mind. However very few International comedies or sit-coms ever make it to the U.S in their original format. Could this be because we are more used to American humour?
The adaptation of Television specifically for American audiences has been happening a lot, and something is getting lost along the way. There was the American remake of the dry, british drama Skins, which hit a rock with original fans of the show, a remake of the british Comedy The Office, which after lagging in ratings in the first few seasons found it’s feet by using a different style of humour, and finally their was the American remake of our own home grown classic Kath and Kim, which is still struggling in the American market and caused outrage to Australian fans of the show. So what is it about these remakes that’s not hitting the spot, and why remake them in the first place?
If we look at Kath and Kim, the original program starts with a premise of two middle aged women playing mother and daughter. Throw in a fat sports obsessed friend in the form of Shannon and you’ve got a brilliant comedy. This is a show that points and laughs at inner suburban bogan culture, something that most Australians have grown up with some level of involvement in.
The American remake which aired on NBC in 2008 failed to hit the mark, with 22 episodes ordered by the network it was cut to just 17 and the show was not renewed for a second season. The main Characters in the U.S version which had Selma Blair in the character of Kim, were much skinnier and far more attractive than the originals.
As Karen Brooks wrote in the Courier Mail:
“Their (the American) Kath Day and her daughter Kim are not monstrous enough to be cliches, stereotypes, paradies or even brave enough to be abhorrent or funny.”
Perhaps an ironic look at bogan Australia was just never going to translate well. How can a beautiful, youthful Selma Blair ever have the same impact as the middle aged muffin topped original claiming herself to be a ‘hornbag’.
As Brian Lowry in Variety magazine put it best:
“If this was a major hit in Australia, then something has been seriously lost in translation”