These days it’s not difficult to watch American TV shows back to back, they seem to be dominating our TV screens. I must admit on numerous occasions when I have watched American comedy such as Two and a Half Men and Modern Family, I have misunderstood the cultural translation. Maybe if I paid more attention to the Ad break during the week, I could have been watching Hamish and Andy Asia Gap Year. Which leads me to think I would have not had the imaginary cultural brick wall that prevented me to understand. The translation of comedy perceived by a particular audience has a significant impact on the success of the TV series.
The process of comedy translation is an important factor that influences the cultural contextual understanding of TV shows. Turnbull (2008, p.115) indicates a “successful translation of a comedy depends not only on the translation of the cultural context from one locate to another, but also on the kinds of production deals which are made.” In addition, the choices made by casting directors and the performance of the chosen main characters has a significant impact on our how the audience perceives the comedy translation.
American television networks have selected to pay homage to original TV series Kath & Kim and The Office. However, the American version of Kath & Kim, which premiered on NBC in 2008 failed to appeal to the American culture. It is suggested that the series was ‘lost in translation’ and there were many factors that contributed to the downfall of the show. In the Australian series we all know Kim as the hilarious wanna-be princess but in reality she is a woman with a bulging size 10 body and is oblivious to her trashy personality. However, in the American series Kim is far from that, Kim is played by Selma Blair an attractive tiny size 8 who is appealing to the eyes. Turnbull (2008, p. 112) refers to the American version as “not monstrous enough to be clichés, stereotypes, parodies or even brave enough to be abhorrent or funny.” The juxtaposition of the characters of the image above reveals the American series loses the irony. Therefore, it is important to understand the surrounding factors of television translation, if an Australian comedy TV show is successful, it does not result in the American remake to be just as popular.
On the other hand, Australia has effectively remade numerous American reality TV shows from Australia’s Next Top Model, Beauty and the Geek and to the debut of The Bachelor Australia in September 2013. Knox (2013) reveals “The Bachelor is one of the longest-running and most successful television franchises in the world, with productions in 24 countries”. There are 18 seasons in the U.S and the current series airs in Australia on Go! Will have to wait and see if the Australian Prince Charming will find his true love and if the Australian version will be a success. The below video of “The Baby Bachelor”, is a parody created by Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. It is evident that translation of a comedy can be lost in certain TV shows, but in this case the translation of love is universal.
Turnbull, S 2008, ‘It’s Like They Threw a Panther in the Air and Caught it in Embroidery’: Television Comedy in Translation’ Metro Magazine Issue 159.
Knox, D 2013, Ten Hands a Rose to the Bachelor Australia, TV Tonight, weblog post, 9 May, viewed 14 September 2013,