What’s on TV?

Television is a medium by which the whole world is simply a click of the remote away. This weeks topic opened my eyes as to really how internationalized television has become. Are you aware that the original idea of some of your most loved programs could have come from the other side of the world? The TV we watch today is the result of the global flow and translation of program formats.

As I looked at in my post from last week, the influence of Hollywood is strong. However some of the best loved programs in the U.S. didn’t actually originate there.

Programs such as America’s Funniest Home Videoswhich was inspired by a segment on a Japanese light entertainment program titled ‘Fun Time with Kato Chan and Ken Chan.’  The Japanese program format was licensed to the US in 1990. Permission was also granted for America’s Funniest Home Videos to use footage from the Japanese show in their program (Kunz, 2010, p 319). Admittedly, growing up and tuning into the Australian ‘Funniest Home Videos’ I had no clue that the idea to showcase the ‘caught on camera’ citizens making fools of themselves came from somewhere else in the world.

This global ‘franchising’of a TV format is not a rare thing. A prime example is the Idol brand. Originating in England with Pop Idol, The Simon Cowell created program franchise “provides a template” for subsequent versions of Idol, which has had success that has taken the world by storm! (Kunz, 2010, p 317)

Take the following video for example… 11 minutes of the best (of the worst) idol auditions from around the world.

The Idol program had no doubt been granted such global success due to the program’s ability to be tailored to the tastes of the country of region is was produced in. In general, many reality program formats are successfully in global translation as they are infused with culturally specific elements that adapt the program to a new national audience. It’s no surprise that other program formats, especially comedy, have more difficulty getting a good global reception.


Comedy is definitely culturally specific, the above image of the US and Australian versions of Kath and Kim is a clear example. The replication of Fountain Lakes in Florida was not a success and the US version of the show copped a lot of criticism. Why? Because the point of the comedy was “lost in translation” (Turnbull, 2008). The Australian irony of the original series was not communicated across, and the program’s appeal disappeared. An article criticizing the US version,pinned it as an “unfunny adaptation.” Comedy is certainly something that plays into a particular cultural identity making it a very difficult product to communicate internationally.

Keep in mind though, it is not impossible…

That’s all for now, thanks for your time.

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.
Kunz, W 2010, ‘Prime-Time Island:Television Program and Format Importation into the United States,’ Television and New Media, vol 1, no. 4, pp 308-324



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