Translating transnational shows

We often believe that America influences our entertainment consumption due to the amount of productions that originate from Hollywood. However, this isn’t always the case. Many countries including Australia are renowned for producing their own entertainment series that represent the countries cultural humour and integrity. ‘Kath and Kim’, for example, first graced Australian television screens in May 2002, with its infectious slang, outrageous clothing and typical bogan suburbia living. Australia could not help but fall in love with the two horn-bags that reflect Australian culture. But why is this? Essentially Turnbull (2008, p. 112) acknowledges that comedy “is a cultural and social practice that is both shaped by and contributes to historical conjunctures”. But that hasn’t stopped America in reinterpreting these iconic shows.  In 2008 the American version of Kath and Kim aired on NBC, although the first episode gained a satisfactory amount of ratings, it soon plummeted and the show was cancelled.

There were noticeable changes between the original and adapted version, including the disregard of Sharon, Kim’s unlucky yet loveable best friend. But the most undeniable difference was the loss of irony. These women referred to each other as horn-bags, but yet they were typical glamourous Americans. Kim being a petite figure, with no trace of muffin top in sight. While Kath was slightly more relatable her personality and appeal was similar to the classic middle-class American. The show lost its wit and and turned into a moronic reincarnation about a glitzy family with a mundane lifestyle.  Below depicts two YouTube videos that clearly indicate the difference between the original and American version, reiterating the lack or humour and irony.

Original (Aus version)

U.S. Version

Although several American television adaptions have failed in the past, there have been the odd couple that have gone on to immense success, including the adorable ‘Ugly Betty’. ‘Ugly Betty’ originated from Columbia known as Betty la Fea (Miller 2010, p. 198) as seen in the picture below.


Over 70 countries adapted the telenovela, Miller (2010, p. 200) recognises that “Telenovelas are limited run enterprises. Only 75–150 episodes are usually produced, and these episodes are shown over the course of 3–6 months by airing 5–6 nights a week in a single timeslot”. Evidently America’s version which ran on NBC was most successful lasting four seasons, the fourth being the final.

Unlike Kath and Kim ‘Ugly Betty’ could easily be adapted as it produced a universal plot that could be integrated into any culture. Universal themes and plots are easily translatable across nationalities, however comedy is often a depiction of its culture and when recreating these comedic shows such as Kath and Kim they must be adapted to the countries humour. However, instead the American version of Kath and Kim practically copied the original in its entity but produced dry, unrelatable humour that failed to depict American culture in a comical fashion.


Miller, JL 2010, ‘Ugly Betty goes global: Global networks of localized content in the telenovela industry’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 198-217.

Turnbull S 2008, ‘It’s Like They Threw a Panther in the Air and Caught It in Embroidery’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, vol. 1, no. 159, pp. 110-15.



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