If Western television networks weren’t international premise thieves, then shows like Homeland, In Treatment and Ugly Betty wouldn’t exist.
Less publicised but just as prevalent are non-English-speaking premise pilferers. In fact, many US and British shows boast globe-spanning franchises.
The most fascinating aspect of these small-screen repacks is how they eventuate when run through a specific cultural filter. Some are line-for-line remakes, some are odd mutations and some you would never guess were adaptations.
24 - India (24)
A slick, notably ambitious project from the first nation to get a thumbs up to make a Kiefer-less version of the literal ticking-clock of an action drama. Starring Bollywood superstar Anil Kapoor, the similarly spirited remake was considered a win by critics, was made into a video game, and is slated to air its second season later in 2016.
Full episodes of 24 - India are available on SBS On Demand.
Niania – Poland (The Nanny)
A serialised version of the nasal 90s sitcom that ran for nine seasons over four years (2005-2009). 134 episodes and one special later, "Maid" had become the more successful of The Nanny remakes (Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Turkey also had a good go).
Check out a this episode, or, better yet, the international supercut of The Nanny opening credits and theme song. Russia’s is a work of art.
Le Bureau – France (The Office)
Ricky Gervais used to bang on about his David Brent-spawned empire, but as time’s gone on he only seems to bang on about the US version of The Office, which is understandable considering most non-English adaptations fared quite poorly.
Le Bureau was the first to rebirth Gervais and Merchant’s baby, premiering in 2006 and finishing up its run in... 2006.
This clip is a short chunk of the first (of six) episode featuring a French riff on a classic Tim/Jim-Gareth/Dwight gag and their version of David Brent.
Metástasis – Colombia (Breaking Bad)
Watching Walter Bianco turn from Senor Chips to Scarface is a far breezier experience, as all sixty-two episodes over five seasons aired over three months in 2014. Metástasis gave Breaking Bad the telenovela treatment, serving up stagey reshoots of our favourite scenes from the original.
This clip from the final minutes of the series is a microcosm for everything that’s wrong (and hence, funny) about the Colombian remake.
Medcezir – Turkey (The O.C.)
Who knew that Orange County could transpose to the suburbs of Istanbul? I didn’t. The O.C. was already pretty melodramatic, but Turkish passion flung the remake so far over the top, it almost resembles a comedy, at least to this philistine.
Check out the incredible trailer:
Al-Shamshoon – United Arab Emirates (The Simpsons)
In Al-Shamshoon, a doctored redub of The Simpsons, Moe's Tavern doesn’t exist, which should give you an idea of what kind of show it became by the time it hit Middle Eastern screens. Instead of Duff beer, Homer Shamshoon drank soda, which I’m guessing perpetuated a few confusing myths about the side effects of soft drinks.
Perhaps it was this confusion that lead to networks only airing thirty-five of the fifty-two bastardised episodes. Luckily, the living-legendary cartoon sitcom eventually aired with Arabic subtitles. Alas, Moe’s Tavern remained on the cutting room floor.
Now, please enjoy the Arabic take on The Simpsons' take on Edgar Allen Poe's poetry:
Umutsuz Ev Kadınları – Turkey (Desperate Housewives)
In the Turkish incarnation of the long-running satire Desperate Housewives, all gay characters became straight, and all drinkers became sober. It ran for five seasons over three years (2011-2013) and was a ratings success.
At some point during the show’s run, its creators angered the ominously titled watchdog organisation - The Radio and Television Supreme Council - with, amongst other things, a female lead touching her husband while remarking, “We will have dessert after dinner."
But this was totally fine:
Casados con Hijos – Argentina (Married... with Children)
The unconventional family sitcom that gave us Al and Peggy Bundy, as well as Christina Applegate, spawned a succession of remakes, franchising its way across the globe with a swiftness of which retailers can only dream.
Even though it only ran for two seasons, this Spanish-language version aired 215 episodes and was a huge success, garnering a bunch of local award wins and nominations. It also aired in multiple countries in the region.
As this questionable clip suggests, the Argentinians define "unconventional" in a markedly different way to the Americans.
El Bab Fil Bab – Egypt (Everybody Loves Raymond)
Translating to "Closed Doors", El Bab Fil Bab is possibly the best name for a television show since the thing’s invention, which is the only real reason I’m highlighting the Egyptian version of Everybody Loves Raymond.
While the US sitcom has long since finished its run, the Raymond bug took a while to travel afar, but eventually dropped locator pins all over the earth.
The franchise is spot-lit and aggrandised in the documentary Exporting Raymond (2010), which focuses on the original co-creator peddling the family sitcom overseas.
Here’s the trailer:
XΡΥΣΑ ΚΟΡΙΤΣΙΑ – Greece (The Golden Girls)
Another classic American sitcom with its fair share of appropriators, but The (Greek) Golden Girls makes a lot of sense. Italian-American seniors easily transpose to golden Greek women, and even though I can’t understand what they’re saying, I know exactly which one's Dorothy, and who’s Sophia, Rose and Blanche.
To see us out, we’ll end our trip in The Netherlands, with a life-affirming cover of The Golden Girls classic theme song...
Watch 24 (India) on SBS On Demand.