It can’t have escaped your notice that international "format" sales are quite big in the TV world. This is when a foreign TV network, rather than buying your successful TV show, goes and buys the rights to remake it. So Life on Mars, while it was sold to the US and shown there, John Simm, Philip Glenister and Manchester intact, also had its format sold to ABC where it was relocated to first LA then New York and recast with American actors. It’s also been sold to Spain. We, in turn, buy in things like The Golden Girls and turn them into Brighton Belles.
Totally successful idea then, I’m sure you’ll agree. 100% success rate, in fact.
Surprisingly, the UK is actually the number one exporter of formats and it wouldn’t surprise me if Germany were the number one importer. For years, German TV has had a strong tradition of buying in overseas shows, particularly comedy shows, and remaking them.
In very rare circumstances, it’s managed to get the original cast to do everything in German. And by rare, I mean Monty Python’s Flying Circus, aka Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus:
More typically, they’ve been relocated. The conversion of the US’s Saturday Night Live into RTL’s Samstag Nacht (Saturday Night) kept all the ‘furniture’ of the US show, while coming up with German sketches and German hosts.
However, when it comes to comedy, German TV sometimes chooses to do a more or less straight translation. Take for example, Geht’s Noch (it’s going now), which was the German version of Big Train. Have a look at these two sketches, one from Big Train and one from Geht’s Noch, and see if you can see some similarities.
And then things just get a little stupid. Here we have an almost frame-for-frame remake of Channel 4’s The IT Crowd called Das iTeam – die Jungs an der Maus (The iTeam – the boys at the mouse, although originally it was ‘die Jungs mit der Maus’ since Maus is also slang for girl). You can have a side-by-side, compare and contrast on YouTube of the remake of the first episode, or stay here and compare the remake of the second episode with a really bad quality vid of the original:
So what do you think? Does the humour translate? Good plan or should people come up with their own ideas? I’ll let you be the judge.