Anyone remember the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original, A.K.A the good one), where Mike the T.V addict insists in being transported threw ‘Wonkavision’ and the transmission at the end isn’t as good as the product at the start.
Well television in translation could be described as something like this. What starts out in one country could end up being a flop in another. But what causes a show to be so popular in one country, and then a failure in another?
The understanding of culture is why. Some shows work quite well being translated into another culture. There have been several highly successful shows; these include; The Office, Big Brother, Ugly Betty, Masterchef, X Factor and Idol.
You just have to look at Mr Bean and see how amazing comedy can be and how it can be taken to the world.
But not all shows are as successful as Mr Bean when shown to other cultures. Comedies are especially hard to translate across cultural boarders. For joke to be understood by someone, they have to understand the breaking of the rule. Before they can even do that, they have to understand the rule itself.
Kath and Kim is an example of how a show is extremely successful in one country and not so much in another.
The thing that makes the show so successful in Australia, is that we as a culture understand the humour because it is written by Australians for Australians.
An American network bought the rights to the show and re-wrote it for American culture, it didn’t really work.
Reason why? Kath and Kim is specifically tailored for Australian humour which Americans don’t really ‘get’.
So to get humour in comedies the rule of comedy has to be understood. firstly the rule has to be understood, and secondly when it is broken, the audience has to understand why it is funny that it’s broken.
Irony is especially hard to understand if culturally that’s not considered to be funny. Sue Turnbull says of the Australian Kath and Kim, “Kath and Kim’s failure to make the right choices thus places them in a culturally inferior position of the viewer.” So we can understand as Australians how K&K wish “to be EFFLUENT!” to quote Kim, where it is quite obvious they are not.
But one can always hope to become more, as Kimmy says, “Brett thought I was just a boring housewife… Well he was wrong! Look at me! I’m a horn bag!”