Gossip Girl is going to China. No, it’s not what you think — Blair isn’t marrying into Chinese money, Serena is not becoming an Asian pop star, and Dan’s book is not being translated into Mandarin. As unlikely as the idea seems, the creators of Gossip Girl truly are collaborating with a Chinese production company on an adaptation of the show, which Deadline notes is popular online viewing in the PRC. This odd news got us thinking about other unlikely, cool, and plain bizarre foreign adaptations of American TV shows. We’ve rounded up a few that we wish we could watch; add your favorites in the comments.
Chinese Gossip Girl
What would a show about debauched, promiscuous, wealthy teenagers beholden to a disembodied voice with a website look like in a censorship-happy, (nominally) Communist country? According to the press release, “the series [is] about the lives of the students of the prestigious Shanghai International University [pictured above], the school of choice of the rich and powerful. One’s social status reaches a new level once admitted into the school. Each week, the main characters’ trust, love and friendship are tested, with all the behind-the-scenes tales recorded in a blog. In the beginning, they are confused and lost, however over time, they discover who they really are and eventually find the right path to pursue their dreams.” If only we were convinced that American Gossip Girl’s characters had such a happy ending coming to them. Anyway, we’d watch it.
La Tata (The Nanny in Italian)
Did you know that Fran Drescher’s ’90s-set My Fair Lady sitcom, The Nanny, is an international smash hit? The Russian version was so popular that it remade all the original episodes and then had to call in the American show’s writing staff to make more. But we’re most intrigued by the Italian version — which is really just a dubbed version of the shows that aired in the US, with a few eyebrow-raising changes. Fran Fine was renamed Francesca Cacace and transformed into a lapsed Catholic, and her mother and Grandma Yetta’s characters were both changed to hide their Jewish heritage. Huh. It’s like Italian TV execs didn’t think their viewers would take kindly to a Jewish protagonist…
Voroniny (Russian Everybody Loves Raymond)
Russia seems to be the global capitol for remakes of American TV series. In fact, there is an excellent documentary, called Exporting Raymond, by Everybody Loves Raymond creator Philip Rosenthal about the time he spent there helping to adapt the series. We were never big fans of the aw-shucks original, but what makes the film so interesting is the difficulty of translating one culture’s humor for another. We’d love to know more about the differences between what Russians and Americans find funny.
Geordie Shore (British Jersey Shore)
Although America’s most embarrassing reality TV show (except maybe My Strange Addiction) has spawned countless copycat series, both at home and abroad, the only official adaptation is MTV UK’s Geordie Shore. We probably wouldn’t want to see more than an episode of this, but it would be nice to remember that the country that gave us Downton Abbey isn’t above watching idiots hook up with each other and clog toilets.
Paris enquêtes criminelles (French Law & Order: Criminal Intent)
It seems like basically the same show as the American version, but with more stylish costumes. You know, because they’re French.
The House of Shamshoon (Arabic The Simpsons)
As the news clip above details, The Simpsons — which has been dubbed and re-aired all over the world — doesn’t really seem like it could work in the Arabic world. Indeed, many changes were made before its 2005 debut: To make the show more appropriate for a Muslim audience, Al Shamshoon excises all references to beer (in the Middle East, Homer is apparently a big fan of soda), pork, and Moe’s Tavern. Oh, and like The Nanny in Italy, it has also cut out such Jewish characters as Krusty’s dad, Rabbi Krustofsky.
Takalani Sesame (South African Sesame Street)
America’s most iconic TV show for tots has been exported to countless countries over the years, resulting in a number of interesting variations. The first was Brazil’s Vila Sésamo, which premiered in 1972; since then, there’s been an Israeli version where Big Bird was swapped for a hedgehog named Kippi, a Russian program geared towards integrating kids into global life post-USSR, and a Norwegian show set at a train station rather than a city neighborhood. But we’re most inspired by Takalani Sesame, a South African co-production that emphasizes HIV/AIDS awareness and even features an HIV-positive puppet, Kami. See her in a PSA with Bill Clinton above.
The Upper Hand (British Who’s the Boss?)
As this clip from the series premiere reminds us, Britain always does class-based comedy better than we do — although Joe McGann was clearly no Tony Danza. Sorry, Joe.
Russian How I Met Your Mother
Questions: Why is Barney so old? Why is everyone hanging out in a bar that looks like the club where SNL‘s Butabi Brothers used to get their perv on? And what… with the naked… and the pineapple? OK, we give up. But we’re sure this would be entertaining, for entirely the wrong reasons.