Sunday, October 8, 2006


In the TV Universe, it's a given that every TV character has counterparts in all of the alternate dimensions which are accessible via "sliding". This is a concept realized in such shows as the 'Star Trek' franchise, 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys', the two 'Stargate' series, 'Doctor Who', and of course, 'Sliders'.

But there are also some TV characters who have doppelgangers living in the same dimension as they are, but in different countries in TV Land.

Their counterparts aren't lookalikes, nor do they always have the same names. But their lives are eerily similar, right down to the types of children they have, the jobs where they work, and the friends that they hang around with.

Here in the Real World, this is due to a TV show concept being adapted for a foreign market. It used to be that the majority of these shows were between the United States and Great Britain, with the emphasis on "Britcoms" being adapted for the American audience - 'All In The Family' (from 'Til Death Us Do Part'), 'Sanford & Son' (from 'Steptoe And Son'), and 'Amanda's' (from 'Fawlty Towers').

But the trend is truly global now. Ricky Gervais' nightmare of corporate drones, 'The Office', is a success in its American incarnation, but it's also found now in France, Germany, and Canada (perhaps even India), with the necessary adjustments to suit the target audience.

I'm not sure if they're all set in offices for paper products companies, but if so, it could one day turn out that they're all subsidiaries of the same world-wide corporation. (In the British version, they work at Wertham-Hogg in Slough; Scranton's Dunder-Mifflin in the American remake.)

Another character that has twins of spirit through Latin America and now in the United States as well is 'Ugly Betty'. In her original country of Colombia, the telenovela was called 'Betty De La Fea' and now it has been adapted to fit an American audience with America Ferrara as Betty Suarez of Queens.

One TV character who has had about a dozen remakes in various countries might have to see each of those incarnations shipped off to alternate dimensions. That's because in each case, 'Inspector Maigret' doesn't undergo any significant changes to fit the various countries broadcasting his adventures. He is still the same French detective as described in the books by Georges Simenon.

Which one should remain in Earth Prime-Time, the main Toobworld? I must admit that I'd be partial to it being the English version which starred Michel Gambon. However, I might have to bow to arguments made in favor of which version was first produced, and which one was actually filmed in France.

Two weeks ago, Russia began airing its own version of 'Perfect Strangers', that ABC sitcom which starred Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot. Only this time, the strange cousin is from a former republic of the USSR, rather than a transplanted shepherd from the Isle of Mypos. Ivan and Andrei instead of Larry and Balki.

The show is being produced by Warner Bros. who are looking for foreign markets in which they could adapt other old sitcoms. For Russia, they're also working on new versions of 'Suddenly, Susan', 'Full House', and 'Step By Step'. A couple of years ago, Latin American markets were sought for Spanish versions of such shows as 'Desperate Housewives' and 'It Takes A Thief' and 'Charlie's Angels'.

With a version of 'Perfect Strangers' already underway in Russia, it's only a matter of time before they also have a spin-off with a Russian version of Urkel.

And should that happen, would the Russians view that as an act of war?



Rich A. said...

Yo Tobe,

Just took a look at ur blog and yeh I know it is picky but I had to
let you know. The Colombian version of Ugly Betty was one of my
favorite novelas when it first aired. I thought you would like to
know that it was not called "Betty De La Fea" which would mean "Betty
of the Ugly". It was called "Yo Soy Betty La Fea" ("I Am Betty The
Ugly") and was then shortened to just "Betty La Fea" (Betty The Ugly)

Since I'm on the subject maybe you could shed some light on this
question I've been having about the new Betty. In the novela Betty
was played by this hot Colombian chick..I think she was even a Miss part of the story was about uncovering the ugly and
finding that she was actually hot. I've seen the new Betty (America
something or other) without all the Betty makeup and while she may not
be ugly she is definitely not hot or even close to it. I wonder if
that is even gonna be part of the story in the American version have u
heard anything about that?

Anyway....that is all for now take care and as Sawyer might say "Keep toobin'

Toby said...

That particular question has been raised by another, better TV essayist than me. Can't remember where I saw it though.

This bloggist wondered if the Americanized version by Salma Hayek would at least follow the same route where Betty became pretty on the outside but ugly on the inside by becoming her boss's lover (wife?) even as she knew he was still fucking other women.

In my opinion, I think this may be one of the avenues that the American version will avoid. Geared as it is towards this specific audience, I think Hayek and her other cohorts understand Americans wouldn't go for that.

But thanks for the title correction, Richie. When I revise this piece for the collection, I'll put in the correct name of the original show.