Is comedy culturally expressive?
This observation raises a number of issues about the process of cultural translation, particularly with reference to television comedy. Andy Medhurst(2007) argues, ‘comedy plays an absolutely pivotal role in the construction of national identity’ because it invites us to belong by sharing the joke, comedy may be particularly revealing in terms of how national identity is imagined, especially if we turn our attention to what the joke implies in terms of sharing and belonging.
An adequate example would be the television series Kath and Kim that demonstrates an unsuccessful comedy adaptation. The original series set in Australia captures Gina Riley (Kim) and Jane Turner (Kath) living the ‘typical’ Australian life, with many vowel- mangled catchphrases spawned by the show, the main purpose being a mother, her daughter, and their respective “hunks of spunk” negotiate life in suburban Australia. Having won numerous awards and an overall rating of 8.5/10 on IMDb, the Australian version did 4 seasons from 2002 till 2007. In 2008 However, an American version of Kath and Kim had been created and was considered a let down. The remake had undergone a change in the recasting of characters, and as such characterisation appears dramatically different, showing the American version more glamorous. The remake only achieved 1 season and a rating of 5/10 on IMDb. This presents Kath and Kim as an exception to the claim that comedy doesn’t travel well.
Howbeit, the TV series The Office represents the complete opposite effect, demonstrating a successful comedy adaptation. The original series set in the UK selected the unique characterisation of Ricky Gervais as the lead role and was a mass success having won numerous awards and an overall rating of 8.7/10 on IMDb. In 2005 however, an American version of the Office had been created and was conceivably more successful than the first. One of the main differences was the character change having Steve Carrell as ‘Michael Scott’ (the main character). This remake achieved a total of 9 seasons and a rating of 8.8/10 on IMDb.
So, what makes a TV series a failure or a success? I proclaim it’s the cultural change in comedy. Every country has to adapt to it’s own type of comedy. As the American version of Kath and Kim tried but failed to do, and the American version of The Office succeeded in doing. However it is not only in the cultural translation of television that comedy endures, but in its unique nature as well.
– Turnbull, S (2008) ‘It’s like they threw a panther in the air and caught it in embroidery- Television in Translation’. Metro Magazine: Media and Education Magazine, no. 159, pp. 111-115.IMDb, (2014). [Accessed 9 Sep. 2012].
– Kath & Kim (TV Series 2008– ). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0948539/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2014].
– Robbins, G. (2014). Kath & Kim (TV Series 2002– ). [online] IMDb. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0272397/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2014].