Intrigue in the Big League

A uni student's intrigue in marketing and media

Translating TV Comedy Internationally

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Ricky Gervais as David Brent (Left) and Steve Carell as Michael Scott (Right) from “The Office”

When it comes to translating comedy TV internationally, something is often lost in translation. This is because different cultures have different symbols, ideas and concepts related to comedy. For example, the UK might have a different idea of what is “funny” compared to the US.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry have a similar view on the differences between UK and US comedy. The both believe that Americans generally have a positive outlook on life, whereas Brits generally have a negative outlook on life and always root for the underdog. What this shows is that although the UK and the US can be considered similar in many ways, there are still differences in culture and these differences are reflected through comedy.  Sue Turnbull supports the ideas of Gervais and Fry with her reflection of the the TV series “The Office”. She states that the main character in the original UK version is portrayed as completely incompetent, whereas in the US remake the main character is portrayed as a “talented salesman”. This shows how the American version has been adapted culturally to be a successful comedy series.

One extremely successful UK series that was not successfully remade by the US was “The Inbetweeners“. The remake suffered low ratings and a mixed critical response, which resulted in the axing of the program after only 12 episodes. The reason for this can be most easily explained in the following clip.

The clip shows that the American remake is a complete copy of the UK original.  The characters names are the same, the content is the same, and the humour is the same. This means that the series was not adapted to American culture, and therefore the comedy was not properly translated for the American audience.

This shows that for comedy to be translated through TV series’, culture needs to be taken into account and adapted to.

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