TV

Ten TV Remakes That We’re Missing Out On

Mexico has Gossip Girl, Turkey's got Desperate Housewives, and the Russian Barney Stinson has a mullet!

You’re in a hotel room in a faraway land, and you’re surfing the channels for something to watch. You find an episode of Friends, but it all seems a little off. Chandler and Monica’s apartment looks somewhat shabbier than you remember, and come to think of it, when did they ever wear their hair like that? You realise that you’ve stumbled upon that strangest of things: an overseas remake of one of your favourite shows. For your amusement and edification, Junkee takes a look at ten such TV remakes, some of them sadly misbegotten, some of them actually pretty great, and at least one of them featuring a mullet-sporting Russian Barney Stinson.

Paris Criminal Investigations (France)

You would think that a French remake of Law & Order would class the joint right up. You can practically see the Gallic versions of Briscoe and Curtis sitting at one of those tiny outdoor tables, drinking espresso and discussing existentialism in-between solving murders. As you can see from the opening credits, though, the short-lived Paris Criminal Investigations boldly opted to take things in a slightly less cerebral direction. The subdued theme music that is a staple of the series is replaced by shitty movie trailer techno, riot squads bust in on people, some unlucky guy gets karate kicked in the tits, and Vincent Perez throws some sort of gang sign over a dead body. This version lasted for just one season; hopefully the upcoming Law & Order Cape Town fares a bit better.

Planet Homebuddies (China)

Premiering earlier this year, Planet Homebuddies is a contemporary Chinese take on Friends, telling the story of six young professionals who live together in a Shanghai loft. There’s not a great deal of English-language information about the show, but it seems to reflect the lives of China’s burgeoning middle class; the characters work in areas like IT and advertising, and one of them is even a DJ. Much like Friends itself, the cast features three guys and three girls. Amongst these are Song, a rebellious free-spirit who wears pants instead of skirts and rocks some serious Skrillex hair, and Jerry, a ‘tangled man’ who likes to be in control and is totally the Ross of the bunch. The word ‘homebuddies’ was coined by the show’s producers to describe young people who live and work at home; it may or may not become a thing.

Desperate Women (Turkey)

Desperate Housewives was many things – soap opera, melodrama, mystery – but in many ways, it was a show about aspiration. The suburban ‘moms’ of the show’s title wore glamorous clothes, drove beautiful cars and lived in palatial houses on an idyllic suburban street. The writing consistently displayed a subversive sense of humour and a willingness to skewer the idea of the perfect suburban dream, but at the end of the day, Desperate Housewives was still a highly commercial enterprise. The ‘Promotional Consideration Provided By’ section of the credits was a rolling list of luxury brands, as if Teri Hatcher and friends were determined to put you in a brand new Mercedes Benz today.

The Walt Disney Co. own the worldwide rights to Desperate Housewives, and while the American version hung up its high heels some years ago, its potential as an earner is still vast. The Turkish remake, entitled Desperate Women, trades Wisteria Lane for Gul Street in Istanbul. It premiered last year to great success, and it is presently the eighth-most popular show in the country. The Middle East is a thriving market, and as shows from Turkey are commonly sold across the entire region, locally-produced programs are a promotional goldmine. Why do reruns when you can sell all-new products with a local flavour? A Turkish version of the American hit Private Practice is currently underway.

How I Met Your Mother (Russia)

The long-running How I Met Your Mother is the Internet’s favourite sitcom; seriously, I can’t remember the last time I went an entire day without coming across a Barney Stinson image macro of some kind. Understandably, when news of a Russian remake broke last year, the Internet lost its collective shit. It’s hard to find subtitled clips, so we may never know if Russian Barney is as rampantly misogynistic as his American counterpart, although I’m pretty sure American Barney wouldn’t be seen dead with that business-up-front, party-out-back mullet hairstyle. Umm… In Soviet Russia, mother meets you! There, now that we’ve got that joke out of the way, you can focus on the weirdly shoddy production values of this video and wonder if Russian Ted is as lame as Regular Ted.

Gossip Girl Acapulco (Mexico)

The trailer for Gossip Girl Acapulco may be in Spanish, but it’s still pretty easy to work out who’s who: the tanned one throwing her lustrous blonde hair around is totally Serena van der Woodsen, while the brunette with the ‘80s power earrings is her scheming nemesis, Blair Waldorf. The young man with the patterned shirt and the bad case of smell-the-fart acting is  Chuck Bass, while the guy with the really intense eyebrows is… actually, I have no idea who that’s meant to be, but I’m about to spend some quality time doing Google image searches for Diego Amozurrutia.

The original Gossip Girl offered a wealth of marketing opportunities. Serena and her privileged Upper East Side posse wore outfits that mixed affordable with aspirational; a little Marc Jacobs here, a little H&M there. Companies like Motorola and LG saw the show as the ideal opportunity to get their products into the hands of tech-savvy teens. “We are very excited about working with El Mall and Televisa on the Latin American version of Gossip Girl,” said Time Warner executive, Andrew Zein. “The show has established itself as an icon of aspirational urban lifestyle, setting trends in fashion, music and pop culture, and we think that the success of the show will translate well internationally.” So there you have it.

Stromberg (Germany)

The American version of The Office may be the most high-profile remake, but there are numerous international versions. In Sweden, horrible boss Ove Sundberg torments the workers of Svensk Kontorshygien AB, while in Chile, Manuel Cerda lords it over the Santiago branch of Papeles Lozano. The German version of the show, Stromberg, was unaffiliated with The Office, until the BBC threatened to sue, citing various similarities. The show, about bumbling manager Bernd Stromberg, proved popular enough to run for five seasons; a crowd-funded film version is supposedly in the works for later this year.

La Niñera (Argentina)

It seems The Nanny is tremendously popular in the Spanish-speaking world: there were unique versions of the show produced in Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Argentina. This clip comes from the Argentine version, known as La Niñera, and there’s something quite comforting in the knowledge that hammy child actors, exaggerated comedic pratfalls and ridiculously huge hair transcend the boundaries of language and culture.

Wilfred (USA)

There are certain people who cling to the attitude that American television is innately inferior. You know what I’m talking about; they sniff about how those bloody Yanks ruin everything and dumb culture down with reality TV. They hate the US Office on principle, even though they’ve never seen a single episode of the US Office. For people like this, a show like Wilfred is an affront – a US remake of a locally-produced hit. You know what, though? Those people can all get stuffed, as the US Wilfred is really excellent.

For one, Wilfred is on the always-reliable FX network, which counts Archer and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia among its comedy hits. For another, it features Jason Gann reprising the role of the talking dog. Dropping this broad, crass Australian into the genteel, manicured suburbs of Los Angeles was an inspired move. Elijah Wood stars as Wilfred’s timid and perpetually anxious foil, Ryan, and the two make for a hell of a comic pair.

Gold Girls (Greece)

The Golden Girls hardly needs a remake, as its four basic character types seem to turn in up every other comedy. You can trace the show’s influence from Sex & The City and Desperate Housewives all the way through to New Girl (Schmidt is totally the Blanche of that group). Nonetheless, there have been numerous international versions of The Golden Girls over the years. The Greek one debuted in 2008, and follows the adventures of feisty retirees Bela, Dora, Fifi and Sofia. Aside from seeing different people fill these familiar roles, the most disorienting thing about this clip is the lack of a laugh track. How the hell are you meant to know which wisecracks are funny?

Everybody Loves Roman (Poland)

On the face of it, this Polish remake of Everybody Loves Raymond seemed like a slam dunk: take a schlubby family man, give him a mean wife and some terrible in-laws, surround him with lots of nubile young breasts, and you have a hit, right? It seems the Polish public just weren’t ready for Everybody Loves Roman – the show debuted to poor ratings back in 2011, and was pulled after just four episodes. The show’s rather forlorn Wikipedia entry includes a statement from TVN PR chief Joanna Górska, who assured fans, “We looking new timeslot for the series.” Poor Roman.