Local Television In Global Context

Following on from Sue Turnbull’s “Local Television in Global Context” lecture in week seven, I found it to be an interesting analysis of environmental influence on television production. The lecture focused around the cultural, social and racial implications within television today, from inclusion of races or stereotypes, through to remakes of shows from culture by another.

For this post, I shall focus on two cross cultural examples of television- Mother and Son and The Office. To begin with, the Australian show Mother and Son (1984-1994) focused around a comedy-based storyline of a son living at home “with a conniving mother” (Turnbull 2014). The themes of the show- family struggles of everyday life and and the mix of comedy and reality helped the show be received strongly by the audience. However, it wasn’t just in Australia, with over a 19 year period between 1990-2009, 75 deals were made around the world for licensing, production and airtime rights. These included localised versions such as Keeping Mum (UK) or Gloem inte Mamma (Sweden), as well as ones in South America and the Middle East. It is remarkable as to how such an odd, by that I mean non-mainstream, style concept for a television show has been so warmly received by the audience. Especially if one examines the different cultural and societal conditions of these nations, such as Australia to Turkey and Australia to Chile.

Now this is where the debate over “good television” fires up. The Office UK or The Office US? Both have very similar plots, story lines and characters, so the only major differences between the two is culture and society. Ricky Gervais plays the UKs leading man David Brent, whereas Steve Carrel plays the US version of Mike Scott, and major characters share strong similarities between each version. However, the US version grew in immense popularity the further it nurtured its own image, while still retaining the basics brought in from the British version.

So why do we need to translate comedies? Well, as seen in the above examples, societies and cultures vary, yet all could be interested in the basic themes of a show, such as Mother and Son. However, the show is then tweeted to suit the cultural references and customs of the intended audience, along with the societal/political and cultural dos and don’ts of that nation. Therefore, for the show to be successful in its regional version, it must be able to reflect and suit that region. That is essential the reason for versions of one show being produced in other areas, which help it succeed and ultimately help establish it within its target market.


Turnbull, S 2014 “Local Television in Global Context”, University of Wollongong Lecture, accessed UOW Moodle 14th October 2014

Turnbull, S (2010) ‘The long tail of mother and son: the transnational career of an Australian situation comedy’. Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 134, pp. 96.


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