Television across the globe. What is it that is lost in translation?

When a television programme proves popular often other countries will tale the original content and  remake it to better suit their audiences. Although it has been successful on occasion, oftentimes shows which are translated lose a lot of the original humour and are cancelled due to there not being enough ratings.

An example which Sue Turnbull (2008) focuses on when looking at television in translation is the differences between the Australian and American Kath & Kim. When adapting the show in America NBC and Reveille Productions had high hopes for its success as it was being adapted by Greg Daniels, who also produced the highly celebrated remake of the US Office. However, when Kath & Kim aired in the US it was shunned by Australia audiences as despite the fact that both versions had many parallels something became lost in translation. Members of the Australian media criticised the American Kath & Kim as soon as it aired. Karen Brooks wrote in the Courier Mail that “Their Kath Day and her daughter Kim are not monstrous enough to be cliches, stereotypes, parodies or even brave enough to be abhorrent or funny.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 10.27.10 pm Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 10.29.11 pm

Furthermore, it becomes apparent that when observing both casts (pictured above) the American show has been glamourised taking away from the original humour of the show. Turnbull criticises the characterisation of the American Kim stating that “successful comedy depends not only on the performance, but also the body of the performer.” (Turnbull, 2008) The U.S version lasted only 17 episodes as it was “failing to capture the slightly offbeat suburban spirit which made the original series one of the most resonant Australian comedies of all time.

What is it that becomes lost in translation? Andy Medhurst poses the idea that ”comedy plays an absolutely pivotal role in the construction of national identity… it is a prime testing ground for ideas about belonging and exclusion.” Different cultures and countries interpret things in different ways and often barriers include language, culture and other geographical differences. This is definitely the case with Kath & Kim as it embodies aspects of Australia identity, particularly the stereotype of a ‘bogan’, a term Americans are not familiar with. As such the Australian Kath & Kim has proven to be a program solely relevant to Australia. Although the American version was unsuccessful they have since decided to debut the original Kath & Kim to American audiences. (Idato, 2014) Many people are sceptical as to whether Americans will understand the timeless humour of Kath & Kim.


Turnbull, S. (2008). ‘It’s Like They Threw a Panther in the Air and Caught It in Embroidery’: Television Comedy in Translation. Metro Magazine: Media \& Education Magazine, (159), p.110.

Medhurst, A. (2007). A National Joke. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Idato, M. (2014). Kath & Kim on Hulu in the US after remake failed. Sydney Morning Herald. [online] Available at:–kim-on-hulu-in-the-us-after-remake-failed-20140912-10fuhm.html [Accessed 13 Oct. 2014].

Brooks, K. (2014). US Kath & Kim is more moron than foxy. [online] Courier Mail. Available at: [Accessed 13 Oct. 2014].


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