Monday, September 10, 2007

Make 'em Laugh

Now that they're free to do so:

Turn on the sitcom that is the hottest television show in Russia, and it all seems so familiar. Moored to his living room couch is a shoe salesman who is more interested in watching sports than conjugal relations. His wife has shocking hair and an even more shocking mouth. A couple of ne'er-do-well teenagers round out this bawdy, bickering bunch.

In fact, the show is an authorized copy of the U.S. sitcom "Married . . . With Children," with a Russian cast and dialogue but scripts that hew closely to those of the original. This knockoff is such a sensation, especially among the young viewers coveted by advertisers, that its actors have become household names, and billboards are plastered around Moscow.

....The show's success says something not only about changing tastes here but also about Russia's improved standing as a whole. Sitcoms are typically grounded in middle-class life and poke fun at it. The popularity of the Russian version of "Married . . . With Children," and other adaptations of American sitcoms suggests that Russia has attained enough stability and wealth in recent years that these kinds of jokes resonate.

" 'Married . . . With Children,' with its satire on the American middle class, fits the style of our channel well," said Dmitri Troitsky, a senior executive at the Russian channel TNT, a Gazprom-owned network whose programming bent is roughly similar to that of the Fox network in the United States. "It seemed interesting and topical for us to do a parody on the Russian middle class."

These days, U.S. visitors in Russia could be forgiven for thinking that they had stumbled upon some bizarre realm of sitcom reruns. In addition to "Married . . . With Children," adaptations of two other shows, "Who's the Boss?" and "The Nanny," are hugely popular here.

...."The Nanny," which was first broadcast in Russia in 2004, was such a hit that after running out of episodes to copy, Sony commissioned some of the show's original American writers to come up with 25 more episodes just for Russia, said Ron Sato, a Sony spokesman.

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