- Beauty & Style
- Contact Us
Like Us, Follow Us
Your lifestyle, your quirk
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the entertainment industry, it’s also called theft. It’s one thing to reuse a common comedic stereotype, but it’s quite another to steal an entire premise for a television. How about copying entire scenes from other sitcoms? Mooching jokes posted online by a writer without permission? What about basing characters, sets, and tropes on famous syndicated television shows?
That’s exactly what’s happening with iPartment, a sitcom in China is being charged with ripping off American comedies. The makers of iPartment weren’t exactly sneaky about it, since viewers have taken to micro-blogs to point out the blatant intellectual theft.
Viewers of iPartment have noticed that the show is pretty familiar – because it’s been stealing jokes from other sitcoms. Fans have taken to blogs to complain about the show because it bears many similarities to Friends. The show follows a group of 20-somethings who live in two neighboring apartments, just like Chandler and Joey lived across the hall from Monica and Rachel. The Daily Mail reports that one of the characters is a university lecturer, much like Ross. They also compare the Chinese show’s radio announcer character to Joey, who tried to make a living as an actor. I’ll let iPartment slide on this one unless the character is also a struggling, often unemployed disc jockey; that would be too close to Joey Tribiani’s employment situation. There is even an image circulating online of the characters sitting on a couch and chair in a coffee shop, exactly like the Friends cast did in Central Perk. The main difference in the two sitcoms seems to be that Friends was set in New York City and followed six pals, while iPartment is in Shanghai and has seven chums.
One micro-blogger wondered if the show was aimed at people born after 1990, because they may not remember Friends and may not recognize the similarities. Videogum points out that with a title like iPartment, it’s definitely being marketed to a young generation (all I can think of is iCarly). Friends is so syndicated that I am surprised that anyone wouldn’t recognize that coffee shop set-up and the group of friends idea.
iPartment borrowed more than settings and basic character stereotypes; it also took jokes from sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. It even stole entire scenes from these shows! The producers of iPartment have admitted to using jokes from “various sources” and have apologized and offered compensation to one joke writer for using his jokes. The writer posted the jokes online; the iPartment producers then used them in their show without his permission.
The program debuted at the Shanghai Film Festival in 2009, but it wasn’t until recently that plagiarism concerns arose. Though the show is in its third season, people are just starting to take notice because it was recently picked up by major cable networks.
This controversy may not be a bad thing for the show. It will likely force the writers to come up with fresh material, plus the program is getting plenty of international publicity over this story. I don’t know about everyone else, but I would love to watch a subtitled version to see if I can spot the stolen material. Of course, if the theft is as blatant as media outlets suggest, maybe I can pick up on it even while watching YouTube clips in Mandarin.