Television series can become very contextualised in its local community’s easily, and it makes it harder for a global community to relate to the series as well as locals do. This is because of small cultural differences, in almost everything. The best examples to examine these differences are comedies. Every nation and its unique culture have very slight differences in comedic preferences, so when a show is ‘Americanised’, it loses it’s comedic value with other countries, because they may not be able to relate to the comedy as well. Comedy doesn’t always translate well between cultures; a recent example of this would be Jonah from Tonga. Australian humour doesn’t always translate well overseas, because there’s too much historical context that other countries would have to understand, and this is why Chris Lilley is so good at making comedies. American’s reacted badly to this television series, because they don’t understand what’s happening the same way we do.
“You Just Don’t Get It”
Sometimes however comedy can translate well, and the perfect example of that would be The Office. It started out as a UK series, before producers in the US quickly saw it’s potential and ported it over to the US, re-casting for their own series. The series wasn’t an instant success in the US, because they had to allow the comedy to develop and grow into what it was. One of the reasons The Office managed to translate the comedy so well to American audiences, is their characters and actors. They chose culturally specific characters that would extend their audience, and they cast actors to perfection to fit these roles. That’s why I love The Office personally, because the actors are believable for the roles they play. It makes the contexts of all their jokes seem so much more real and believable, and context is everything in comedy. Here’s a video with Stephen Fry talking about the comedy differences between the British and Americans.
But what about how people show Australia in television? Stereotypes are used frequently in the media industry to quickly label and identify a specific culture to extend it’s audience. They’re instantly recognisable, and sometimes hated by their ‘own culture’ for being too forced. For example, plenty of people hate the Australian stereotypes because the accent is too forced and not natural. So television series act on two levels, locally, and globally. Both are just as important as the other, because they both extend the reach of their audience, and allows the show to be more diverse. A global television series has to be able to translate jokes well across cultures and borders, otherwise it will fall and crumble into the pit where many shows have fallen.