“Look at moi, ploise”

Kath and Kim showcases life as your typical ‘Aussie bogan’ and the way that we all live. To the large majority of viewers, we can all relate in some way to the lives of these two women. Right? The characterisation of Kath and Kim, with their laid back attitudes and ‘punny’ speech, attracts viewers, even to this day. The show, first released in 2002, remains to be one of the most iconic situation comedies in Australia. For a country whose films are highly influenced by the American culture, the writers of this show took a risk with writing a comedy that directly targets the audiences about issues they would understand.

Cast of Kath and Kim
Cast of Kath and Kim

Was the irony and comedic value of Kath and Kim lost when Greg Daniels decided to create an American adaptation? Most Australians believed so. After only seventeen episodes, the US version of the show was cancelled after audiences decided it just wasn’t the same. The classic Australian humour was very hard to translate to an entirely new and somewhat foreign audience. Some of the one-liners that us Australians would find hilarious blew straight over most American’s heads. It just wasn’t working. Not only did the storyline fail in working, the character execution was lost in translation. The ironic component of the show was no longer there. Size-sixteen Gina Riley would purposefully buy clothes several sizes smaller to display herself as a self imagined size-ten ‘horn-bag’. This characterisation is entirely different to the US version where the size-eight Selma Blair “juts out her tiny belly and plays at being a fat person” (Marieke Hardy). Kim was no longer apart of the funny suburban family, but living the part of a tabloid queen influencee.

The Australian Kath & Kim (left) and the American version of Kath & Kim (right)
The Australian Kath & Kim (left) and the American version of Kath & Kim (right)

“The successful translation of a comedy depends not only on the translation of the cultural context from one locale to another, but also on the kinds of production deals which are made and the expectations about audiences which are then inferred. Even more significant may be the choices that are made about casting and the character of the ensuing embodied performance” – Sue Turnbull (2008, pp. 174)

With all of that being said, not all remakes fail. Ugly Betty and The Office US, also created by Creg Daniels, have proved to be very successful all around the world. These shows typically have a universal theme that everybody can relate to. Kath and Kim just proves that only certain shows can relate to particular cultures and that it is quite difficult to be accepted by other cultures.

  • Turnbull, S. 2008. ‘It’s Like They Threw a Panther in the Air and Caught It in Embroidery’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 159, vol. 1, pp. 110-15.

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