By the Script

BBC Studios recently announced yet another version of its venerable comedy The Office, with an Australian adaptation featuring the format’s first female lead. The universal appeal of relatable workplace dilemmas has seen the BAFTA- and Golden Globe-winning cult comedy remade for audiences around the world, including France, Canada, Chile, Israel, India, the Middle East and Poland. The Australian version marks its 13th adaptation.

Indeed, broadcasters clamoring for a bit of certainty these days bodes well for scripted formats. This is especially true for high-end dramas, according to Nadav Palti, CEO of Dori Media, which is producing in Israel (in Hebrew) and in LatAm (in Spanish). “In the past, it was hard to sell Hebrew-language content, but in the last few years, this has changed dramatically because of the streamers,” he says. “Therefore, we first sell the original and follow with the remake.”

The stories that travel best vary, Palti adds, highlighting the success of crime dramas, political dramas and dramedies. “Comedies are harder to adapt but I’m happy to say that we also have success in this genre—Little Mom has been remade in the U.K. as Hullraisers. If the story is good, and the production quality is high, clients will be interested.”

All3Media International’s Sabrina Duguet, executive VP for the Asia Pacific, reports “fantastic business” for scripted formats in the region. “The opportunities are growing in terms of territories, and more territories have opened up. We have had over 12 scripted formats licensed in the region, including our first scripted format adaptation of Liar in Malaysia. The opportunities now also include more diverse scripted format genres. We are now in discussion for crime series but also family drama, YA and comedy series.”

Duguet emphasizes that the stories of interest for remakes are as diverse as the region itself. “The key crime series are still in high demand, but the genres requested are now quite varied, and any good scripted series, with a strong script and good track record (for the writers, the finished tape sales, etc.), can be a successful scripted format adaptation.”

India has been a particularly successful territory for All3Media International’s scripted formats. Masoom, the Indian adaptation of the Irish drama Blood on Disney+ Hotstar, ranked as the platform’s number one Hindi series, and an award-winning Indian version of Two Brothers Pictures’ Cheat launched as Mithya on ZEE5, winning a Talentrack award for best actress.

Another of Two Brothers Pictures’ hit scripted formats, Liar, continues to go from strength to strength. There’s a Malaysian version on Astro, in addition to adaptations that have aired in India, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Greece and Turkey.

China is another territory where All3Media International has had success with its scripted formats, including with a Chinese adaptation of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries produced for Tencent and co-commissioned by HBO Asia.

BBC Studios Los Angeles Productions has brought to the U.S. the comedies Call Me Kat (based on the British hit Miranda), Welcome to Flatch (based on the BAFTA-winning BBC series This Country) and Ghosts (based on the British sitcom).

“Our approach is quite similar to the process of adapting a novel for the screen,” says Valerie Bruce, general manager of BBC Studios Los Angeles Productions. “We consider the format as our inspiration. Then we assemble a team of brilliant creatives who honor the original, and we give them the freedom to make it their own. That way, they can impart their own authentic voice and vision, grounded in the American cultural experience.”

On Ghosts, U.S. showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman worked with the team of British creators to retain the DNA of the central concept behind the original and “imbued it with an American perspective, tone and tenor,” Bruce says.

“Starting from the premise of the original, a whole array of new storylines were written based on American history and the U.S. cultural experience. Entirely new characters were developed based on time periods in U.S. history, including the flapper diva Alberta, the hippie Flower and the witty and sarcastic Native Sasappis, who ‘live’ with ghosts directly inspired by the original series, updated with distinctly American spins, including Boy Scout troop leader Pete, Wall Street trader Trevor and Revolutionary War captain Isaac.”

All3Media International’s Duguet says the process for localization across AsiaPac varies. “We do believe it is important to give the local producers and broadcasters the freedom to localize the formats to suit the local culture sensibilities when required for the success of the series. Liar, for example, did need some adjustment in Malaysia to resonate better with the population. You can have a very strong format, scripted or non-scripted, where you keep the core of the story, the structure that brings the beats and the rhythm, but by changing very small aspects the story can also feel fully local. For a scripted format to be a success, in my opinion, you shouldn’t notice it is an adaptation; it should stand by itself simply as a very strong local series. In the case of Liar in Malaysia, we were so impressed by the strength of Double Vision’s adaptation that we also acquired the rights to the finished Malaysian series.”

Dori Media’s Palti is of a similar sentiment. The main story and idea remain the same, he says, but the changes can be in the number and length of episodes. “We work very tightly with our clients and consult on the best way to adapt the title in the specific territory,” he says.