Live! From Beijing! It's Saturday Night?

By Amy He in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-04-27 11:18

Alibaba's Youku streaming platform will produce a Chinese version of the iconic American sketch show Saturday Night Live, though it remains to be seen how the local version will adapt the show - known for political satire and parodies - for Chinese tastes.

NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC where Saturday Night Live is broadcast, and Youku, part of Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group, said in an announcement Wednesday that the local version of SNL will be a flagship part of Youku's 2017 fall/winter schedule, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"We're excited to partner with Youku in China, where we are confident SNL will be a big hit with audiences," said Michael Edelstein, president of NBCUniversal International Studios.

The two companies said that the local remake will "showcase the best of Chinese culture and comedy," The Hollywood Reporter said.

There are no details yet on the format of the version to air in China, which will become the 10th country to have its own version of the American live sketch show. Other countries include Germany, Spain, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Finland and France.

SNL, broadcast live on Saturdays at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, is now in its 43rd season, having launched the careers of comedy icons like Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Tina Fey.

The sketch comedy format "could be appealing in China since it already exists in Chinese comedy, although often it is a two-person sketch - or xiangsheng dialogue - in Beijing and in the north," said Stan Rosen, politics professor at the University of Southern California.

"I think the appetite for comedy in China is very strong. You can see that in all the spoofing that takes place on the internet, although the scathing satire there will of course not be allowed," he said, adding that he sees good prospects for a local remake, but that there is also plenty of speculation about topics that the program would need to avoid.

Wendy Su, a media professor at the University of California Riverside, said that SNL gained tremendous popularity in the last year because of its satirizing of the US presidential campaign, particularly with Alec Baldwin's impressions of US President Donald Trump.

But because China has a different system, she is "not quite sure if the transplant of an American model into the Chinese soil will be successful", though Youku and NBCUniversal's announcement that the local version will include Chinese culture and comedy signifies that SNL China may end up being more of a conventional television program with celebrities.

"Whether SNL China can create something unique in the China context remains to be seen," she said.


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