Chinese TV drama says it's no ripoff of Friends

Updated: 2013-03-04 11:13

By Yang Yang (China Daily)

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A new sitcom aired in China in early February features three men and three women in their late 20s and early 30s, hanging out at a Shanghai apartment.

Each 25-minute episode begins with the music by Danny Wilde in the American group The Rembrandts' who wrote the songs for Friends, and pokes fun at love, friendship and family.

Sound familiar?

Although entertainment reporters in the US and late night US TV show host Jimmy Kimmel have alleged that the Chinese television show Homebuddies is a ripoff of the enormously popular American sitcom Friends, which aired in the US from 1994-2004, the production company Mei Tian Mei Yu insists they're not the same.

"Planet Homebuddies and Friends are completely different in terms of stories, roles and production," said Jean Zhang, president of Mei Tian Mei Yu. "If there is anything similar, I can only say the numbers of leading roles are both six."

She cited other Chinese TV series, such as Love Apartment and The Legend of Martial Arts, which also feature six main actors.

Homebuddies focuses on a very Chinese phenomenon, the stay-at-home life many young people in the country have nowadays, Zhang said.

"We noticed that working around the clock on weekdays and hanging out with friends on weekends is how most of today's youth in China live their lives, with more and more adopting a 'homebody' lifestyle. Our new series will serve as the voice of today's 20-year-old to 30-year-old set in China and examine this emerging trend," she said.

She explained that "in Chinese, this kind of lifestyle is called "zhai".

People used to have a bad impression of what "zhai" means because it indicates an unhealthy lifestyle without much social contact and exercise, but now it has become a trendy lifestyle among young people," she said.

Larry Namer, president and CEO of Metan Development Group, the strategic consultant to the project, says "the series represents the current young generation who not only pursue white collar jobs, but also choose to live life on their own terms, be their own boss, and explore a new kind of human dynamic and interaction".

Founded in 2008, Metan is a China-centric media company that produces and distributes branded entertainment across television, online and mobile platforms.

In showing Homebuddies on leading Chinese Internet portals such as Youku, iQiyi and Tudou, Mei Tian Mei Yu is being innovative in its marketing and distribution, he said.

"The Internet audience in China is used to longer-form programming than what we see from Western audiences," he said. "Couple that with the sheer size of the potential audience and it provides an ideal testing ground for TV piloting."

By Feb 23, total viewings of the six episodes exceeded 2.3 million, according to statistics from the online portals. Mei Tian Mei Yu is negotiating with television stations to broadcast the sitcom on TV during the summer.

Mei Tian Mei Yu is also creating a Chinese version of the popular American TV series Gossip Girl, called Chinese Girl, starring the popular Chinese actress Mini Yang.