How American series are remade for Turkish TV

How American series are remade for Turkish TV

Emrah Güler
How American series are remade for Turkish TV

The unapologetic, weekly adventures of the Gallaghers in ‘Shameless’ with alcohol, drugs, sex and swearing have been missing its many racy scenes on Turkish TV, with subtitles altered at times.

Those who are watching the below-the-belt shenanigans of the Gallagher family in the American series “Shameless” on Turkish TV channel CNBC-E have been missing out the actual below-the-belt shenanigans. The Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) have been making sure with its strict regulations and high penalties that self-censorship is intact on Turkish television.

The unapologetic, weekly adventures of the Gallaghers with alcohol, drugs, sex and swearing have been missing its many racy scenes on Turkish TV, with subtitles altered at times to the point of making viewers miss crucial parts of the story. Not to mention the scenes of smoking digitally altered, which is almost every scene.

So when the news of a Turkish remake of “Shameless” going into production came, devoted viewers were skeptical at best. A user on the Turkish social media site Ekşi Sözlük (Sour Dictionary) named Ozmania posted: “The adaptation will be true to the original except for sexuality, homosexuality, alcohol, drugs, smoking and swearing. Hence, each episode will run about one minute.”

It might sound a bit exaggerated, but in truth, not really. The American series is a remake of the original British series. Both feature dysfunctional families, with the mother missing and the father a drunk, and in both the children try to take care of themselves. As one of the creators, Paul Abbott, has put it, “It’s ‘My Name Is Earl’ or ‘Roseanne.’ It’s got a much graver level of poverty attached to it. It’s not blue collar; it’s no collar.”

Manhattan’s elite vs. Istanbul’s nouveau riche

Here is an overview of some of the story lines in “Shameless.” The oldest sibling Fiona does cocaine at the house and allows her two-year-old brother to overdose accidentally, leading to her arrest. The gay teen Ian is having an affair with the married owner of the grocery store he is working in. The next-door neighbors Kev and Vee are trying to have children and, with Vee unable to conceive, Kevin impregnates his mother-in-law. And then there is the father, Frank, having sex with his son’s girlfriend while in a drunken stupor. How might these be appropriated to Turkish characters?

The Turkish remake of “Shameless” will hit screens in February and will undoubtedly be a totally different series, as was the case with the remakes of other American series in the past, like “Gossip Girl” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Here is a look at how the two popular series were adapted to the taste of Turkish viewers

The morally bankrupt, manipulative teens of the American series “Gossip Girl” might have been obscenely rich, but they were coming, as a rule of thumb, from “Manhattan’s elite.” The defining characteristic of that elite sector of society is generations of money, as well as generations of culture. Take Blair Waldorf, the snob queen bee of Manhattan’s social scene. She could recite any scene from any Audrey Hepburn movie, and compare Edith Wharton’s New York to today’s Manhattan in the blink of an eye.

In “Küçük Sırlar” (Little Secrets), the Turkish version of “Gossip Girl” that ran from 2010-2011, Manhattan became Istanbul and “Manhattan’s elite” became “Istanbul’s nouveau riche.” Each character in the original version found their equivalent, albeit cardboard and exaggerated, version. With no background to the characters and their families, the only thing we came to learn about them was that they worshipped money unconditionally.

Sexual antics become marital conquests

While scenes of New York were integral in setting up the atmosphere and the spirit of “Gossip Girl,” playing out like a travelogue at times, “Küçük Sırlar” could have taken place in any city, save from the occasional shots of Istanbul squeezed in haphazardly here and there. Sparing one or two generously, characters were outdated clichés with no voice of their own, blurting sentences like: “Style can only be bought with money,” or “If you are going to hell, let the Devil be your guide.”

Another remake that, on and off, stayed on Turkish TV channels between 2006 and 2011 and ran around 100 episodes was “Doktorlar” (Doctors). The medical drama, especially in its first episodes, was a word-for-word remake of “Grey’s Anatomy,” the American drama that is now in its 11th season. The in-hospital drama and weekly cases that ensued were changed were made to fit with Turkish culture.

Dr. Bailey in the original series was nicknamed “the Nazi” by the interns for her harsh attitude, acid tongue and strict rules. In the Turkish version, she became the “Gestapo.” Dr. Shepherd’s residence in a caravan was part of his charm in the first couple of seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.” In “Doktorlar,” the caravan was probably deemed inappropriate for a neurosurgeon, and instead, was replaced by a yacht.

The biggest change came as a blow to the spirit of the original series, with the never-ending sexual antics of the attending doctors, residents and interns transformed into mostly conservative games for marital conquests, as marriage (and divorce) became the central motifs of the remake. The series ended with the two central characters (the alternate versions of Derek and Meredith) marrying with the promise of happily ever after.