Iran rips off Modern Family - minus Cam and Mitchell

Last updated 13:53 03/07/2014
The Age

The beloved US sitcom Modern Family has been copied nearly scene-by-scene by an Iranian television channel, except for gay characters Cam and Mitch who have been replaced with a heterosexual couple.

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Television is a ruthless business: if you can't buy the rights to a show then the business plan generally goes that you simply copy it anyway.

That strategy may have come unstuck for an Iranian TV channel which has knocked off the United States comedy hit Modern Family scene-by-scene and shot-by-shot.

The Iranian comedy series Haft Sang has a familiar premise but it is notably missing one element: gay couple Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker are not in the Iranian version of the comedy.

In their place, and more palatable to audiences in the conservative Islamic republic, a son and daughter-in-law who similarly adopt a baby, introduced to the family in a scene which copies Modern Family's famous Circle of Life moment from the pilot episode.

Clips from Haft Sang have surfaced online as 20th Century Fox struck deals for two official remakes of the show, Chile's Familia Moderna and Greece's Moderna Oikogeneia.

Haft Sang is produced by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which programs eight national television channels in Iran and commissions roughly 5000 hours of television content every year.

With numbers like those, they were bound to run out of original ideas.

Unlike Chile's Familia Moderna and Greece's Moderna Oikogeneia, Haft Sang is not a licensed adaptation of Modern Family.

The show's owner, 20th Century Fox, has been contacted for comment.

Though scripted formats have become a multi-billion dollar business for television studios around the world, unofficial knock-offs are still rife.

The Chinese comedy iPartment, about a group of friends living in neighbouring apartments in Shanghai, is a thinly-veiled knock off of the hit US series Friends.

India's Bollywood industry famously knocked off the Australian miniseries Return to Eden and produced it as a musical film, titled Khoon Bhari Maang.

And the Belarusian comedy The Theorists is a brazen copy of the US comedy The Big Bang Theory.

Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre complained to Warner Bros, the studio which owns the show, and was told by the company's lawyers that it was next to impossible to sue for copyright infringement in Belarus because the TV production company making The Theorists was "owned and operated" by the government.

Lorre instead wrote about the series on one of the vanity cards he places at the end of TV programs he produces, which flash briefly on screen. (They are usually only legible by recording the program and pausing playback.)

"Having no other recourse, I'm hoping that this vanity card will be read by the fine folks making The Theorists, and, wracked with guilt, they break down and send us some felt hats," he wrote. 

"The Kyrgyzstan version of Dharma & Greg already sent me some wallpaper paste."

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- The Age


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