Down Under and dirty

Comedy duo set for Trio

SYDNEY — A sitcom about a dysfunctional mother and daughter who mangle the language with phrases like “I’m gropable” and “Look at moiye” (me) has become a cultural phenomenon Down Under and is set to hit U.S. screens.

The first series of “Kath & Kim” aired earlier this year in the U.K. on Flextech’s digital channel FTN; the broadcaster snapped up the second skein and licensed both for its Living TV channel, for an 8.30 p.m. slot.

But the biggest challenge for the characters’ creators and exec producers Jane Turner and Gina Riley looms next year when the show preems Stateside on cabler Trio.

In Oz, the second series, which ended Nov. 6, drew an average audience of 1.63 million viewers on pubcaster ABC — 30% more than the first.

More than 125,000 “Kath & Kim” DVDs and videos have sold in Oz, and the ABC is flogging branded products including cosmetic kits, aprons, clothing, calendars and oven mitts.

“It’s really caught the imagination of people, many of whom (Jane and Gina) are lampooning,” says James Cuming, general manager of ABC content sales.

Turner and Riley created the characters in 1994 in the Seven Network comedy series “Big Girls’ Blouse,” so it was a long gestation before they got their own show last year.

Its international appeal surprised Cuming, who acknowledges, “When we took the program to the MIP market last year, we were not sure if we’d get any traction at all because we felt it was so local.

“But buyers laughed at the jokes and they saw it as different and interesting. It’s been a really good product for us.

“I think its appeal lies in the universality of the situations. There is a bit of Kath and Kim in almost every family.”

Cuming said it struck a chord with U.K. viewers because they watch Aussie soaps “Home and Away” and “Neighbors,” which the sitcom parodies.

As well as the U.S. and U.K. deals, the ABC sold the show to Alliance Atlantis’ Diva channel in Canada, South Africa, Singapore and New Zealand.

Rick McKenna, who is married to Turner and is the duo’s manager and co-exec producer, hints there’ll be a third series if the financially strapped ABC can afford it. Meanwhile, Riley and Turner are weighing offers to use their talents in a different vehicle.

Cuming was reluctant to discuss the U.S. pact but says the series will air in a slot that’s “designed for things that are a bit different.”

And no, it won’t be subtitled for Yank viewers.

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