BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s TV broadcasters had to slash programming imports after the 2001-02 ad slump and currency devaluation drained acquisition budgets. Yet over the past two years adaptations of U.S. sitcoms have gained a following, paving the way for steady imports.
The trend started in 2004 with “The Nanny” on Telefonica’s Telefe, the first network in Latin America to adapt a Sony Pictures Intl. TV sitcom for primetime.
It aired the retread weeknights, catering to a custom of daily telenovelas, and cast popular thesps such as Florencia Pena and Boy Olmi. It was the third-best-performing fiction program of 2004. And it came at a lower price than miniseries and novelas, which have larger casts and outdoor scenes.
Telefe continued this year with “Who’s the Boss?” and “Married … With Children,” casting names like Guillermo Francella, star of the domestic blockbuster of the year “Papa se volvio loco” (Dad’s Come Back Crazy).
The sitcoms are drawing viewers weary of the drawn-out, multilayered love stories of telenovelas and series that have long dominated primetime, says Marcelo Fedele, marketing manager at media buying firm EPM.
Sitcoms are fresh, humorous and easily followed, Fedele says, and are gaining an edge against entertainment programs like Canal 9’s “ShowMatch.”
Such has been the success that local independent production companies Cris Morena Group and RGB Entertainment this year created the first domestic one, “Amor mio” (My Love), airing 8:30-9:30 Monday to Thursday on Telefe. It is one of the hottest fiction programs of the year.
Other producers have redone the acting, scripts and tempos of primetime series and telenovelas with a more sitcom style to maintain ratings, including “Beverly Hillbillies”-like “Los Roldan” (The Roldans) on Daniel Hadad’s Canal 9 and police comedy “Sin codigo” (No Code) on Grupo Clarin’s Artear-Canal 13.
“Sitcoms don’t enslave viewers. You can watch one day and not the next, unlike with telenovelas,” says Pablo Sirven, a media expert. “People this year are looking for fiction that is lighter and more accessible.”
Indeed, Telefe is considering “Bewitched” for next year, while Artear is said to be lining up “Desperate Housewives” for adaptation.