Spaniards don't 'get' Sacha Baron Cohen

MADRID — “Da Ali G Show,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s HBO-broadcast satirical half-hour, has failed to catch fire in Spain, more evidence that the country just doesn’t “get” Baron Cohen’s schtick.

Aired Tuesday nights by Catalan pubcaster TVC on its flagship channel TV3, “Da Ali G Show” took shares of 8.3%, 7.9% and 10.5% over Nov. 14-28, way below TV3′s average channel share of 17.6% for November.

The soft ratings can’t be put down to skedding or channel branding. Catalans go to bed before much of Spain. Show goes out at 11.16 p.m. a good time for auds in Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia to catch a dose of late-night humor before calling it a day.

TV3 broadcasts to sophisticated audiences with a penchant for British humor. TV3 broke in “Blackadder” in Spain many years ago.

One explanation is that Catalonia doesn’t need Sacha Baron Cohen. It already has its own gross-out maestro, Santiago Segura, whose fictional creation, scumbag cop Torrente, seen in the blockbusting “Torrente” movie saga, nails a litany of Spanish prejudices with the same mixture of excruciatingly funny gross out scatology.

“Borat,” the movie, has failed to gain traction in Spain, grossing just Euros 2.1 million ($2.8 million) after 24 days, despite being distribbed by Fox, which has a good B.O. track record in Spain.

Also, unless they’ve spent time in London, Catalans aren’t likely to key in to central running jokes in “Ali G,” such as the titular character, a wannabe gangsta, living with his grandmother in the eminently respectable and boring London suburb of Staines.

Moreover, a lack of sociological complicity is pointed up by the broadcast formula.

“On the one hand we have different cultural backgrounds. In addition, there is the decision to dub with the original voices being audible. The same happened with ‘The Office’ and it’s really annoying. Slang and characteristic idioms are lost,” said TV expert Miqui Otero.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more