Chinese viewers get ‘Prison Break’

Localized version shares Fox hit's name

When is “Prison Break” not “Prison Break”? When it’s made in China.

A Chinese version of the show will start shooting in September, according to Chinese production company Zonbo Media. But Zonba’s Lin Yi denies that it’s a localized version of the Fox show.

“The new series has no connection with the Fox show, except for sharing the same name,” Lin told the Yangtse Evening News.

Perhaps, but it’s no coincidence that Zonbo Media would be interested in making a show called “Prison Break.” According to insiders at 20th Century Fox TV— which produces the U.S. show — “Prison Break” is among the most pirated U.S. TV shows in China. Episodes of the skein pop up on the Internet within hours of its U.S. broadcast — complete with Chinese subtitles.

There had been reports that 20th and Zonbo had made a rights deal for the show but they proved to be untrue. Indeed, it would be tough for 20th to make such a pact, since current WGA agreements don’t allow the studio to license formats or scripts to the Chinese for the purpose of a remake.

Lin told the Evening News that Zonbo contacted both the U.S. headquarters and the Chinese branch of Fox for possible cooperation, but didn’t reach an agreement and that the price demanded was too high. However, the company will apply to register the name in China.

If the Chinese “Prison Break” ends up looking like the U.S. version, it would be a bit of karmic justice. After all, 20th’s sister network, Fox Broadcasting, is known for its own “remakes” of other networks’ reality shows.

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