‘Kath’ counters Aussie blog backlash

Fans afraid remake will ruin popular comedy

SYDNEY — The knives have been out for NBC’s “Kath and Kim” remake from Aussie fans and bloggers ever since the Peacock announced its plans.

With its huge following Down Under and catchphrases such as “look at moi” that have entered the lexicon, fans are afraid the remake will ruin the comedy, about an empty nester who suddenly has to deal with the return of her adult daughter in the midst of a marital split.

But the Peacock’s Ben Silverman points out that the laffer, starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, won’t be his first international adaptation.

“They are part of my own personal trilogy; ‘The Office’ was the best comedy in the U.K., ‘Ugly Betty’ was the best comedy in South America and ‘Kath & Kim’ is the best comedy in Australia,” he says.

Bowing in 2002 on Aussie pubcaster the ABC, “Kath & Kim” (it has an ampersand in the Oz version) got off to a slow start, but the telepic “Da Kath & Kim Code” got 2 million viewers. Drama moved to the Seven Network where it continued to perform solidly.

“Kath & Kim’s” Aussie producer Rick McKenna, who along with creators Gina Riley and Jane Turner worked closely on the adaptation, says he understands the blogger backlash.

“The fact that the show has such a large following in Australia and worldwide means people always have an attachment whether it is ‘Kath & Kim’ or ‘Seinfeld,’ any show with a large following will have fans that feel ownership of the characters.”

McKenna spent three years trying to find the right partner to remake the laffer and says he turned down a number of offers before inking with NBC.

“Key to our deal with Reveille and NBC is that we are not Endemol or Granada with 400 different formats,” McKenna says. “Gina and Jane and I regard this as our family business and we are very protective of that.”

He adds that the Aussie version of the show always keeps to short runs, giving bloggers plenty of time to ruminate on the new U.S. version.

Silverman has heavily backed the skein, forgoing a pilot and going straight to series and giving it a primo spot on NBC’s Thursday line-up this fall.

Having publicly forsworn programs that are “too coastal” or too inside Hollywood, Silverman believes that “Kath and Kim” will tap into a mainstream aud.

“Kath and Kim’s relationship is accessible,” Silverman says. “In America, just like in Australia, more adult-age children are living with their parents, it’s a phenomenon.”

The NBC honcho says the laffer, which faces tough competish on Thursday including “Survivor” and “Ugly Betty,” doesn’t have to hit it big out of the box. “We are big believers that comedy takes time to develop,” he says. “We would love it hit out of the park but we know these things take time.”

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