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French Sitcom Stirs Interest In Europe

Look out, Bill Cosby. The high-rated U.S. sitcom “The Cosby Show” faces competition in Europe from a French show about a North African immigrant family living in Paris, whose breadwinner is a taxi driver.

“La Famille Ramdam” (The Ramdam Family), which airs on French commercial web M6, has been sold to Dutch and Swedish pubcasters NOS and SVT, reflecting a growing desire by European broadcasters to break their traditional dependence on English-language imports. Germany’s WDR and Denmark’s TV-2 also have expressed interest.

“We were specifically directed by our program director to look for sitcoms that weren’t from the U.S. or the U.K. As far as I know, this is the first time Swedish tv has bought in a non-Anglo-Saxon show,” said Gudrun Kjellberg, acquisition exec for SVT.

Adrienne Frejacques, head of sales at IMA Prods., one of the two production companies working on the show, freely admits that one “of the references” for the French sitcom was “The Cosby Show.” “The producing team had Cosby in mind when making Ramdam. They wanted to deal with a minority family with a big sense of humor, just like ‘Cosby,’ ” she said.

One explanation for the show’s appeal in Sweden and Holland lies in its treatment of ethnic minorities. “Immigration is a hot topic not only in France but throughout Europe,” said Frejacques. “Islam is the second religion in Sweden [mainly Iranians and Turks] while North Africans make up a significant percentage of Holland’s immigrant population. The Swedes and Dutch wanted something that reflected the reality of immigration in their countries,” she explained.

Vertigo, one of two production companies involved, is headed by North African-born principals Aissa Djarbi and Farid La Houssa while m.d. of IMA is Jewish-born Paul Rozenberg.

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