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The world embraces American humor as we rebuke it - Curt Yeomans

There's a certain irony in Paramount Pictures' decision that G.I. Joe needs to appeal more to an international audience than a domestic one.

It's ironic because three of the top TV shows in Russia are sitcoms, which are adaptations from old American shows.

Two of them are based on "Who's the Boss," and "The Nanny," while the third, entitled, "Schastlivy Vmeste," or "Happy Together," is based on the show TV Guide once called the trashiest show in America - "Married, With Children." A testament to the popularity of this show can be found in the fact that it's No. 1 in the Russian ratings for both men and women between the ages of 18 and 30.

And the family at the center of the show's concept is still white trash.

It's not new to see an American TV show adapted for an international audience. The British took "Friends," shook it up, and created the TV show "Coupling." I'm wondering how "My Name is Earl" will translate in Russian.

But there's an underlying issue here. While the rest of the world is taking our shows and adapting them for their audiences, Hollywood is going after shows that are adaptations of programs that have already aired in other countries. It's rejecting American humor for stuff found overseas.

For example, "American Idol" is an adaptation of Britain's "Pop Idol;" "Ugly Betty" is an adaptation of Columbia's "Yo soy Betty, la fea;" "Survivor" is based on Sweden's "Expedition: Robinson;" "Big Brother" was in the Netherlands before it was in America, and "The Office" is an adaptation of a British series by the same name.

Even "Coupling" got an American adaptation, which briefly ran on NBC after "Friends" went off the air. The American version of "Coupling" was terrible, a disaster, and it only lasted a handful of episodes.

Essentially, America is abandoning itself in favor of international ideas, but the rest of the world is looking to traditional, home-grown-American TV for inspiration. Perhaps TV executives should consider that their strength doesn't lie in what they bring in from across the ocean, but what comes from here in the United States.

That means no more shows that rely more on sight gags, than intelligent, witty humor. One of the things that made "Everybody Loves Raymond" so funny was how easy it was to relate to the show. The jokes were driven by the characters, their backgrounds and their personalities rather than somebody tripping over the vacuum cleaner 10 times in an episode.

At some point in the 1990's, it became trendy to rip off "Friends" with low-performing, poorly written sitcoms. It also became fashionable to rip off "The Simpsons," with overly crude shows like "South Park" and "Family Guy." These shows rely more on crude humor and sight gags than witty commentary about what's going on in the world. You know, the things that actually make "The Simpsons" so funny.

Here's a comparison of the humor shown in "The Simpsons," and "Family Guy." "The Simpsons" showed Al Gore celebrating the purchase of his book by playing a recording of the song "Celebrate" by Kool and the Gang, while sitting like a stone-faced, emotionless zombie. "Family Guy," meanwhile, frequently shows people being killed or beaten severely for no reason at all, or makes jokes about dog excrement and body parts.

In this growing absence of truly original, witty American television, we've let the foreigners take over our TV sets. At the same time, foreigners are commandeering our original classics. The trend in Hollywood may be to reject American ideals in favor of foreign influences, but it's time executives got back in touch with Middle America.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 247 or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.