Shanghai Film Group
The cast of 'Friends.'Reuters
The cast of 'Ipartment.'Shanghai Film Group
The cast of 'Friends.'NBC
It looks like there’s a whole new kind of Chinese knock-off, but it’s not fake Louis Vuitton bags or Rolex watches.
It’s a Chinese sitcom that suspiciously resembles the smash series “Friends.”
The show is called “Ipartment,” and fans and critics of the show have taken to Chinese social media to point out the show shares similar characters, settings, plot lines, and even jokes with “Friends.”
But that’s not all. Popular current sitcoms like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Big Bang Theory” may also have been mined.
The show has been on the air in China for three years, but only this year was it carried nationally by major satellite channels, and that’s when the trouble started, reports say.
"Is [Ipartment] only intended for those born after 1990, who have not watched Friends?" a Chinese social media user asked, according to The Daily Telegraph. "Many lines and scenes have been completely ripped off from American shows," said another.
“Ipartment” follows two sets of attractive, 20-something friends in adjoining apartments, basically transplanting the setup of “Friends” from New York City to Shanghai. But the Telegraph reports that a rep for the show denied “Ipartment” is ripping anyone off.
"We didn't copy the American sitcom," the rep, Mr. Cao, reportedly told the Chinese newspaper Southern Metropolis. "Comedies have stereotypes, like the handsome man, the gorgeous woman, the cheap man and so on. They have that in many comedies. Our creation is not plagiarism, but more a homage to the American sitcom."
Ipartment star Chen He also characterized the show as an homage to “Friends.”
However the English language Chinese news site The Gobal Times reports the show admitted to stealing from at least one source. The Times said producers offered to pay one joke writer 10,000 yuan ($1,569) for every 1,000 Chinese characters of material they appropriated. Producers also admitted the show got more jokes from "various sources," the report said.
The series is produced by the Shanghai Film Group.