From Hancock to Hanski. Constructing cultural proximity in a Finnish adaptation of British situation comedy

3/2010

Heidi Keinonen

Along with the global trade of programme formats, the television production is increasingly facing the challenge of crossing both national and cultural borders. But the idea of importing programme formats is hardly new. The first time a Finnish commercial television company imported the scripts for a television series took place in 1962, when Mainos-TV started to broadcast a programme called Kaverukset. Kaverukset (1962–1963) is a Finnish adaptation of British situation comedy Hancock’s Half Hour (BBC 1956–1961). In Britain, Hancock’s Half Hour played an essential role in developing situation comedy as a televisual form, but it also became known beyond British borders as the scripts were traded overseas.

Drawing on Joseph Straubhaar’s idea about the audiences tending to prefer programming that is most proximate to their own culture, this article aims to focus on the particular ways in which a sense of cultural proximity is constructed in Kaverukset. Unlike current format packages, the contract only included basic scripts without production notes or images. So, it was possible to rewrite the scripts for the Finnish actor – and for the Finnish audience. Arguments presented in this article are based on comparative textual and contextual analysis of one episode called Yksin with its British counterpart, The Bedsitter. While both episodes are based on the same script, changes in setting and dialogue in the Kaverukset episode provide the Finnish audience with possible sites of identification. Special attention is also paid to the intertextual references used to construct a sense of cultural proximity in the text.

Thus, the analysis of this local adaptation gives an insight into Finnish television history and the early use of international programme adaptations. Furthermore, it historically opens up the idea of local adaptation, offering knowledge of how cultural proximity was understood and what techniques were being used to construct a sense of that closeness.