China cleans up Housewives before broadcast

Chinese broadcasters have tidied up Wisteria Lane, the fictional suburban setting for the American comedy series Desperate Housewives, an official said on Monday.

A Chinese-dubbed version of the show was to debut late on Monday on China’s state-run CCTV8 channel. The entire first season was to air in seven days, with three shows playing every night.

Qin Mingxin, deputy director of the international department of CCTV’s Entertainment Programme Centre, said the show had been scrubbed of some of its excesses during translation. He wouldn’t give details.

Regulators in China often cite foreign culture in broadcasting as a source of unwholesome influences.

The darkly comic serial—famous for its plunging necklines and sharp punch lines—follows the exploits of five suburban American women and features arson, suicide, murder and extramarital affairs.

“This is United States public television, so there weren’t any major issues, but we made some changes in the translation mainly just to clean up the language a little bit,” said Qin.

Carolyn So, a Hong Kong-based marketing coordinator for the show’s distributor, Buena Vista International Television, said Chinese broadcasters were allowed to make final edits to the show in line with their regulations.

She said China’s changes were “minor”, but gave no specifics.

In August, the culture ministry announced a sweeping effort to tighten the communist government’s control over popular culture, including increased censorship of imported programming.

Last year, the government barred the use of foreign programmes that promote “Western ideology and politics” and banned prime-time programmes about crime or violence to promote, it said, a “healthy environment” for children.

Pirated DVDs of the original English-language Housewives are widely available in China’s bigger cities for about six yuan (about R4,70) for a disc with three shows or 138 yuan (R108) for the entire first season.

Desperate Housewives was an instant hit with US viewers, but Qin wasn’t sure it would be as successful in China.

“I think it will be popular in China’s cities but less so in the countryside because you need a certain understanding of the cultural background to grasp it,” said Qin.

“China and the West are very different, and this show has very quick dialogue, and the dialogue can be very subtle too.
Not everybody is going to get it.”—Sapa-AP

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