They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
If you see something that’s really good, it’s very natural to want to try produce something of your own, give it your own twist, so to say.
TV shows are a great way to tell stories, and after seeing the success of Western series, some have been inspired to try localise some big hits for our Malaysian audience.
We won’t call them ripoffs or even suspiciously similar. But here are some local TV shows that are probably inspired by other popular Western series.
1. Keluang Man / Batman
For 90’s babies, you may be familiar to this animated TV show. But for those who are not, Keluang Man is Malaysian fruit bate themed superhero.
You can probably already tell that his costume and appearance are based off the iconic dark knight, Batman.
The similarities don’t end there. They both have sidekicks and even combat similar supervillains such as Meow the Cat Girl and Badut the Clown, who are inspired by Catwoman and the Joker from Batman.
They even favour fighting crime under the cover of night, the preferred time for two bat-themed caped superheroes to make their appearance.
2. Along / Barney and Friends
Sesame Street and Barney popularised the whole person-in-a-costume educating children.
Along was a Malaysian 90’s learning and entertainment program that was popular among kids.
It was our Malaysian Barney but instead of being a talking, chubby purple dinosaur with a green stomach, Along is a cat that can talk. He comes with two younger cat siblings Angah and Acik.
The show follows the concept of Barney and Friends where they work with children to deliver the segment in the show in order to educate others. Both characters even had their own catchy song that kids loved, and annoyed parents.
We’ll give Along props for originality because he taught Mathematics along with Barney’s usual message of love and acceptance. And who can forget his iconic theme song?
3. Roda Impian / Wheel of Fortune
Roda Impian, which is very similar to Wheel of Fortune was the most popular and longest running game show in Malaysia during the 90’s.
Both shows are very straightforward as contestants have to compete with one another to solve a bunch of word puzzles in order to win the prizes and cash rewards. The twist, as everyone knows, is that their fate is determined by spinning the big and colourful wheel.
They have to be careful, and pray that spinning the wheel doesn’t land them in Bankrupt, or Muflis in the Malaysian version.
4. Waktu Rehat / Saved By The Bell
Waktu Rehat was a television sitcom that centred around a bunch of Malaysian high school students during recess around the hallway. It was Disney Channel Asia’s first localised television production and also the first to be done in Bahasa Malaysia.
Saved By The Bell was also a television sitcom that involved a group of good friends and their principal. But while it had focused on lighthearted comedic situations, it occasionally involves more matured themes. Some of those themes included drug use, homelessness, marriage, women’s rights, environmental issues, and death.
While the Malaysian sitcom took the high school setting but didn’t go down the darker route. It does portray an ensemble cast of characters that talk about their lives and express their feelings while dealing with high school life.
5. Kopitiam / F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Grabbing the runner up spot as the best sitcom of the 1998 Asian Television Awards, Kopitiam resonated with many because of its portrayal of what being Malaysian really means. The sitcom focuses on Malaysians from different backgrounds that meet in a kopitiam to talk about life, and to mingle around over cup of coffee and some roti bakar (toast).
The sitcom even showed that speaking in the famous Malaysian Manglish isn’t something to be ashamed of as well.
Friends was a very popular American television sitcom. The show revolves around six friends who are living in Manhattan.
We don’t have concrete evidence that these Kopitiam was inspired by Friends, but just like how Friends showcased the New York culture and lifestyle, Kopitiam captured our local way of life.
6. Academia Fantasia / La Academia
Akademia Fantasia was Malaysia’s first reality TV show with its format based on La Academia, which was a reality show that originated from Mexico.
While both are very similar to each other, Malaysia is the first country in South East Asia to have its own version.
In the show, the contestants would stay in a house isolated from the rest of the world where they would practice songs, acting, be given dancing lessons and other related fields. These lessons are conducted by professionals, who have already secured a place in the entertainment industry.
They would go through a voting process every week, as each week had a concert to determine the who will be eliminated. They did this until a few were left to compete for the grand prize.
7. Bendul / Mr. Bean
Everyone born in the 90’s will recognise the clumsy, silly and not to mention funny Mr. Bean.
Well, Malaysia during that time had its own very Mr. Bean too.
Bendul, as the show was called, was very clearly inspired by its foreign twin sitcom, Mr. Bean. Both of the shows were shot using minimal dialogue, accompanied by background music and the famous laugh track.
However to be fair, he didn’t carry along stuffed bear with him, so I guess not every detail was copied.
The good, old times
It just goes to show that, while a number of our local TV shows might have been inspired by foreign ones, they still brought many laughs, memories and even some unique lessons that might have benefitted others along the way.
Differences aside, both foreign and our local TV series played a big part in keeping us entertained and telling us stories of life.
Do you know of other local TV shows that were inspired by foreign series? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: Batman: The Animated Series & Keluang Man