What Can We Learn from Spanish TV Show Adaptations?

The difference between “localization” and “translation” is sometimes easier to understand when talking about audiovisual products, which need to be re-imagined from scratch. Some of the popular shows that people are familiar with in other countries, including the U.S., came originally from Spain. Did you know that Spielberg’s The Red Band Society was first developed in Barcelona under the name Polseres vermelles?

The Red Band Society

Polseres vermelles is a Catalan television series created by Albert Espinosa and first aired on TV3 in 2011. It was dubbed in Spanish by the same actors for the channel TNT and then by professional dubbing actors for Antena 3 in 2012. The show, based on Espinosa’s own childhood experiences, tells the story of a group of children and teenagers who are being treated in the children’s wing of a hospital. The medical drama has been bought by thirteen television networks all over the world, including countries like Sweden, Argentina, France, Denmark, México, Peru or Russia.

Pulseras rojas, The Red Band Society, or Braccialetti Rossi?

For the most part, broadcasters in other countries do not purchase the show but the format, so that they may produce a version adapted to their audience. The format encompasses the general concept, premise and branding of a copyrighted TV show. The Red Band Society is the American version of the Spanish drama series, produced by Steven Spielberg and developed by Margaret Nagle. In Italy the remake is called Braccialetti Rossi and was adapted by Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), the national broadcasting company.

Other Shows that You May (Or Will) Know

Los misterios de Laura, an immediate success since it premiered back in 2009, features a police detective with a disorganized life but with an amazing intuition for solving crimes. Based freely on elements from Agatha Christie’s novels and shows like Murder, She Wrote, it has been adapted in Italy, Russia and the Netherlands and there’s an American remake titled The Mysteries of Laura, with Debra Messing as Laura Diamond. Los Serrano has been sold in 40 countries and adapted for nine different markets. It depicts the life of a widower with three sons who marries his first love, a divorced mother who in turn has two daughters, and a new version is been developed on Fox by The Simpsons’ writers Mike and Julie Scully.

What Does this Have to Do with Localization?

TV show adaptations are very popular in the broadcast world because the purchase of a well-proven format is lower risk, improving revenue. The task goes well beyond translation: from the general concept to the branding or the predominant color in credits and scenery, almost everything can be customized thinking of a particular audience. Even in Spanish-speaking countries like Chile or Argentina, TV Chile and Telefé shot their own local versions (in the latter the premiere was a trending topic on the social media for two consecutive days). Localization pays off, and Spanish TV producers like Boomerang TV or Globomedia, present in 147 countries, are now beginning to reap the fruits of their exporting adventure.