System and Culture in Format Adaptation


  • Lynge Stegger Gemzøe Aalborg University



adaptation, series, national culture, media system, format trade, remakes


This article explores strengths and weaknesses of common methods and frameworks in studying format adaptation, primarily in television series, but with some findings applicable for television entertainment formats as well. The article problematises how work on transnational remakes of television series as well as studies of format adaptation in general predominately focuses on either using text-based readings of cultural similarities and differences or explanations rooted in the media system such as, for example, a new channel’s profile or norms and traditions in the programming interface of a particular channel or country. The article examines the dominant literature and theories on the subject, illustrating that there is an ongoing debate among researchers as to which framework is more powerful and precise in accounting for format adaptation. It becomes apparent that studies favouring the one approach greatly over the other are often comparing apples and oranges. Finally, the article aims to show how existing research most often compares original and remake in their final forms, overlooking the creation process, the dilemmas of the creatives behind the transformations, and the effect their preconceptions have on the finished results.


Akass, Kim (2015). “The Show That Refused to Die: the Rise and Fall of AMC’s The Killing.” Continuum 29(5): 743-754.

Avis, Isadora García (2015). “Adapting Landscape and Place in Transcultural Remakes: The Case of Bron/Broen, The Bridge and The Tunnel.” SERIES - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives (1)2: 127-138.

Barra, Luca (2009). “The Mediation is the Message. Italian Regionalization of US TV Series as Co-Creational Work.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 12(5): 509-525.

Barra, Luca (2013). “Invisible Mediations: The Role of Adaptation and Dubbing Professionals in Shaping US TV for Italian Audiences.” VIEW. Journal of European Television History and Culture 2(4): 101-111.

Beeden, Alexander, and Joost de Bruin (2010). “The Office – Articulations of National Identity in Television Format Adaptation.” Television and New Media 11(1): p. 3-19.

Billig, Michael (1995). Banal Nationalism. London: SAGE.

Bondebjerg, Ib, and Eva Redvall (2015). “Breaking Borders: The International Success of Danish Television Drama.” In European Cinema and Television, edited by Ib Bondebjerg, Eva Redvall, and Andrew Higson, 214-238. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Box Office Mojo (2020). “The King’s Speech”. Box Office Mojo. (last accessed 03-06-20)

Chalaby, Jean K. (2015). “Drama without Drama: The Late Rise of Scripted TV Formats.” Television and New Media 17(1): 3-20. January 2016. Also found in Chalaby, Jean K. (2016). The Format Age. Policy Press, Cambridge.

Esser, Andrea (2016). “Defining the ‘Local’ in Localization or ‘Adapting for Whom?’.” In Media Across Borders: Localizing TV, Film and Video Games, edited by Andrea Esser, Miguel Bernal-Merino, and Iain Robert Smith, 19-35. New York: Routledge.

Esser, Andrea, Pia Majbritt Jensen, Heidi Keinonen, and Anna Maria Lemor (2016). “The Duality of Banal Transnationalism and Banal Nationalism: Television Audiences and the Musical Talent Competition Genre.” In New Patterns in Global Television Formats, edited by Karina Aveyard, Pia Majbritt Jensen & Albert Moran, 295-309. Bristol: Intellect.

Forrest, Jennifer and Sergio Martínez (2015). “Remapping Socio-Cultural Specificity in the American Remake of The Bridge.” Continuum (29)5: 718-730.

Forrest, Jennifer and Leonard Koos (eds.) (2002). Dead Ringers: The Remake in Theory and Practice. Albany, NY: Suny Press.

Gaunt, David and Orvar Löfgren (1984). Myter om svensken. Stockholm: Liber.

Gemzøe, Lynge Stegger (2016). Interview with Elwood Reid, Pasadena, California, March 23.

Gemzøe, Lynge Stegger (2018). The Showrunner Effect. System, Culture and Individual Agency in American Remakes of Danish Television Drama. PhD-dissertation. Aarhus: Aarhus University.

Georgiou, Myria and Roger Silverstone (2007). “Diasporas and Contra-Flows Beyond Nation-Centrism.” In Media on the Move, edited by Daya Kishan Thussu, 30-43. London: Routledge.

Greenberg, Harvey Roy (1991). “Raiders of the Lost Text. Remaking as Contested Homage in Always” Journal of Popular Film and Television (18)4: 164-171.

Griffin, Jeffrey (2008). “The Americanization of The Office: A Comparison of the Offbeat NBC Sitcom and Its British Predecessor.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 35(4): 154-163.

Hellekson, Karen (2014). “Forbrydelsen, The Killing, Duty, and Ethics.” In Remake Television: Reboot, Re-use, Recycle, edited by Carlen Lavigne. Plymouth: Lexington Books.

Jensen, Pia Majbritt (2007). Television Format Adaptations in a Transnational Perspective. Ph.D. dissertation. Aarhus: Aarhus University.

Keinonen, Heidi (2016). “Television Format as Cultural Negotiation: Studying Format Appropriation through a Synthesizing Approach.” VIEW. Journal of European Television History and Culture, 5(9): 60–71.

Ksiazek, Thomas and James Webster (2008). “Cultural Proximity and Audience Behavior: The Role of Language in Patterns of Polarization and Multicultural Fluency.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 52(3): 485-503.

Linde-Laursen, Anders (1995). Det nationales natur: Studier i dansk-svenske relationer. Nordisk Ministerråd, København.

Lotz, Amanda (2014). The Television Will Be Revolutionized. Second edition. New York: New York University Press.

Lotz, Amanda (2016). “The Paradigmatic Evolution of U.S. Television and the Emergence of Internet-Distributed Television.” Icono 14(2): 122-142.

McQuail, Denis (2005). McQuail's Mass Communication Theory. New York: SAGE.

Mikos, Lothar (2015). “From The Office to Stromberg: adaptation strategies in German television.” Continuum 29(5): 694-705.

Moran, Albert (1998). Copycat TV, Luton: University of Luton Press.

Moran, Albert (2009). “Global franchising, local customizing: The cultural economy of TV program formats.”.Continuum (23)2: 115-125.

Moran, Albert and Karina Aveyard (2014). “The place of television programme formats.” Continuum (28)1: 18-27.

Ndlela, Martin (2012). “Global Television Formats in Africa: Localizing Idol.” In Global Television Formats, edited by Tasha Oren and Sharon Shahaf. Routledge, New York.

Ndlela, Martin (2013). “Television Across Boundaries: Localisation of Big Brother Africa.” Critical Studies in Television 8(2): 57-72.

Olson, Scott (1999). Hollywood Planet. London: Routledge.

Osborn, Michael (2011). “The Office: A decade around the world”. BBC News. (last accessed 03-06-20)

Straubhaar, Joseph D. (2003). “Choosing National TV: Cultural Capital, Language, and Cultural Proximity in Brazil.” In The Impact of International Television: A Paradigm Shift, edited by M. G. Elasmar, 77–110. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Straubhaar, Joseph D. (2007). World Television. California: Sage Publications.

Turnbull, Sue (2015). “Trafficking in TV Crime: Remaking Broadchurch.” Continuum 29(5): 743-754.

Verevis, Constantin & Perkins, Claire (2015). “Transnational Television Remakes.” Continuum 29(5): 677-683.

Verevis, Constantin (2006). Film Remakes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Wayne, Michael (2016). “Critically Acclaimed and Cancelled. FX’s The Bridge, Cable Channel as Brand and the Adaptation of Scripted TV Formats.” VIEW. Journal of European Television History and Culture 5(9): 116-125. .

Weissman, Elke (2012). Transnational Television Drama. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wells-Lassagne, Shannon (2017). Television and Serial Adaptation. New York: Routledge.




How to Cite

Gemzøe, L. S. (2020). System and Culture in Format Adaptation. Series - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, 6(1), 107–119.



Culture / Reception / Consumption