China getting its own 'Gossip Girl'
China is about to get gossipy.
Warner Bros.' international television unit is teaming up with two Chinese production companies to create a Chinese teen drama series inspired by "Gossip Girl," which airs in the United States on the CW Network. "Gossip Girl," about a group of wealthy back-stabbing Manhattanites, has been a cult hit for the cable channel for the last five years and launched the careers of actresses Blake Lively and Leighton Meester.
Tentatively called "China Girl," the show will be in Mandarin and launch in November on satellite television, with "Gossip Girl" creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage consulting.
Selling reruns of American movies and television shows to Chinese media outlets is commonplace, however creating new versions of American TV series -- particularly comedies and dramas -- is more unusual. There is a Chinese version of "Ugly Betty," which originated in Colombia and later became a hit on ABC here. Typically though, game shows and reality shows from the U.S. are more likely to be remade for China.
"This is a big event," said Martin Pompadur, a partner of Metan Development Group, a consulting firm that is working with Warner Bros. on the new series. Mei Tian Mei Yu, a Chinese sister company of Metan, is one of the producers of "China Girl," as is Chinese-based H&R Century TV.
"Gossip Girl" is a fairly racy show that doesn't shy away from sexual content. One episode famously saw three characters share the same bed. The Chinese government often has a heavy hand when it comes to content and scripts.
The scripts for "China Girl" had to be approved in advance by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television before production could start.
Among the changes, according to Pompadur, is that unlike the American series that originally focused on high school kids, the characters in the Chinese version will already be in college. The initial production order is for 30 episodes.
For Warner Bros., producing a version of "Gossip Girl" for China is part of its push to boost its production output around the globe. The studio produces versions of its U.S. shows -- including the popular reality series "The Bachelor" -- around the globe as well as licenses the formats to its programs to other producers.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: The CW's "Gossip Girl." Credit: Giovanni Rufino/CW.