We don't get much foreign TV in the US. Do foreigners watch American TV?

Whenever I hear talk about the American “cultural hegemony” spreading over other countries, I note that very little of that seems to be flowing in the other direction, despite this being a “nation of immigrants.” We sometimes watch foreign movies but you have to go to special “art houses” to see them. With respect to television, we have the Spanish-language channels broadcasting shows produced (I assume) in Latin American countries, some British shows on PBS (and BBC-America, if your cable provider carries it), maybe some Japanime on the Cartoon Channel, and that’s about it. There’s practically no French or German or Chinese or Japanese or Russian TV shows that you can get here without a sattelite dish. Why is that, I wonder? And how much American TV do people get in foreign countries? And, in non-English-speaking countries, is it subtitled or dubbed?

Friends, Six Feet Under, Fox News, Nickelodeon…it’s all here.

Even if you only have the basic 5 terrestrial analogue channels, there’s still several hours of mainstream America. If you go for satellite (owned by Murdoch, of Fox fame, and holding the position of cable in America), and subscribe for anything more than the very basic package, you get everything Murdoch-owned, and much more beside. That can include dozens if not hundreds of foreign-language stations: everything from Al-Jazeera to Irish stations.

However…“cultural hegemony” involves more than television. It involves music, soft drinks, diet, language, everything.

Quick rundown:

Television in Europe is subtitled in the Scandinavian countries + Holland (and maybe Belgium). The rest of them dub. There are historical reasons for this, in case you’re interested.

I’d say that about 50% of our programming is in English, with the majority coming from the US, GB coming a close second and Australia+Canada trailing far behind. FYI, I’ll do a quick rundown, not posting the entire schedule today, of the American shows that are on the 8 free channels I have (then of course, we get Discovery, TCM, Hallmark, Showtime on pay cable or sat dish):
Jimmy Neutron, Tales From the Crypt, Rikki Lake, Dr. Phil, Oprah, Nanny, Everybody loves Raymond, Beverly Hills 90210, Simpsons, Sabrina, Charmed, Scrubs, Top Model 3, Seinfeld, Baywatch, Boston Public, Law&Order, Cagney&Lacey, Leno, Letterman, Conan, Casper, Tansformers, Ed, Hanging w. Mr. Cooper, Gilmore Girls, Blind Date, Full House, Fresh Prince, Frasier, Friends, 3rd shift, Spin City, CSI, Miami Vice, Walker: Texas Ranger, Jamie Kennedy, Oz, O’Reilly Factor, Fox News, 3rd Rock, MASH.

In Finland, a-plenty. If there’s an American show that attains a measure of success, there’s a fair chance that it’ll eventually make it’s way to one of the 5 terrestrial analogue channels. For instance, this Thursday, the TV will show Bold & The Beautiful, Young and the Restless, Golden Girls, Baby Bob, Mad About You, Fear Factor, Alias, Melrose Place, SNL, Mad TV, Samurai Jack, Friends, Dharma & Greg etc. etc.

The shows are subtitled, apart from those meant for small children. The practice of dubbing shows meant for adults has always seemed a bit weird to me.

In Slovenia, we get basically the majority of successful American series from Sopranos to 6 Feet Under, CSI, NYPD, Alias, Monk etc. They’ve just started with the first season of Nip/Tuck on one of our channels. The same holds true for sitcoms. If I just mention a few we’ve seen over the past years, there were Friends, 3rd Rock, Scrubs, That 70’s Show, South Park, Raymond, Spin City. Luckily we’ve been spared the reality shows, but have seen Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Oprah and Dr. Phil.
All shows in Slovenia are subtitled with the exception of the children programmes.

I am. Can you explain?

Based on the posts so far, it appears that people in other countries would know a lot more about culture and daily life in the U.S. than we know about them. (Insofar as you can learn such things from television shows – and I think you can learn a lot.) Which would make us Yanks most unsuited to be the world’s new imperial nation. We’re much too insular. (But then, what were the Brits?)

We have plenty of American television programmes on air here - some good, some terrible.

Why is there a smaller flow of non-US programmes back to the US? I suppose it’s partly an economic size thing. The US is relatively a much bigger market than most other countries and therefore doesn’t need to import programmes. But I’ve heard Australian producers mention another factor, which is the general unwillingness of American viewers to listen to “foreign” accents on television, even where the programmes are English-speaking.

In Japan, a few American tv shows are dubbed and broadcast. The series 24 is enjoying some popularity, as did Ally McBeal (re-titled Ally, My Love). Overall, though, they account for a tiny, tiny portion of tv shows here, and are dwarfed in popularity by the recent wave of hit Korean dramas.

Even with a satellite dish there’s precious little. I work for one of the two major companies here, and our foreign language offerings are focused almost entirely around the large immigrant communities, meaning that they are overwhelmingly Spanish, in addition to some Asian offerings (both South and East).

I assume it’s because there’s not enough demand for it.

If it wouldn’t be too much of a thread hijack, I’d love to hear from Dopers in non-English-speaking nations: are there any TV shows there that would be appreciated by Americans? Any that are good enough, and different enough from what we already have in the US, that Americans would put up with subtitles/dubbing and cultural untranslatables in order to watch them instead of all the home-grown shows that are already available?

FWIW, Time Warner cable offers full-time Indian, German and Japanese channels on its digital cable lineup, as well as a slew of Latin American programming.

Well, duh.
I must say that there are much less dubbed American shows there once were here in Québec. We do have a television phenomena that is, at least that’s what they keep repeating, unique to Québec. We call them “téléromans”. The term would be related to the spanish Telenovelas , but the genre is not as restricted.

Telenovelas are basically spanish-speaking soaps, right? But not téléromans: they’re not as elaborate as hit American shows such as 24 (for budget reasons, obviously), but they’re not public television under-funded didactic series either. They’re not all sitcoms: some are dramas, family sagas, dramedies. The format may be film-like or cardboard studio-like. In short, we can’t really come up with an American equivalent. And given the Québec market, which is small and perennially underfunded, our biggest stars come from the small screen, because there simply isn’t enough movies to live on.

And there is my point: like I said, there are much less American content than there once was on the Québec small screen (I am talking about French-speaking networks, at least). The reason is probably that, in the last decade or so, television has been funded more than it had been before. Most shows rely heavily on government funds, along with the very few production companies we have. And, well, as you may think, this money is often cut, and networks have to cut on home productions and buy foreign, mainly American, shows, and movies, to fill the lineup. And with the arrival of specialised cable channels brought a need for programs, which is almost essentially filled with American shows.

For example, there is a new mystery, cop and detective shows channel. Here is a sample of their lineup: Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Columbo, Karen Sisco, Las Vegas, Diagnosis Murder. Some relevant Québec series are included too, because, as some of you may know, there is a very strong nationalism, here, that would make any total foreign takeover of television impossible.

I hope I make sense.

I’m in Singapore, and we have a delightful mix of foreign tv imports. The imported english tv is for the most part American (Law and Order, Friends, Survivor, etc etc etc), but once you move to the chinese, malay and tamil channels, the imports come from all-over.

The bulk of chinese programming is dubbed (cantonese to mandarin) serials and lifestyle shows from HongKong, we also get direct material from Taiwan (no dubbing, cos it’s all in Mandarin already), being dramas, comedies and a LOT of wacky entertainment shows. There’s also some material from China. We also have a LOT of local content, but I’m inclined to call them shouting dramas, cos they always involve a family running a shop and yelling at each other all the time. The local lifestyle shows are prety ok, but given the size of the country, there’s not a lot to visit and not-revisit within a 13week season.

By far the best material (IMO) is the subbed and dubbed serials (yes, bothin the one presentation) from Japan.

The malay channels get material from Indonesia and Malaysia (more Malaysian than Indonesian, because there are differences in the language) and the Tamil channels, obviously, source from India, dubbing Hindi films and serials, or using original Tamil source material.

Sorry, I just realised that was somewhat off-topic, but my point is, we are an ‘english speaking nation’ with a solid mix of bilingual cultures. English is the common language, but almost everyone has a ‘mother-tongue’ too, which is why we have the alternate language channels on free-to-air tv. By far the majority of the content on the english channel is American, then local content (which is not as engaging as the local mandarin content, being either too bland, or too melodromatic for some) and a tiny amount of UK content (but so small an amount as to be absent entirely).

The non-American content that I think would appeal to American audiences are some of the Taiwanese dramas (solid stories and engaging characters, very adept at period dramas) and the Japanese dramas (VERY solid storytelling, more emotional and by-gosh, the actors are all so darn PRETTY! GTO is still one of my favourite live-action series of all time).

We also get a sizeable amount of Korean material, and that is by far the most emotional stuff I’ve ever seen, my wife will regularly cry during Korean serials. All of this stuff works subtitled (I can’t understand enough of the mandarin dubbing to follow the story, but the subtitling captures enough to get the message across).

I do think there’s a lot of room for exploration beyond American/english language content, but you’re correct, there’s a LOT of American content out there filling up the english language airwaves. (although I’m quite intrigued with the new Malaysian Cartoon, ‘Lat the Kampong Boy’, based on the local comicbook. Very funny stuff!

sorry… I just realise how that post waffles. Kudos to anyone who wades through it all…

The accent thing is mostly BS. The bigger problem is that Australia has a much smaller market base than we do, so there just isn’t enough money floating around for production. Americans have come to take very high production values for granted, and to us a lot of foreign stuff looks like it was shot on home video.

On the other hand, looking at the lists of American programming you guys are getting I can understand why the rest of the world is so pissed off at us.

True dat. I used to watch Telemundo and Univision for hours at a time, even though I speak no Spanish, I like looking at those Latina hotties!

Anyway, I always used to get a kick out of the sets on those shows; for example when someone “got mad” and slammed a door, the whole wall would shake. Or sometimes the sets are re-used so often, you’d occasionally see the same home office\library in different shows.

Pretty much what The Gaspode said. Lots of American TV here. Subtitles, thank heaven. Not dubbed.
Also, a lot of English and some German shows [mainly ‘crimi’s’ - police serials]

Thudlow Boink, Yes. I’d say there are some Dutch shows worth seeing in America. Problem is: We have a more liberal attitude in life. Full frontal nudity is not shocking for us. But we made some nice programs.

Sure. I have no cites for this, but it was something I was taught when I took a film class.

Back during the silent era - and remember that cinema was considered lowbrow - the translation part was easy. Whenever that black screen with text came up, they just spliced in another, with the text translated to the local language.
However, literacy was lower in a lot of countries, especially among the working class, so in addition to having someone playing an instrument, there was an actor who read out loud what the screen said.
With time, this became a union thing / tradition. It provided jobs for actors, so when the talkies came along, dubbing was the obvious and cheap option. Considering the quality of film stock, the lack of closeups, lipsyncing wasn’t really a problem then. And so it went on and on.

You’ll notice that even to this day, people from countries with subtitles are more comfortable with English. I know quite a few Spaniards with high university degress that speak little or no English. The French are, of course, infamous for their lack of command of English. Germany’s getting a lot better, but it’s a generational thing. People under… say 40, with a higher education, will speak English, working class Fritzes over 50 - little or no English.
I think this is because in countries with subtitles, kids are growing up hearing sound and intonation of English. When it’s time to start learning in sachool, around age 8 or 9, they are fairly comfortable with mimicing (sp? that just looks wrong) the sounds. A large part of being able to speak a foreign language is getting over your own fear of sounding like a complete ass. I have friends in Spain who took English for 8 years, from grade scholl up through HS, who can’t speak a single sentence.
And with the dubbing still going on, this won’t change. Epople in these countries have about the same attitude as I’ve heard from some Americans: “How can you follow the action, if you’re reading the subtitles?” But it’s not something done consciously. I can watch a Swedish show on Danish tv, and read the Danish subtitles. I can’t stop myself from reading them, even though I’m hearing my own language,

Oddly, comparatively few American programs make it onto Arabic-language stations. There is a lot of programing from around the Arab World (but not the Islamic one). We do get American cartoons dubbed, and more than a few Mexican telenoveas.

:confused: And the government allows that? Aren’t Mexican telenovelas a little, well, racy by Arabian standards? I haven’t seen many – there’s no nudity (or it there is they cut it out before showing it on Spanish-language channels in the U.S.), but there’s lot’s of kissing, etc., etc., and still more etc., and I don’t think it’s all between husband and wife.