A group of attractive young people live in adjacent apartments and spend a lot of time hanging out in coffee shops and talking about their lives.
The Chinese TV sitcom Ipartment, which ended its third season recently, may have made the audience laugh. But it’s also the target of criticism.
Viewers are complaining that dialogue and scenes have been copied from the US hit sitcom Friends and other TV shows.
Zhang Yan, 22, a fan of Western soap operas from Zhengzhou, Henan, established cpartment.com, where he and other viewers post screen shots after each new episode, comparing it to US sitcoms to demonstrate possible plagiarism.
According to Zhang, at least 16 of the sitcom’s 24 episodes have more than 70 percent of their plot directly copied from seven Western serials including How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and IT Crowd.
With an average of 3,000 to 4,000 clicks every day, the website has caused many Internet users to denounce and boycott the show.
“I don’t mean to ruin Ipartment. I just want to put pressure on some Chinese directors and scriptwriters. I hope they stop copying,” he told China Daily.
Wang Yuan, Ipartment’s scriptwriter, admitted on Sina Weibo that he’s a die-hard fan of American sitcoms and that he tries to progress and innovate through imitation.
He would be glad, he wrote, if he could emulate one-tenth of what they are doing right. Later, in an interview with Sina.com, Wang said he has used American sitcoms’ narrative rhythms, classic story arcs and jokes as a reference.
However, a spokesperson of the show surnamed Cao denied plagiarism in an interview with Southern Metropolis Daily.
“Comedies have stereotypes, like the handsome man, the gorgeous woman, the cheap man and so on. They have that in many comedies,” Cao said. “Our creation is not plagiarism, but more a homage to the American sitcom.”
The show, which is “just entertainment” according to Wang, has won many fans (presumably teenagers who aren’t old enough to have watched series such as Friends).
But a copycat case like this leaves fewer chances for hardworking writers who spend years creating high-quality work, because producers tend to choose quick writers who can finish a script in a couple of months.
“The reason that plagiarism hasn’t stopped is because it hasn’t been punished so far,” veteran scriptwriter Liu Hua told China Daily.
“But the power of the Internet may improve the situation. People have a broad view, and you can’t possibly cheat about anything.”