China’s ‘Friends’ Knockoff Complains of Unauthorized Film

The one where the movie about swashbuckling tomb raiders copies the show that copied the beloved American sitcom.

A still from the movie “Love Apartment” (2018)

A popular sitcom widely considered China’s answer to “Friends” is not happy with the new movie that’s trying to cash in on its name.

“IPartment” — or “Love Apartment,” as the show’s name translates from Chinese — is a 2009 sitcom about the lives and loves of a group of young people that drew heavily from its Western peers like “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The IT Crowd,” and “How I Met Your Mother.” Today, several years since its last episode aired, “Love Apartment” evokes a strong sense of nostalgia for many young Chinese — although they harbor no illusions about the show’s influences.

Painstakingly made netizen videos show how closely the sitcom resembles its counterparts: Ross Geller must sell hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to send a girl to Space Camp in “Friends,” while in “Love Apartment,” a male character sells miniature fire extinguishers in scenes that use near-identical jokes, comic timing, and camera angles. But Wang Yuan, the chief screenwriter of the Chinese series, has dismissed accusations of plagiarism, instead calling the similar plot elements “homages” to the Western shows.

When a film adaptation of “Love Apartment” was announced in May, fans both rejoiced at the prospect of seeing their favorite characters from the series on the silver screen and speculated about which punchlines would be pinched this time.

Fast-forward to this month, when just days before the movie was scheduled to premiere on Aug. 10, the official Weibo microblog account of the TV series said on Monday that the film had been produced without permission. According to the post, the rights to “Love Apartment” belong to a Taiwanese company called Lianfan, not to Shanghai-based studio Gaoge, which produced the film. The show’s statement added that it had filed a civil suit and asked the China Film Bureau to suspend the film’s release. The show included legal documents with the post to support its claims, read the full article here.


This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.