Sunday, February 20, 2011

Daily Show in Dutch - A breath of fresh air

Many UK and US formats that have been adapted for the Dutch TV market have failed miserably. Qi in Holland was just awful - the host, Arthur Japin, had a fraction of the knowledge and wit of Stephen Fry and those taking part were clearly trying to show-off what they that's not the way it works. Have I Got News for You was also a disaster. So when I saw a poster on the side of the A1 motorway saying that Comedy Central was bringing The Daily Show to the Netherlands for 3 weeks, I must admit to being skeptical. This was especially because the designated host had been involved with the Have I got News for You version in the Netherlands which bombed so badly.

The series has just been and gone. I'm glad they also released them on the web as they happened. And the verdict? Actually, Jan Jaap van der Wal and a team of writers have ended up writing 12 very good shows indeed. Funny. Very critical. But also fair. As good as John Stewart? Yes, I think so. It works because Jan Jaap is laughing with the audience, not at them. Their commentary on the failing of Dutch and commercial broadcasters should get others thinking.

The format is the same; they have clearly learned a lot from the timing and pace of the US show, but Jan Jaap adds a nice Dutch flavour to it all. It is adapted from the original, but it is not a copy. It is written for a different culture. So congrats to co-writers Owen Schumacher, Merijn Scholten, Sander van Opzeeland, Peter Pannekoek and Niels van der Laan. Daniel Arends, Kees van Amstel and Bas Hoeflaak were also good as sidekicks.

The danger is that they try and make the show daily and that they can't write fast enough to keep up the standard they have achieved. Learn from other countries that build series of programmes (13 episodes) and then go dark to write some more. Build it slowly and it will blow the others away. Great that Comedy Central in The Netherlands was willing to take the risk.
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