Is This Chinese Sitcom Stealing Its Jokes from Friends?

There's a fine line between homage and theft, and angry viewers of 'Ipartment' say you can't even see it from here.

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A group of attractive young people living in adjacent apartments, who spent a lot of time hanging out in coffee shops and talking about their lives: the Chinese TV sitcom Ipartment is basically Friends in a different language. But viewers are complaining that Ipartment is crossing the line between homage and outright theft, with entire scenes and whole swaths of dialogue copied verbatim from the hit ’90s sitcom and other American TV shows.


China’s version follows the lives of seven friends and neighbors in Shanghai (Friends, for a refresher, focused on the inhabitants of two neighboring New York City walkups). Some of the characters have similar jobs to those in the American version, such as a computer programmer and university lecturer.

Ipartment, which debuted in 2009 from the Shanghai Film Group, has run long enough now that viewers have taken to message boards and Sina Weibo—China’s massive Twitter-like social media service—to allege that entire scenes have been lifted word for word right out of American sitcoms like Friends, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory.

The mainland tabloid Global Times says that Ipartment’s producers admit to using jokes from “various sources,” according to The Telegraph, but deny that they full-on copy from other shows, although they have apologized to one joke writer and offered compensation for using the jokes without permission.

The show’s representative says “comedies have stereotypes, like the handsome man, the gorgeous woman, the cheap man and so on. They have that in many comedies. Our creation is not plagiarism, but more a homage to the American sitcom.”

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