Saturday Night Live is an institution. The late night sketch series has been on the air for 40 years. During that time it has brought in plenty of interesting hosts and musical guests and its cast has created plenty of iconic characters. Now, the series plans to try something new. This week, we learned that China is getting its own version of Saturday Night Live. The deal was announced by the Beijing company Sohu this week.
A lot of times different countries will rework versions of TV shows. The U.S. does this frequently, with shows like The Voice and The Slap originating elsewhere. However, the Chinese version of Saturday Night Live is a little bit different. The show is not simply taking the name and general premise of SNL and then creating a Chinese-language show. Instead, according to the New York Times consultants from the NBC series will be on hand during the original process.
Currently, we don’t know if Lorne Michaels will be involved with the Chinese version of Saturday Night Live. The executive producer clearly loves to have his hands in multiple pots at one time, but his work on Saturday Night Live and his producing duties on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers. He also serves as an executive producer on the FX series Man Seeking Woman. Seemingly, taking part in consulting for Saturday Night Live—China would be stretch, and may not even be necessary.
While the Chinese version of the series will be similar to SNL, the sketches will actually come from the xiaopin tradition, which typically means lengthier sketches than the stuff NBC’s late night sketch series puts up. On the other hand, the sketches will make use of characters, sets and other props. Currently, there aren’t a ton of details related to the new project; it may not even air live on Saturday nights.
China won’t be the only other country to have a version of Saturday Night Live on the air. Countries like Italy, Spain, Japan and South Korea have aired versions of the show in the past. The Chinese news comes just a couple of years after Mexico attempted to get a version of SNL together.
The Chinese version of SNL should theoretically do quite well for Sohu. The company bought the American version and aired it through its streaming site in 2013. The Times report notes that last season garnered 36 million views, so it seems there is an audience for the project.
It’s highly unlikely that American audiences will ever get the chance to see China’s SNL, but the project is still a testament to the mark the sketch comedy series has made worldwide over the past 40 years.