The Toronto papers picked up a story from the Wall Street Journal that caught my eye. Apparently, an Arab satellite TV network, MBC, has introduced The Simpsons (dubbed “Al Shamshoon”) to the Middle East. I checked the date. No, it’s not April 1. How on earth can you translate a TV show that thrives on poking fun at American culture and makes countless references to American people, institutions and history?
Seems they had to make some changes. “Omar Shamshoon,” as he is called on the show, looks like the same Homer, but he has sworn off beer and bacon, which are both against Islam. Instead, he consumes soda pop and barbecued Egyptian beef sausages. In place of the ubiquitous doughnuts, Homer stuffs himself with traditional Arab cookies. The family still lives in Springfield, and Bart is called Badr.
According to the WSJ, MBC hopes “Al Shamshoon” will be the first of many adaptations for the growing Arab TV audience, but success is far from guaranteed. Longtime Simpsons fans in the Arab world are incensed over the new version. One Egyptian blogger wondered why producers couldn’t just make a good original show about family in Egypt.
With satellite TV booming, I guess we’ll see more “translated” programming of this type. D’oh.