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TV audiences complain that Vietnamese shows are just cheap rip-offs of foreign hits

Tinh yeu trong sang (Pure love) has been accused of being a copycat of one of Korea's most popular serials, "˜All about Eve,' which was released in 2000. But the Vietnamese series' producer announced that they had purchased the copyright for the Korean show.

Gio nghich mua (Wind out of season) garnered a large following quickly for its dramatic chronicles of a love triangle steeped in ambition and the dark side of wealth and success.

A poor man is in a relationship with a decent middle-class girl who unbeknownst to him is carrying his child. He dumps the girl to marry his rich boss's daughter. The series' climax comes when his rich wife turns out to be barren and he tries to steal his son from the ex-girlfriend.

Though the show was initially a hit and it's cast garnered particularly positive reviews for their portrayals of the story's desperate characters, it wasn't long before viewers realized that nearly every detail in the series seemed similar to "Yellow Handkerchief," a popular Korean drama aired previously on local channel.

To viewers' annoyance, the show's producer then refused to answer questions about the strange resemblance of the two shows.

Scriptwriter Chau Tho said that she had not seen the Korean series and that she in fact only edited the script, which had been originally written by another writer she claimed was named Pham Dao Uyen.

"Uyen's original script was rejected for its vapid and illogical storyline and I had to spend lot of time working on editing it," said Tho. "I changed many of the storylines and added some supporting characters to enrich the content. Human tragedy is a common denominator in any society." 

However, people did not believe Tho's explanation after she refused to give any information about Uyen. Many then alleged that Uyen was a fictional character Tho made up and that Gio nghich mua was really a local copycat of the foreign series.

In the same boat with Gio nghich mua are local series Sac dep va danh vong (Beauty and fame), which mimicked a Chinese series called "A Dream Named Desire," and Doi mat (Face to face), which took its storyline from a Taiwanese series called "100 percent Senorita."

However, none of these shows' producers have admitted to copying foreign programming and all refuse to discuss copyright issues publicly.

Nearly every detail in the series Gio nghich mua seems similar to "˜Yellow Handkerchief,' a popular Korean drama

"Producers buy foreign famous series' scripts and try to match them with locals' taste because they don't have any good locally-written scripts," said Thu Pham, a young scriptwriter whose screenplay was once pilfered by a film production.

"But they forgot one thing; a successful foreign series may not get the same reputation in Vietnam because of the differences in culture and societal thinking," said Pham. "The adapted series can draw public attention at first, but it does not ensure its quality or prove how professional the filmmaking industry is."

Pham pointed to the failures of Vietnamese remakes of worldwide favorites - like US series "Ugly Betty" in 2006, Korean TV hit "Doctor Brothers" in 1997, and Argentina's series "Lalola" to demonstrate her claim.

"It seems that local producers try to make locals adapt to characters acting in ways that are irrational given Vietnamese culture. Most remakes are nothing but flops."

Pham argued that it should be easy to build a good script based purely on Vietnamese society, and that writers should use the world around them as the endless source of artistic material that it is.

On the other hand, some producers have spoken anonymously about "Vietnamizing" foreign scripts and keeping their shows' origins a secret.

Tinh yeu trong sang (Pure love) has been accused of being a copycat of one of Korea's most popular serials, "All about Eve," which was released in 2000.

But the Vietnamese series' producer announced that they had purchased the copyright for the Korean show.

Director Nguyen Minh Cao, whose remake of Korean hit "Doctor Brothers" failed miserably, said that many local directors do not want to remake foreign series.

"But it is part of our job," said Cao. "If you refuse this producer's Vietnamized script, you still receive another one from another producer. However, the foreign series are attractive with thrilling details, while the local scripts, at present, are too weak and feature insipid plotlines."

Nguyen Phuong Dien, director of Du gio co thoi (No matter how the wind flows), which is considered one of the most successful remakes of foreign TV shows, said that Korean TV makers are great masters of manipulating viewers' emotions.

"We were lucky local audiences had not seen the original Korean serial Du gio co thoi," said Dien. "They had nothing to compare it to and watched the series at ease. We edited nearly all the Korean details in the original script to match local tastes. I do want to make a pure Vietnamese serial one day, because we have many touching real-life stories to tell here."

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