Viewers of a popular Chinese TV series are accusing the show of ripping off Friends and other hit U.S. comedies, according to media reports.
Ipartment, which is in its third season, centers on a group of twentysomethings who live in neighboring apartments in Shanghai. One of the characters is a university lecturer -- similar to Friends' Ross character -- and a radio-show host -- in the vein of Friends' Joey.
The show premiered in 2009 but only recently began reaching a bigger audience after being picked up by various cable channels across China.
After more viewers were introduced the show, many hit the Internet to note the similarities between Ipartment jokes and those used on not only Friends, but also How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. Some even posted subtitled screenshots showing the similarities, while others offered links to video clips on video website Youku.com as evidence.
"Is [Ipartment] only intended for those born after 1990, who have not watched Friends?" one viewer wrote on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, as quoted by the Global Times.
Another told the publicaion: "Many lines and scenes have been completely ripped off from American shows. I thought it was shameful to do this. It is an insult to the American TV producers and an insult to the screenwriters and producers of original Chinese TV shows."
Over the weekend, producers admitted that the show contained jokes from "various sources," the Times reported, saying they issued an apology to one unnamed writer in particular for using his jokes without permission and offered to pay him 10,000 yuan ($1,570) for every 1,000 Chinese characters of material they used.
But a show rep denies accusations of plagiarism in an interview with the Southern Metropolis newspaper.
"We didn't copy the American sitcom," the spokesman said, as quoted by several U.K. outlets. "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."
Ipartment star Chen He and writer Wang Yuan also have come to the show's defense, with the former reportedly telling the Shanghai Evening Post that the show is an homage to various American sitcoms.
Yuan, meanwhile, claimed that the writers are "all super-fans of American sitcom."
"It's just entertainment," he added.