Now that Top Chef season 11 is sadly over, I have no more recaps for you. Instead, today is Foreign Friday! I love languages, and although I only fully understand English, I’ve never let a little language-barrier stop me from enjoying TV! Most of the foreign TV I watch is English language, either British, Australian, or Canadian. I’ve enjoyed many a Japanese show, both live action and anime, so I’m used to hearing that. I’ve studied French and Italian, so romance languages don’t sound foreign to my ear. This time, however, I tried something completely different: Chinese.
I stumbled upon Ipartment when searching for Friends— allegations that this Chinese sitcom ripped off Friends and various other American shows are all over the internet. As an avid Friends fan myself, I was intrigued. I initially pronounced it “ip-partment” (as in chip, minus the ch), but wikipedia set me straight: it’s eye-partment, the i standing for “ai,” meaning love. The Chinese name of this show is Ai Qing Gong Yu, which means Love Apartment.
When watching foreign television, you not only have to get used to the language, but also the cultural differences a show may portray. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about Chinese culture. I didn’t know what to expect. As aforementioned, I’m used to Japanese shows so I modeled my expectations on this, assuming that the Asian cultures would share some elements. Mostly, it felt very much like an American sitcom. Ipartment is a fast-talking show, packed with comedic moments and pop-culture references that even an American can understand.
Ipartment is about 7 young people, 3 women and 4 men, who all live in the same apartment building in Shanghai. The first episode features the wedding of a couple who met in the apartment building. As a wedding gift, the building is renamed Love Apartment at their request. All couples in love receive free water and electricity, and half off rent. This of course leads to some deception for a good deal. Here’s what I was able to understand about the characters:
After studying computer science abroad, Zhan Bo returns to China. (Wikipedia says he went to MIT— woo Boston!) His sister, Yi Fei, already lived in Love Apartment and he moves in with her. He meets Wan Yu on the bus and falls for her. He’s a little socially awkward.
The daughter of a wealthy banker, Wan Yu ran away to avoid an arranged marriage. She was supposed to go to music school in New York. She’s pretty happy-go-lucky and that attitude seems to serve her well. After meeting Zhan Bo on the bus, she moves in with him and his sister at Love Apartment.
One of the only characters who lived in Love Apartment before the start of the show, Xiao Xian is the host of a late night radio show called “Your Moon, My Heart.” He seems to just pop into the others’ apartments Kramer-style, which leads to many moments of comedy.
Zhan Bo’s older sister, Yi Fei is a PhD graduate who works at a university. She is a very strong personality— forceful, competitive, and bossy. She seems to be a meddler, thinking she knows the best recourse for many situations. She’s the other Love Apartment resident who lived there prior to the show.
Wikipedia calls him a “freelancer,” but he’s more of a swindler. He shows up at the wedding in the first episode trying to sell his health supplement. When the priest falls ill (he might have actually died?) in the bathroom, Zi Qiao takes over his duties to make a few bucks. There’s a great moment of him pretending to speak English here.
Zi Qiao’s ex-girlfriend, Mei Jia also shows up to the wedding uninvited… looking to gorge on free food. After hearing about the couple’s discount, she and Zi Qiao pretend to be a couple and move in together, despite their dislike of each other. Mei Jia is a silly girl, who loves cute things and tends to scream with delight. She falls for Guan Gu as soon as she sees him.
A Japanese man who is tricked by Mei Jia and Zi Qiao into moving in with them to share the burden of the rent, Guan Gu doesn’t show up until the second episode. The fact that Chinese is not his first language is a source of humor in the show. He is a manga artist, specifically the artist of Mei Jia’s favorite manga. I dig Guan Gu, especially for the several Sailor Moon posters he hangs in his room, but his name bugs me— it definitely sounds Chinese and not Japanese.
I was only able to watch two episodes with subtitles, and I really wish I could keep on watching! I started the third, but the subtitles dropped out after the first 10 minutes. While you don’t have to understand every single word to enjoy the show, it simply isn’t feasible to keep watching with no idea what they’re saying. Still, throughout the first two episodes, I laughed many times. I’ll definitely scour Youtube to see if I can find more subbed episodes. As for the allegations that Ipartment has ripped off American sitcoms… don’t all sitcoms do similar things? I think it’s par for the course.
The two episodes I watched are on viki.com— I recommend checking them out!
Do you have any suggestions for my next Foreign Friday? Let me know!