A version of the Ensemble Darkhorse where character interest is sparked by an audience well-divorced from the production source, particularly if the show is released in other countries. Places with different cultural baggage often hook onto different characters, whether or not these are the ones being pushed by the story. This is even more of a gamble when one character's personality and motivations have a direct tie to the culture of origin.
In addition, what may be considered a bog-standard genre piece in the home country may be considered new and exciting in a country that hasn't been exposed to the particular genre yet.
Public broadcasting (like the BBC) is also stronger in Europe and other places. These stations focus on cultural enrichment instead of the bottom line, and can take chances on Too Good to Last shows that are rejected in their home countries by ratings-driven U.S. stations.
Since many companies get paid by foreign distributors simply for the right to air, how shows do overseas is not always of direct concern to the original producers. Other times, these characters are not tightly connected to a single story and are more an owned property, and may get their own storylines released more or less exclusively in certain countries.
The trope is named for Norm Macdonald's punchline during his "Weekend Update" sketches on Saturday Night Live, which he'd go out of his way to include. David Hasselhoff, the Baywatch actor/producer, who was popular in Germany for his work as a singer in the late 1980s/early 1990s, particularly for being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, which was being in Berlin at the fall of the wall promoting his new album via a concert tour, which included a popular song he had changed to be about peace and togetherness; he has had seven albums go platinum there. (His popularity has since waned, however, though Dirk Nowitzki, flag-bearer for Germany in the 2008 Summer Olympics and NBA star, claims he hums Hasselhoff songs at the free throw line)
Another variant of this trope is the joke that something is "big in Japan."
The opposite of Americans Hate Tingle (where something that's popular in its home market becomes loathed abroad, usually by getting a particularly vehement and widespread Hatedom in one specific country) and the inversion of Never Accepted in His Hometown (where something is popular in any place, except their own country/city).
It's also not uncommon that an over-looked product/person becomes popular on a foreign country for monetary reasons: Broadcasting a show/song that was not popular on its country of original is usually cheaper, so channels are prone to re-run these cheap products. If this is the case, then it over-laps with Vindicated by Reruns.
See also Periphery Demographic, Japandering and Cultural Cringe. Alien Arts Are Appreciated is the Speculative Fiction version. Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales is this trope crossed over with Actually Pretty Funny.
Contrast BIG time with Banned in China.
And while you're wondering, the equivalent on the German All The Tropes is Americans Love Rammstein
- Anime and Manga
- Asian Animation
- Comic Books
- Live-Action TV
- New Media
- Oral Tradition
- Other Media
- Professional Wrestling
- Real Life
- Tabletop Games
- Theme Parks
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Web Original
- Western Animation