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China's next top show
Global Times | March 20, 2012 21:20
By Global Times
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After the success of China's Next Top Model, hosted by supermodel Li Ai, China will have the opportunity to watch more talent-based reality shows themed around fashion, as many American programs are exploring the chance to cooperate with their Chinese counterparts.

American Next Top Model (ANTM), and Project Runway, two hot TV reality shows in the United States, are watched for the raw talent of contestants as well as the professional standards in selecting the top winners. Project Runway features host Heidi Klum, mentor Tim Gunn, and judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. The program was joined by off-shoot show, Models of the Runway. Many shows styled after both ANTM and Project Runway followed, attracting the attention of advertisers. 

A former producer of American cable television specialty channel Lifetime told the Beijing-based Legal Mirror that America's TV industry has noticed the huge market in China and many overseas reality shows are seeking the opportunities to entertain Chinese audiences with their Chinese counterparts.

China's vast luxury and textiles market serves as rich resources for programs like ANTM and Project Runway. However, compared to shows like Project Runway that boast resources, big celebrity hosts and guest stars, China's reality show industry fails to attract a similar number of influential stars for its programs. Aside, China faces additional challenges in the reality show craze. One of the main priorities is to avoid imitating successful Western shows and to push the standard higher.

In June 2000, Chinese audiences had their first taste of a domestic reality show, Discovery Channel I Shouldn't Be Alive, aired on Guangdong TV. Afterwards, many TV stations nationwide began producing reality shows. In 2005, there was an influx of such programs, with the rise of CCTV's Dream of China, and Shanghai Dragon TV's Lycra My Show. Within a short time, the reality-programming trend covered wide aspects and industries, from entertainment to dating shows. Many TV programs have tried to incorporate reality aspects to cater to audience taste, developing the industry over the last six years.

As the former producer of Lifetime expressed, American reality shows are considering cooperating with Chinese TV stations, though they are still studying the tastes of Chinese audience. Simultaneously, China needs to regulate the development of reality shows while absorbing successful elements from abroad. Compared with Western reality shows, Chinese programs often appear overly emotional and saccharine sweet, with a tendency of glossing over deeper topics. This is based on China's own cultural values and societal conventions.

When it comes to working together, both the United States and China need to determine a rubric for moral standards and account for cultural tastes. Some industry insiders call for more influential models or fashion designers to widen the professional team on programs like the Chinese version of Project Runway, to grab the attention from audiences. As China has many notable and influential fashion designers such as Wang Daren and Yin Yiqing, and models Liu Wen and Sun Feifei, the industry is hoping their appearances will boost reality-TV morale.

The Project Runway season 9 finale runway show Photo: CFP
                                                             The Project Runway season 9 finale runway show Photo: CFP

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