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A life less ordinary

  • Source: Global Times
  • [01:15 October 14 2010]
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Armless pianist Liu Wei performs at China's Got Talent. Liu would eventually go on to win the contest. Photo: tieba.baidu.com

By Pan Yan and Liu Chang

When armless pianist Liu Wei stepped onto the stage of the Shanghai Stadium to be crowned winner of the first China's Got Talent Sunday, it was a shining moment for a young man whose life story epitomized the idea of triumph over adversity. It was also an event seen as a turning point in Chinese TV.

The show, the Chinese version of Britain's Got Talent, had attracted record numbers of viewers from the first day it was broadcast on Shanghai's Dragon TV on August 1.

The ratings for the show were the highest in Shanghai for 10 consecutive weeks, exceeding even the 16.27 percent ratings for the hugely popular Spring Festival Gala on China Central Television.

Hu Zhanfen, a media professional, wrote in the Shanghai-based Xinmin Weekly Friday that the show owed its success to its being an upgraded version of previous talent contests, such as My Show, Super Girl, and Happy Boy. Contestants not only had to impress audiences with their talents, but also had to win them over with their attitude toward life.

The producers also went a step further than their predecessors, going behind the scenes to gauge the expressions and emotions of the contestants as they waited to go on stage to bare their souls to the nation.

Jin Yong, an expert on media research at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times that this simple gimmick allowed audiences to associate themselves with the contestants, making their personalities all the more convincing and vivid.

The production team behind the British original suggested the Chinese team select contestants from varied backgrounds, including anyone from chefs to dancers, to give the show greater appeal to a wider spectrum of viewers.

Common people

In addition to Liu, one of the contestants was a poor couple who made their living by selling duck. The talent they were showcasing was their singing, but just as importantly, they attempted to woo the audience with stories behind their romance.

Yin Hong, a professor of journalism and communication at Tsinghua University, said the program is popular because all the contestants are ordinary people.

And when ordinary people can point to overcoming tragedy in their lives like Liu, audience numbers go up.

Liu, a Beijing native born in 1987, lost both of his arms at the age of 10 when he grabbed a high voltage wire while playing hide-and-seek. Inspired by an armless painter he met in a hospital, Liu learnt to use his feet to write, brush his teeth and eat.

He also learnt to swim and became a member of a Beijing team for people with disabilities at 12. Two years later, he won one silver and two gold medals in the national swimming championship for the disabled.

Driven by a desire to make his living by composing or opening music-themed bars, Liu chose not to sit the college entrance exam, instead opting to learn the piano. He practiced with his feet seven hours a day, and after three years of study, he achieved grade 7 level.

"There are only two paths ahead of me. One is to die, and the other one is to live my life fruitfully," Liu told reporters earlier.

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