Chinese entertainment shows find home-grown style

By Luo Yunzhou Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/1 16:03:39

Let's Talk Photo:IC

China's online network shows like Running Man, Go Fighting and Chinese Restaurant are instantly recognizable as diluted imitations of a lively entertainment scene that thrives across the Yellow Sea, south of Korean Peninsula.

Whether purchasing the South Korean copyright directly or developing a seemingly quite similar show, many of China's online popular shows are now haunted by accusations of plagiarism.

For a Chinese show to develop its own original concept is almost impossible for many well-known reasons, a show insider tells the Global Times.

"Let's just say we need a better marketing environment to protect intellectual property so that producers can put their own ideas into practice," he says.

There are three main differences between South Korean shows and their Chinese peers, says Keith Gu, program director of Woodfilm productions.

"Firstly, the topic of the show is always quite popular and of the moment," he says. "Secondly, audiences are asked to participate in the show by texting or phoning and in some shows like The Tomorrow Children the audience can even control the results.

"Thirdly, the show is compacted to the right pace. The post-editing avoids a slow and boring rhythm."

However, much influenced by the Land of the Morning Calm, some Chinese shows do a better job than others of finding a uniquely Chinese voice with appeal.

"Although most Chinese network shows are originated in South Korea, you do notice our own innovative elements," Sun Yizhu, a Beijing university student and regular viewer, told the Global Times.

"They are quite up to date and I can always find some new jokes online."

Argue with joy: Let's Talk

Rated 9.1 for its first season on China review website, Let's Talk invites celebrity debate teams to talk about relatively edgy topics, such as "Is it a way of love or a mental distortion to urge others to marry?" or "Should one be proud of his/her experience of traveling on a tight budget?" or "Can laziness improve our lives?"

As the two teams make fresh claims and counterclaims, the show often invites internet commentators to enliven the atmosphere, by adding their own rare creativity.

After clips began spreading online, the show itself became a hot topic of debate and swept across social media. By searching a few key words, any internet user can quickly get up to date on the show. 

The youthful style is important, but content always counts more: "It's different from the traditional way of debating," posted internet user Weekendz beneath a question about the show on Chinese Quora. "It's open to any new ideas. There are no restrictions, no taboos, even without the rules of debate. Players are free to roast, for example, (Chinese pop singer) Gao Xiaosong's appearance right in front of him or express their sexual orientation or favor no marriage. One debater even hit on a boy she likes during the debate to support her view!"

The show is mostly fun, yes, but sometimes it is more than fun, fans attest. Let's Talk can also convey the value of critical thinking.

"I never knew Gao Xiaosong was such a good debater," posted one anonymous internet user. "I really enjoy his clear logic and all-round knowledge, through which I learned a lot."

Be Sherlock Holmes: Who's the Murderer

Who's the Murderer rates 9.5 for its third season on The show features 30 percent plot, 30 percent intellectual deduction and 40 percent recreation. Its format resembles the South Korean show Crime Scene.

Broadcast by Mango TV, He Jiong and Sa Beining present the show along with regular guests Gui Gui, Wang Ou and Bai Jingting. All the participants are allowed to choose their own role in the ostensible murder mystery.

Each actor is given detailed information about the suspect they are portraying including their personalities, alibi, relationship to the victim and other suspects, history and criminal motive. Every suspect can conceal information until explicitly questioned by other suspects or the detective - but only the murder can lie.

As a nation of Sherlock Holmes lovers, Chinese internet users seem to love this kind of show even more than South Koreans.

"Who's The Murderer is my favorite online show," says Sun, the university student. "It mimics production from South Korea but the storylines are homegrown."

Sun has a theory why.

"Probably it is because the censorship for network shows is not as strict as for movies or TV shows and so the stars seem more relaxed and approachable for being themselves," she says.

"Also, every episode contains a thought-provoking topic, which provides a window for me to examine the world from a different aspect."

On Chinese social media, comments suggest this show offers more than a mere whodunnit.

"My heart ached when they talked about the smiling depression" posts one user. Another writes, "I developed many thoughts from simply watching this episode. I started noticing many friends around me look optimistic but are upset inside. They really need our comfort and love."


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