Suspense drama lifts genre to an all new level in China

By Chen Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/7/1 18:18:40 Last Updated: 2020/7/1 16:18:40

Promotional material for The Bad Kids Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI


Promotional material for The Bad Kids Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

Chinese crime/suspense drama The Bad Kids has gained unprecedented high compliments from Chinese netizens and even celebrities such as actress Zhang Ziyi for its intriguing plot and superb acting. The hashtag for the show, which aired its final episode on June 25, had earned 4.29 billion views on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo as of Tuesday afternoon.

The drama, starring Chinese actors Qin Hao and Silver Bear winner Wang Jingchun, was adapted from the novel of the same name.

It tells the story of three children who accidently film their substitute math teacher pushing his elderly in-laws off a cliff, and later become involved in criminal activities themselves. 

Since it premiered on Chinese streaming platform iQIYI on June 16, the drama has remained at the top of the most popular dramas on leading Chinese media review site Douban, where it has a high score of 8.9/10. 

Praise for the show has come from all corners. On June 25, Zhang - of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame - also took to social media to praise the drama's excellent production quality and the actors' outstanding performances. 

"After watching so many US and British dramas for so many years, we finally have a 'Chinese drama' whose quality can compete with them," she wrote in a comment, the hashtag of which went on to earn 460 million views on Sina Weibo. 

"The Bad Kids won such a high remark because the plot has been adapted well and fully excavates and showcases human nature through its characters. Additionally, the story is about teenage crime, a very fresh subject for audiences," Zhang Yiwu, a Chinese literature professor at Peking University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Yu Shengyan, a white-collar worker in Beijing who has watched the drama, echoed Zhang Yiwu's opinion that the drama has done an excellent job in depicting the novel's story, to the point that it has surpassed the original. She also told the Global Times that the drama's cinematography is a perfect match for the actors and plot. 

Some netizens commented on Sina Weibo that these Chinese streaming platforms seem to be following Netflix's model of producing high quality suspense dramas to attract more users. 

According to a report from Chinese entertainment news site Red Star News, Joe Cacaci, one of the scriptwriters for Netflix's TV series House of Cards, acted as script consultant on The Bad Kids.

However, Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times that the emergence of Chinese suspense dramas has actually been a reaction to local market demand rather than a choice to imitate Netflix. 

Before the hit drama was even aired, the suspense genre had already seen a steady rise in China. For instance, Chinese streaming platform Youku in earlier  2020 established a section titled "mystery theater" while iQIYI has focused on the production of crime and suspense dramas. 

However, another similarity to Netflix series is the length. While most Chinese dramas are a hefty 40 to 50 episodes long, The Bad Kids is a slim 12 episodes. 

Zhang Yiwu noted that shorter, tighter dramas might be a new mode for Chinese dramas, and pointed that Chinese suspense dramas have much more space to develop.

Newspaper headline: 'The Bad Kids'


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