LIFE / CULTURE
Variety show draws on nostalgia to stand out from the rest
Unraveling a mystery
Published: Jul 03, 2022 07:56 PM
Actress Ouyang Nana 
Photos: Courtesy of iQIY Zhang Yisha Song Dandan

Actress Ouyang Nana Photos: Courtesy of iQIYI

Actress Ouyang Nana 
Photos: Courtesy of iQIY Zhang Yisha Song Dandan

Song Dandan Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

Actress Ouyang Nana 
Photos: Courtesy of iQIY Zhang Yisha Song Dandan

Zhang Yishan  Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

"We aim to bring positivity and make audiences laugh as the recent COVID-19 outbreak is causing many people anxiety," Shi Hui, producer of the variety show The Detectives' Adventures, said, explaining the original intention behind the show.

Besides this positive spin, what also sets this show apart is how it adapts scenes from classic TV dramas and movies that Chinese audiences are familiar with such as the popular sitcom Home with Kids.

The mystery reality show produced by and airing on Chinese streaming giant iQIYI gathers a group of Chinese entertainers across generations, including actresses Song Dandan, Yang Ying, actor Zhang Yishan, and actress Ouyang Nana from the island of Taiwan.

Wu Tong, chief director of the show, told the Global Times that they deliberately invited entertainers across a wide range of ages to attract audiences from different generations and make the show suitable for the whole family.

Evolving the trend

Looking for clues, discussing cases and solving puzzles... Detective mystery reality shows have become the darling of the variety show market in recent years. 

Both Wu and Shi said that the trend stems from a rise in popularity of escape rooms and murder mystery experiences.

To stand out from the crowd of similar shows and do something new with the trend, the show, which is in its second season, draws on classic TV dramas and movies to strike a chord of nostalgia among viewers.

Each episode, the show integrates whodunit-type mysteries with the characters and situations from these dramas and movies. Entertainers on the program play the characters from these works to build atmosphere and play on audience nostalgia as they try to solve the mystery.

Song and actor Zhang Yishan, the leads of the hit 2005 sitcom Home With Kids, host the show, so the first episode of the second season pulled on stories from the sitcom.

After the episode was released, many netizens commented that they were touched as the show awakened happy memories of the sitcom that accompanied them throughout childhood. 

The show has also adapted content from the 2015 hit TV series The Disguiser. The episode restored the drama's characters, scenes and other elements, fully demonstrating the quality of the original drama by virtue of exquisite costumes, instantly bringing the audience into the original work's story.

The entertainers showed their smarts during the program as they solved each puzzle. For instance, singer Hua Chenyu energetically analyzed each characters' behavior, confidently putting forth logical deductions. However, despite these efforts, Song's character, the mastermind behind the crime, was able to fool the rest of the cast and successfully escaped from punishment.

Bringer of joy

The producer Shi pointed out that the anxiety caused by the ongoing pandemic has become an issue for many people, so watching variety shows has become an important way to deal with stress. With this in mind, bringing joy to audiences is one of top goals of the show.

The second season also strengthens audience participation and immersion by introducing new games that allow viewers to solve the mystery by collecting clues alongside the show's stars. 

The performances of these stars are another source of laughter. The show gathers together a group of entertainers with strong senses of humor such as host Yang Di, who is a comedian popular among young people. They try to convey positive emotions and help audiences bid farewell to their anxiety. 

The seventh episode was released on Saturday.