DRAMAS, NEWS SHOWS, SOAP OPERAS AND OTHER TELEVISION PROGRAMS IN CHINA

TELEVISION PROGRAMS IN CHINA

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Dashan, China's favorite Westerner
Television programs are usually broadcast in Mandarin with Chinese subtitles so that people who speak other dialects can understand what is being said. As one surfs the channels in China one finds travel and wildlife programs, soccer games, song-and-dance shows, Chinese soap operas, dating shows, game shows, Chinese war movies with Japanese often being the bad guys, and Chinese versions of American idol.

There were about 13,000 television shows produced in 2009, 40 percent more than in 2001. Many television dramas deal with themes linked to the Sino-Japanese war era, many of which have string anti-Japanese sentiments and are made with the aim of strengthening the legitimacy of the Communist government. On the positive side for Japan they have created a number of roles for Japanese actors. The Chinese government has banned some Korean shows.

Typical fare on CCTV includes of dull news reports, Peking Opera performances, multi-episode historical dramas, Chinese mini series, copy cat games shows, nighttime soap operas with lying husbands and women that sleep around, reports of the success stories and achievements of the Communist Party and coverage of ribbon-cutting ceremonies and factory tours attended by high Communist officials.

The CCTV Spring Festival Gala, shown on Chinese New Year, has traditionally been one of the highest rated shows of the year on Chinese television. First broadcast in the 1980s and watched by hundreds of millions of viewers, it features hours of comedy sketches and kitschy song-and-dance acts, often imbued with patriotism and themes emphasizing national harmony.

More than half a billion people watch the annual Chinese Lunar New Year gala. Organized by the state-owned China Central Television, the marathon event showcases the country’s musical diversity with an extensive lineup of Chinese pop stars performing hit songs.After a big deal was made about lip-synching during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, performers on CCTV Spring Festival Gala were ordered not to lip-synch.

Popular Chinese television shows in the 1990s and early 2000s included True Encounters, a Jerry Springer-like show that featured quarreling couples and other s that “showed their emotions openly”; Ordinary Chinese People, which once featured a episode about a beautiful woman raped by the father of her boyfriend; and Kong Fansen, a documentary about a Chinese cadre who spent his life "serving the masses" in Tibet.

In recent years freewheeling reality shows and costume dramas laden with political intrigue have become very popular. Traditionally, the most popular show of the year is the annual Spring Festival variety show, which is watched by an estimated 800 million Chinese during the Chinese New Year holiday.

Fashion China, a show on Guangxi TV which features highlights from fashion shows around the world, consistently ranks as one of the top five shows nationally in China.

left Good Websites and Sources on the Chinese Media: Council of Foreign Relations on Media Censorship in China cfr.org ; Danwei.org, an English-language blog on the Chinese media danwei.org ; China Media Blog chinamediablog.com ; China Today chinatoday.com ; Freedom House Report freedomhouse.org ; List of Media in China media.mychinastart.com ; Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Media Bibliography Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) ; News About China chinanews.bfn.org ; China Media Project cmp.hku.hk ; China Digital Times chinadigitaltimes.net

Links in this Website: CHINESE MEDIA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE TELEVISION AND RADIO Factsanddetails.com/China ; TELEVISION PROGRAMS Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES Factsanddetails.com/China ; COMMUNICATIONS AND CELL PHONES IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; INTERNET IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; GOVERNMENT CONTROL OF THE INTERNET Factsanddetails.com/China ; INTERNET COMPANIES AND WEBSITES Factsanddetails.com/China

Television News Programs in China

right The CCTV evening news is the world's most watched news program. Watched by around 200 million viewers every night, its a boring affair featuring scenes of Chinese leaders shown in descending rank and seniority meeting foreign dignitaries and visiting factories and party meeting around the country. There is very little international news or anything that could be described as interesting.

When U.S. President Bill Clinton visited China a news conference and friendly debate between him and Jiang Zemin was shown live and uncensored on CCTV. Chinese audiences had never seen anything like that before and liked what they saw.

left During the stand-off between Taiwan and China before the 1996 Taiwan election China blanketed the airwaves (which can be picked up in Taiwan) with images of the Chinese military exercises.

The anchors on Chinese television news programs have traditionally been grim-faced, and stoic and lacking in style. But this is less the case today. In the mid 2000s, CCTV began featuring half-smiling pretty women and slick-looking men as anchors. An informal poll taken by Sina.com found that many Chinese favored the change, with many agreeing with the statement that the new anchors are “fresh, lively and not lecturing.”

In Focus

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Historical dramas
In Focus is a popular 60-Minutes style muckraking show that is on every evening for 15 minutes at 7:38pm. Watched by 300 million viewers and launched in 1994, it features reporters sticking microphones into the faces of corrupt officials and investigates controversial topics such as domestic violence and the flouting of pollution laws by factories. Although many controversial topic are addressed some topics such as forced abortion and the status of dissidents are still off limits. I'm not sure if it Is still on.

Former Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongi said he watched In Focus every night and sometimes showed taped segments from it during his meetings. The show gained such a reputation that many people said, "If you have a problem, don’t go to the police or the Communist party, go to In Focus."

In Focus and other news magazine shows like Oriental Horizon, Probe and Beijing Express use hidden cameras and in-your-face interview tactics. They walk a dangerous line of investigating corruption and scandals, often involving Communist party members, but not digging up anything that might offend Communist party leaders.

Tell It Like It Is

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daughter-in-law drama
Tell It Like It Is was a popular panel-format talk show that encouraged audience participation and “straight talk.” It was launched in 1996 with Cui Yongyuan as host. It quickly found an enthusiastic audience for whom Cui's quirky personality was as interesting as the topics under discussion. After fourteen years on the air, the program was canceled in 2009, ostensibly due to declining ratings, and current host He Jing is being blamed for failing to hold on to the substantial audience that Cui had built up. [Source: Danwei.org, September 25, 2009]

Some also say a CCTV's shift a shift away from serious discussion toward more lightweight entertainment. Among the shows that moved to the night that Tell It Like It Is occupied were Wang Xiaoya's Happy Game and Li Yong's Feichang 6+1 , both game shows, as well as the celebrity interview program Art Life . Other shows that were axed included Today's Stories, Story of Movies , Wellness Weekly , Half the Sky, Ethics Observer , Approaching Science , China Onstage , Pinwheel, Samsung Knowledge Express and Us .

Zhou Libo Steals Holiday Ratings

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Soap operas and dramas
In February 2010, Mr Zhou Live Show featuring Shanghai comedian, Zhou Libo’s, received the highest national ratings of any television show during the Spring Festival, weighing in at a whopping 7.62, according to CSM Media Research. The program borrowed heavily from the American Late Late Show by CBS. Economic and political issues were the main material in Zhou’s talk show. Yao Ming, the popular basketball player, was a star guest. [Source: Zhang Cao and Zhao Yi, Global Times]

Zhou lampooned current events such as the real estate market, Obama’s visit to China, A(H1N1) and Spring Festival transport. On the show, Zhou has dropped his Shanghai dialect in order to make his humor more accessible to a wider audience.

Zhou will pay more attention to theater performances this year, where Zhou becomes popular to Shanghai audiences, Huang Zhengwei, another of Zhou’s assistants told the Global Times.

Chinese Miniseries

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Scenes from Dream of Red Mansion
Miniseries are arguably the most popular form of entertainment in China They can have a huge impact on Chinese culture and spring actors and even theme song singers to stardom. Even unsuccessful miniseries draw millions of viewers.

The first popular miniseries was Plainclothes Police, a 12-part series that appeared in the mid 1980s. River Elegy, a 1988 miniseries is said to have been as influential as Roots was in America. One of the most popular miniseries writers is Hai Yan, a former police officer who draws on his experience to produce police dramas such as Jade Goddess of Mercy, a police story that centers around a policewoman who finds out her lover is a drug dealer.

Chinese miniseries tend to be long. Yangzheng Dynasty, a popular docu-drama shown in the late 1990s about a cruel but reform-minded Qing dynasty emperor, had 44 parts. Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, shown on the weekends in the early 2000s, had 46 parts. Other popular miniseries have included the 28-part Kelan P.I., the 35-party X-Files-like Strange Man, Strange Case and 20-part medical drama Loving Care. Advertisers like long miniseries because they often pay per miniseries rather than per episode. If a ministries runs a long time, more people see their ads.

The popular Communist-party-endorsed miniseries Awaken From a Dream in Five Willow Village was about a beautiful peasant girl who married a rich man but doesn't know that he is having an affair with her best friend. As the story develops the best friend gets pregnant, the husband goes bankrupt and the peasant girl finds happiness raising geese, falling in love with a good peasant man who has adored her secretly for years.

Dream of the Red Chamber

right A Dream of Red Mansions, based on a classic Chinese novel set in 16th century, was a hugely popular television series in mid 2000s. Raymond Zhou wrote in the China Daily, “There is no disagreement about the value of the original novel, which is universally considered the crowning achievement of Chinese fiction. Variously translated as A Dream of the Red Chamber or The Story of the Stone, this 18-century classic presents a panorama of Chinese society with a depth and breadth rarely seen in Chinese literature. A special field of study is devoted to it, called Redology. This is China's Hamlet---in four big tomes. Experts have been arguing for a century about the hidden meaning of many details.

A 50-episode adaptation of A Dream of Red Mansions was rolled in 2010. Although it got high ratings it was slammed in the press and loathed by many viewers. [Source: Raymond Zhou, China Daily, July 23, 2010]

Raymond Zhou wrote in the China Daily, “Most people who hate the new version cite the fact that it is different from the 1987 TV series, which is constantly on air and has become something of a classic in itself.”

“Li Shaohong, director of the current series, is a serious filmmaker with a feminine touch. She is the first one to put “dream” into A Dream of Red Mansions. The eerie music and the uneven pacing of sequences are subtle hints of the nature of the story. She also restores the framework of the mammoth work that actually constitutes its philosophical and religious underpinnings. In most other versions, the prelude with a Buddhist and a Taoist monk is discarded as superstition.

Great Northern Wilderness

Great Northern Wilderness ( Bei Da Huang ) is a 20-part television series set during the Korean War, focusing on the lives and loves of young people in the northern part of the country in the 1950s. Compared with other periods in China's modern history, there have been very few dramas focusing on this era. [Source: Cheng Anqi, China Daily, December 4, 2008]

In the early 1950s “China's large population and the breakout of Korean War caused food shortages. This led to about 100,000 retired service people and hundreds of thousands of young people answering the call by the Chinese government to resettle in the wild lands of northern China and farm the land there. The creator of the show said, “It is the selfless spirit and dedication of the farm workers that are the most admirable of all, as they have devoted their lives and risked untold hardship to build an agricultural miracle.”

The new series is a love triangle, in which a battle veteran (Zhu Yawen) falls in love with a girl (Liang Linlin), who strongly resembles his dead fiance, a victim of the civil war. The young lady, however, falls for another soldier, who escorts her to the wasteland from city capital.

Zhang hopes the new series will be as successful as his last year's smash-hit TV drama Breaking Through (Chuang Guandong), which was also about army life. Instead of setting the scene on the battlefront, like his last series, The Great Northern Wilderness is shot in the northeastern Heilongjiang province, a vast expanse of land, which was sparely inhabited in the 1950s, when the Korean War had just begun.

Dramas and Soap Operas in China

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Chinese cooking show
Soap operas are the most watched television programs in China. By one count 50,000 hours of soap opera programming is broadcast on televison every year and the average Chinese spends a third of his viewing time watching soap operas. The most popular shows in the south and east are modern love stories. In the north, people prefer historical dramas set in the imperial era.

Radio and televison soap operas whose primary aim is to educate people about the one child policy have been immensely popular. The show Bai Xing ("Ordinary People"), whose goal was to show that baby girls could be just as desirable as bay boys, became the number one show.

Dramas on state-run television that deal with filial themes include Nine Daughters at Home and My Old Parents. Some shows deal with more topical subjects. Winter Solstice is a drama about a beautiful old town done in by moblike developers and the thugs and killers that support them.

One of the most popular shows in the mid and late 2000s was Soldier Sortie, a drama about a bumbling country boy who escapes his abusive father by joining the army, where he blossoms into special forces commando. Much of the drama focuses on the soldier’s training and his battles with unnamed foreign forces. The action is exhilarating and realistic and the characters reveal many sides of themselves.. The main character Xu Sanduo has been named China’s most popular person by the Chinese search engine Baidu.com. The actor who play the Shaolin-Temple-trained Wang Baoqiang, appeared on a number of magazine covers. Perhaps most telling of the shows success was the increase in recruitments reported by the military after the show appeared.

Meteor Garden, See Taiwan

Unpolished programs made by peasants, with peasants as actors, are becoming increasingly popular in rural areas. One such program, a two-part, 72-minute drama called Father, I Should Not Lie to You is about a teenage girl who lies to her parents to get money for a cell phone

Foreign Babes in Beijing and Beijinger in New York

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One of the most popular shows in China in the mid 1990s was Foreign Babes in Beijing, a 20-part miniseries featuring seven foreigners---three Americans, two Russians, one Japanese and one German. In one episode an American with cancer is cured with Chinese medicine after Western medicine fails. In another episode a Chinese man wins the love of a beautiful girl after he pummels an American who criticizes Chinese manners.

In another episode a German girl falls in love in the "Chinese way" and refuses to even kiss her Chinese boyfriend until they were married. One of the most despicable characters in Foreign Babes in Beijing is Robert, an American students who eventually got his comeuppance when he is punched in the face by a the handsome Chinese student, Li Tianliang.

Beijinger in New York was a popular show in the late 1990s. Based in a best-selling novel, it was 30-part miniseries about a Chinese cellists who arrives in New York and saves enough money from working as a dishwasher to start his own business. While working at an American sweat shop the main character has a series of run ins with his American boss and eventually punches him out. The Chinese writer Jianying Zha wrote in the New York Times that the America in Beijinger in New York is "a cold world of winners and losers, of cutthroat competition and brutal alienation where Chinese are either hardened or crushed."

Foreign Babes in Beijing and North American Actors

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Rachel DeWoskin
Rachel DeWoskin, a 22-year-old graduate of Columbia University, had the leading role Foreign Babes in Beijing in the show. She played Jexi, a wealthy student who seduces a married man with a child and takes him to the United States with her. In one episode she is shown dancing wildly at a disco and later asking her lover "you can't love anyone besides your wife" when he hesitates to make love with her. [Source: Tara Suilen Duffy, Los Angeles Times, April 1996]

DeWoskin was arguably the most popular foreigner in Beijing in the 1990s even though she played a rather unsavory character. Millions of Chinese watched her on the show. Fans mobbed her on the streets; she received marriage proposals from Chinese men; and marketed her own brand of lipstick Later, DeWoskin wrote a book about experiences called appropriately enough Foreign Babes in Beijing. It got good reviews for its insights into Chinese culture and the amusing, self-deprecating descriptions of her experiences. A Hollywood company has already bought the movie rights . Book: Foreign Babes in Beijing by Rachel DeWoskin, (Granta Books, 2005)

Mark Rowswell, a 6-foot-tall, blue-eyed Canadian who speaks fluent Mandarin, is another well known foreigner in China. Known in China as Dashan (“Big Mountain”), he has appeared regularly on television, advertising a number of products. One survey in the early 2000s found that 80 percent of Chinese knew who he was.

Rosewell first studied Chinese in school in Canada and became fluent after living in Beijing. Earning about $500,000 a year, he hosts his own television show and does a number of public service announcement, encouraging Chinese to give up smoking, think twice about suicide and do their bit to reduce global warming. He was the first Westerner to perform xiangsheng, an ancient form of comedy dialogue, and prides himself in the progress he has made breaking down Chinese stereotypes of Westerners.

Kyle Rothstein, an American who was forced by his father to attend a bilingual English-Mandarin school in San Francisco, when was five and now speaks Mandarin fluently, is a well known child actor in China. He has appeared four television shows and met two American presidents and countless Chinese dignitaries. He starred in feature film produced by father---Milk and Fashion---about an American kid growing up in China.

Television Comedies in China

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TVG4news reporter
One of the most popular show in the late 1990s was Chinese Restaurant, a situation comedy about a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles with colorful cast of characters that included a manager searching for a rich husband, a head waiter that loves her, an overweight chef, a hapless chef and a whole coterie of incompetent waiters.

Our Lives is a Chinese version of Friends, with a sophisticated book editor and handsome computer programmer as the central characters. Instead of hanging out at the Central Perk coffeehouse they hang at Fat Mama's Noodle Shop. The actors got paid $120 per episode as opposed to the $1 million the American actors in Friends received.

I Love My Family is a Chinese version of All in the Family that pokes fun at an old fashion party cadre. Other popular shows have been based on Cheers, The Cosby Show and Three's Company.

Huayao Bride in Shangri-La was popular romantic comedy in the mid 2000s about a village dance teacher that has trouble controlling his free-spirited wife.

Zhou Libo is a popular comedian with a following across known for using the Shanghai dialect and making jokes about Shanghai.

Ugly Wudi Not Ugly Enough

When Chinese television own version of Ugly Betty , called But Ugly Wudi , newspapers and internet users complained that the star of the show is too good-looking for the role. According to the Oriental Morning Post, one of the cast had said that Ugly Wudi was so “extremely ugly” he did not have the words to describe it. But when the show's star appeared for her first press conference yesterday, “many thought she was in fact a beauty” behind her braces and frumpy clothes. The Information Times added indignantly: “Lin Wudi is much less ugly than Betty.” [Source: The Guardian, Tania Branigan, September 19, 2008]

The actress’s agent said she prepared for the role by putting on 10 kilograms and sunbathing to get a tan. Her efforts did not impress potential viewers. By early afternoon almost 3,300 comments on the show had been posted on the popular Baidu website - many suggesting that the actress was too attractive, and even arguing the program should be renamed “Pretty Wudi.” [Ibid]

Time-Travel Drama Disrespects History

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TV Hero
According to China Hush. “There’s an interesting trend in China’s film and television industry: more and more time-travel themed dramas are made and aired. In these time-travel based TV plays, usually the protagonist is from the modern time and for some reasons and via some means, travels through time and all the way back to the ancient China where he/she will constantly experience the "culture shock" but gradually get used to it and eventually develop a romance in that era. Though obviously the Chinese audience is found of this genre of shows, the country’s authority -General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television, to be exact, is not happy about this trend and calls a halt to the making of this type of drama. [Source: QQ, China Hush, April 3, 2011]

From the end of last year, the time-travel themed drama is becoming more and more popular. Most of these time-travel dramas are based on real historical stories but with many newly added, and usually exaggerated elements to make it funny and more attractive. Nothing is off limits in this television genre. While some find it hilarious, others think the exaggeration and even ridiculous elements added into the story is a real source of annoyance and is a disrespectful for history.

The authority’s decision was made on the Television Director Committee Meeting on April 1st---but obviously it’s not a prank to fans of the drama genre. The authority has a good reason to go against the genre. "The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore."

Shen Hua (Myth) is the country’s first time-travel TV play and a successful one. The play depicts how a young adolescent travels through time to the China of 2000 years ago and becomes sworn brother with Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, (both are prominent military leaders and political figures during the late Qin Dynasty period of Chinese history) and eventually ends up being an army general leading troops of thousands of soldiers. On the same time, his twin brother and families in the modern days is fighting with a mystery man to find him.

Shen Hua (Myth) is a success in terms of box office but too much made-up stories on the real once-exist historical person makes controversy inevitable. Also many people complain there’re too many mistakes on history facts, making it unbearable to watch.

Besides of the over-exaggerated time-travel dramas, the bureau is also making it clear that no more new film and TV versions of the Four Great Classical Novels should be produced and aired on the screen in the near future. Since 2010, dramas of the Four Great Classical Novels are respectively remade within one year. Attention are wide for sure, but people holds mixed opinion towards these remakes. The major opinion being that the remakes are made in a rush and with lots of changes of the original stories; the original TV version of the four great made years ago is classic and is not easy to be surpassed.

Ban on Television Time Travel

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TV CTS van
In April 2011 CNN reported: China has been cracking down on dissent of late, as the recent detainment of artist Ai Weiwei suggests. But the latest guidance on television programming from the State Administration of Radio Film and Television in China borders on the surreal---or, rather, an attack against the surreal. [Source: CNN, April 14, 2011]

New guidelines issued on March 31 discourage plot lines that contain elements of "fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking." “The government says---TV dramas shouldn’t have characters that travel back in time and rewrite history. They say this goes against Chinese heritage,” reports CNN’s Eunice Yoon. “They also say that myth, superstitions and reincarnation are all questionable.”

The Chinese censors seem to be especially sensitive these days. But for the television and film industry, such strictures would seem to eliminate any Chinese version of “Star Trek,” “The X-Files,” “Quantum Leap” or “Dr. Who.” And does that mean rebroadcast of huge Hollywood moneymakers like “Back to the Future” and the “Terminator” series are now forbidden?

Foreign Television Shows in China

Among the foreign shows that have been broadcast in China for sometime are Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry. In the 1990s some Japanese dramas became popular. This occurred even though Japanese have traditionally not been portrayed in a positive light in China. Chinese 20th century historical dramas often features Japanese villains and old film clips of Japanese atrocities from the 1930s. The U.S. ambassador once said "they treat the Japanese like monsters."

Taiwanese and Hong Kong companies have had great success marketing their games shows, dramas and martial arts shows on the mainland. In the early 2000s, Korean television dramas became very popular in China.

There are strict quotas on the number of foreign shows that be can shown on CCTV. During prime time only 15 percent of the programming can be imported. Even so foreign shows are becoming less popular as the quality of Chinese-produced programs improves. In the old days, American shows such as Baywatch and Dynasty and Hong Kong entertainment shows drew three times more viewers than Chinese shows in their time slots. Now they are about even.

The BBC has made huge profits selling the rights to its shows abroad. In the case of China, it has even made profits on programs that weren't shown. CCTV bought Anna Karennina and then authorities banned it because it showed adultery.

In May 2004, Chinese censors told television station to show less foreign programming that does not fit China’s “social system and national conditions.”

A Chinese ban on nearly all foreign cartoons prevents Spongebob Squarepants, Mickey Mouse and Pokeman from being shown in China at prime time between 5:00pm and 9:00pm. The ban was put in place in May 2008 primarily to protect China’s fledgling animation business.

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ChinaTV Reporter in Shanghai

American Television Shows in China

Many American television shows such as Sex in the City and Friends are available on pirated DVD or can be downloaded complete with subtitles off the Internet. Fans of Friends often gather to watch episodes of the show on a laptop computers. Some of the shows are put on the Internet in subtitled form through services like BitTorrent and Fengruan that rely of teams of volunteers to do the subtitles for free

The American television series Hunter, starring former football player Fred Dryer, was popular in China in the 1980s. It was one of the few American shows allowed to be shown at that time. In the late 1990s, producers were exploring the possibility of producing a feature film called "Hunter in China." Oprah also has been popular.

Desperate Housewives began showing on state-run television in December 2005 with censors snipping out many of the more overt sex and violence. Some Chinese became fans of the show. A 23-year-old Beijing resident told AP, “I think a lot of young Chinese people will like this show.” Others found it to be too much. A 49-year-old bureaucrat in Inner Mongolia told AP, “It made me laugh, but it was also embarrassing. There was too much sex.” The name of the show in China is Crazy Housewives.

One person who watched a lot of American shows online wrote on an Internet chat line: “After watching these for some time, I felt the attitudes of some of the characters were beginning to influence me. It's hard to describe, but I think I learned a way of life from some of them. They are good at simplifying complex problems, which I think has something to do with American culture.”

Among the Chinese-themed shows that have been popular in the United States are Kung Fu. David Carradine Carradine played played Caine, the philosophizing martial artist. Carradine was selected over Bruce Lee for the leading role on the show even though Lee developed the idea for the show. The Survivor that was shown beginning in September 2007 was set in China.

Television and Children in China

Many Chinese parents try to prevent their children from frivolously squandering their time watching stupid shows on television. On his single child, one advertising salesman in Shanghai told the New York Times, “We don’t allow him to watch too much TV. I’m not against cartoons. But I try to encourage him to watch documentaries on dinosaurs and the Second World War. These programs are useful to his study.”

According to the New York Times: “Youth programming in China tends to be conservative and pedantic. It consists mostly of quiz shows, team competitions and endless lineups of youngsters dressed uniformly, standing erect and answering questions..There are no rock fashion shows and no Chinese-made SpongeBob SquarePants.”

Shows for children in China have names like Reading Books, Studying the Arts, Seeking Answers to 100 Questions, Chess Boy and Visiting Schools. A show aimed for 13 to 14 year olds called The Big Windmill featured government officials punishing hotel owners for overcharging guests.

The Chinese version of Sesame Street is very popular in China. Produced the Children's Television Workshop and Shanghai Television, it features a Da Niao (Big Bird), Hu Zhu ("Puffing Pig"), and Xoao Meizi ("Little Plum"). The show includes some American-produced segments that the Chinese producers chose themselves and Chinese-produced skits that have minorities and teach Chinese values and democratic ideas. On the Chinese version Sesame Street the Muppets like opera and revere the philosophy of their ancestors. There was some discussion about replacing Big Bird with a big panda but in the end producers of the show decided to stay with Big Bird.

Broadcasts of Sponge Bob Squarepants began in January 2006. Nickleodean’s The Kid’s Choice Awards was allowed to go on the air. The episodes in which kids voted on their favorite burp was cut. In August 2006, the government decided to ban foreign cartoons such as The Simpsons, Pokeman and Mickey Mouse from prime time television to give Chinese animated shows such as Monkey King a better chance at success.

Image Sources: Wikicommons, Amazon Chinese DVD and video rental webites such as China Culture Network

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated October 2011

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