Chinese Reality TV Has the Answers for Young Adults

What kind of TV shows are popular with the younger generations in China? 

As with most of the world, China has a lot of reality TV shows (电视真人秀, diànshì zhēnrén xiù). Unlike many American shows, however, Chinese ones focus on genuine success and what people learn along the way rather than the failures, conflicts, and embarrassing moments often seen on American reality TV.

These shows are all popular because they let viewers connect with the personalities on the screen, inspiring the average person to dream of how they, too, can one day become famous. But beyond fame and fortune, these shows help the young generation of Chinese viewers find answers to difficult questions in a rapidly changing society.

 

Produce 101

创造101(Chuàngzào 101)

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As the name implies, 101 girls get a chance to compete for 11 spots in a singing group (Rocket Girls). The first season(第一季, dì yī jì) just finished in June 2018 when the winners were officially announced. As with many singing competition shows, the girls perform song and dance routines in groups each week under the direction of professional trainers. One difference with this show is that there are no judges (裁判, cáipàn) , all decisions are made by audience votes(观众投票, guānzhòng tóupiào). Viewers become very attached to the girls on the show, forming fan groups and rallying friends to vote for their favorite. Even the girls on the show support each other and focus on the team effort over their own individual performance. Ultimately, the singing group will consist of 11 people so teamwork is an essential quality in the contestants.

 

Dad, Where Are We Going? 

爸爸去哪儿?(Bàba qù nǎr?)

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The premise of this show sounds like a setup for incompetent dads to fail at caring for their 5 year old child on a long weekend trip without mom. Although the mishaps, kids' tantrums and cluelessness of the celebrity dads is apparent, the focus is much more positive and thoughtful. Each episode the father-child pairs participate in contests as they explore (探索, tànsuǒ) the countryside of China for a few days, learning about ancient cultural traditions while they challenge traditional parenting roles where fathers work to earn money and women raise children. The blend of changing modern parenting philosophies with a respect for China's long cultural history is a popular combination in a society with new economic and therefore social mobility. This show raises the right questions at the right time in modern Chinese society. Plus there's the cuteness factor of 5-year-old kids challenging their father's competence and making friends with each other.

 

U Can U Bibi

奇葩说(Qípāshuō)

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A 1-2 sentence description of this show can't begin to describe why this show is so popular that it's generating spinoff web series and even books after just a few seasons. The basic description is "a contemporary talk show" with a range of unique and famous people. The format of the show is a debate (辩论, biànlùn) that's judged by celebrity mentors as well as the audience. The topics are current social issues ranging from romance, career, and families to gender identity, technology, and bullying. The producers (制作人, zhìzuòrén) choose topics based on current events as well as questions submitted via social media.As China's economy and middle class grows, people become more educated, and young people figure out how to balance (平衡, pínghéng) their traditional heritage with modern city life, shows that help them answer difficult questions are popular. Especially when they do so in a fun and interesting format that encourages (鼓励, gǔlì) web-based audience participation. An extra bonus for this show is that it's not aired on a TV channel but exclusively online which is where most of the younger generation watch shows anyway.

 

China's Got Talent

中国达人秀(Zhōngguó dárén xiù)

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Part of the global franchise of "Talent" shows produced by Simon Cowell, this show is worth mentioning for its cookie cutter success. Like other popular shows in China, this one is a Chinese production of a foreign franchise of TV shows. Using celebrity judges, people saw a variety of talents from all over the country, enabling average people to experience instant success and fame. Although "China's Got Talent" hasn't been on the air for years, the number of spinoff shows like "The Voice of China" (中国好声音, Zhōngguó hǎo shēngyīn) and "China's New Song"(中国新歌声, Zhōngguō xīn gē shēng) demonstrate just how popular performance-based reality TV shows are. Even Produce 101 has a similar theme. As money and success continue to circulate in China, everyone wants to believe that they too can change their fate (命运, mìngyùn) by performing, or at least watching average people succeed in competition based TV shows.

 

Whether people are watching the show to think critically about big questions in their life or because they like the people on the show, TV is still primarily about entertainment. If viewers have fun and are curious about what will happen in the next episode, they will keep watching. So, which show will do you think is most entertaining?