Exploring Chinese TV [Life in GZ, Ed. 29]

《汉语桥》Chinese Bridge contest on CCTV

Summer in South China is swelteringly suffocating, so the solution? Stay indoors and use the TV I have only been using to watch my own shows and CCTVNEWS 😛

Seemingly perfectly timed for me to watch while still in China, the Rio Olympics have also helped me explore more shows, particularly Chinese game shows. And boy, have I been missing out.

While it’s no secret that smartphones have permeated Chinese society, I’m surprised—and yet shouldn’t be—that it includes the TV. My first of several experiences with Chinese people actually using the WeChat feature of shaking their phones was at an event at the Canton Tower, where I learned that people are truly not ashamed (when are they ever) of shaking their phones violently in public just in hopes of winning some obscure prize. And today, I found myself shaking my own phone to see what would happen… #china

Some observations:

1 — Rio Olympics
While watching the Opening Ceremony, the TV kept prompting me to rate the show by giving points from 1 to 5 (the option for 5 had to be on a second page). After the second time the message popped up, I decided to try it. I was amazed. I got points for voting, and I don’t know how to use them, but #COOL.

Watching TV in Chinese is…conflicting. On one hand, I don’t need to pay too much attention to what they’re saying since that would require a ton of effort and can instead focus on the events. But on the other, in those instances I do try to understand everything, I simply can’t enjoy it. So I find myself listening passively and watching, occasionally feeling proud to understand enough without straining.

2 — Foreigners on Chinese Game Shows
I must thank the Olympics for helping me discover the wacky world of Chinese game shows, because in the whole year that I’ve been here, I somehow never watched game shows, instead only using the playback feature to watch CCTV’s English channel…and my own shows on GDTV World 😛

Especially now with the Olympics on every day, I find myself waking up to start my morning routine to the TV playing in the background. And I like it.

The first game show I came across was Chinese Bridge 《汉语桥》, a Chinese proficiency contest on steroids. College students under 30 from around the world show off (and repeatedly say) how much they just love the Chinese language and China and OH MY GOD THIS IS THE MOST NATIONALISTIC, PROPAGANDIST SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN. I mean, serious props to the Chinese government for managing to organize (brainwash) masses of foreigners to embarrass themselves on national television by performing skits based on ancient Chinese stories and “talents” that include singing in Chinese and showing off questionable kung fu moves.

This is not to say that I don’t have enormous respect for these foreigners whose knowledge of China and its language is far superior to even many Chinese nationals.

This past week, I also came across a well-known Chinese story on Zhang Liang on Mark’s China Blog. Then in a complete coincidence, one of the groups of competitors performed a skit based on this exact story! So while I couldn’t get the references for the other skits, I felt happy to have at least known this story. Now I need to read other important Chinese tales… Any readers who can point me in the right direction?

Somehow, a portion of the very episode I saw is already on YouTube, so feel free to get an idea of the propagandist BS that’s being broadcast in China 😛

Here’s a full episode from an older season.

Now I want to know what these other Chinese talent shows for foreigners are like, too.

3 — “Science” Show
I tuned into another game show just in time to see a live band wearing scuba gear being submerged into a pool still playing their instruments, prompting me to literally get out of my seat and practically yell at the TV over what an absurd experiment that was taking place.

The premise? The contestants needed to guess which instrument would cease to make sound while under water. And so, why not destroy precious instruments by conducting an absolutely unnecessarily wasteful experiment, all in the name of “scientific entertainment.”

*rolls eyes*

I admit, the show is entertaining, but all the “experiments” to answer silly questions—such as which string would be able to withstand the weight of a human dangling in mid-air—are so ridiculous that this would be a show in China.

Get a taste of it yourself:

What was cool about this one was that, again, viewers can open their WeChat and shake their smartphones play along with the contestants. The questions and answers are conveniently right on your phone as you watch the show and actually win stuff! In my case, I only got so far to get a 45%-off coupon that can be used at an online bookstore on the WeChat platform. LOL.

4 — Traditional Chinese Medicine Show
Mind you, I only spent a couple days observing Chinese TV shows, and I am only just beginning to scratch the surface. Imagine what else I’m missing.

Here’s another that I didn’t spend as much time watching but found it noteworthy, nonetheless.

It involves a beautiful host, some innocent man subject to test out the Chinese health-related techniques, and some “expert” offering the advice. Literally, the “expert” teaches the live audience of middle-aged women how to massage their temples correctly. Cue every single lady massaging their temples on camera. I admit I myself tried it, too HAHA. It’s too funny.

If you’ve watched some weird Chinese TV shows, what am I missing? I’ve seen some of the famous transgender host Jin Xing’s talk show, but I’m afraid my level of Chinese isn’t enough to fully appreciate her genius. Anyway, I’m open to all suggestions and hope that you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on the ones I’ve seen so far 🙂