New Year TV Gala 'Flops'

Chinese viewers criticize the show's mediocrity and stilted use of slang.
2011-02-03
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A woman views rabbit figurines on display at a temple in Beijing, Feb. 3, 2011.
A woman views rabbit figurines on display at a temple in Beijing, Feb. 3, 2011.
AFP

Poking fun at the annual state-sponsored television gala on the lunar New Year holiday became something of a sport for Chinese netizens as they ushered in the Year of the Rabbit, one eye on the TV screen, the other on their Twitter account.

The traditional gala live broadcast, which typically showcases a variety of pop stars, comedy double acts, acrobatics, and other acts, is produced by state-run CCTV and was simultaneously carried on several local channels as millions of Chinese sat down for their New Year dinner.

This year's show had presenters trotting out popular Internet phrases like "The magic horse" and "floating clouds," references to popular phrases meaning "Let it all float on by."

More controversial phrases like "My father is Li Gang," a reference to a drunk driver who tried to exploit his police connections when caught, didn't make an appearance, however.

"Go to sleep, save electricity, nothing to get worked up about," wrote one netizen in a parody of a lengthy double act in which a comedian and his stooge discuss the cryptic meaning of Chinese couplets, building up to a final punchline.

"I didn't think it was very good," said one viewer, known online as Doudi. "I thought it was a bit off from previous years."

"The sycophantic quality of some of the songs' lyrics was even more naked and obvious than in previous years."

Viewer reactions

This year's viewers made sure their reactions were heard, however.

Many netizens sent out their comments on microblogging services like Sina and Tencent as they watched the show.

Some were even in the studio audience, reporting that some of the show had been televised in advance, unbeknown to viewers at home.

"Having a go at the New Year gala ... is a topic on Twitter," said prominent blogger Michael Anti. "I wanted to join in but then I couldn't bring myself to do it."

"I lack even the desire to talk about this show," he said. "It wants to appeal to netizens, but it utterly lacked creativity."

"No humor has managed to survive the layers of censorship," he said.

A poll on the Sina microblog site set up by prominent children's author Zheng Haojie revealed that the majority of netizens gave the show a rating of just 20 percent.

'A big effort'

Soccer commentator Li Chengpeng said there was little actual talent on show in the gala, in spite of the use of trendy slang.

"They really made a big effort to get close to the people this year, to really ground the show by using a whole bunch of Internet slang," Li said.

"But from the point of view of those of us who've been online for more than a decade ... the Internet isn't just words; it's a whole ethos," he said.

"Really it was a bit cringe-making to watch. The newsy style of presentation made it seem without any flair or imagination," Li added.

"They don't really get the Internet, so they have to fake it. They wanted to be all things to all people, but it ended up a huge flop," he said.

According to online commentator Jiang Xiaoyu, the show had become mediocre because it has lost touch with ordinary Chinese.

"The only bright spot was the sketch about the Xidan woman and the migrant worker ... but there was little that was truly fresh in this show," he wrote.

"They just want to make money," wrote Jiang. "What do they care about the lives most ordinary people lead?"

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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