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Finding love in the reel world

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-21 07:53
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Despite the host of online dating options available today, television shows are still considered by many as the most credible matchmaking platform in China

'You have entered my world in a very special way. Despite our brief interaction, do you think we can develop something further?" said 28-year-old Guan Yongxiang, who had his hand extended as a gesture of courtship.

Yan Mengjian, who stood an arm's length away from her suitor, contemplated for a moment but was interrupted before she could give a reply.

"What is this something? Are you trying to develop a property with her? Why don't you just say: 'Would you be my girlfriend?'" quipped Zhu Zhen, the host of Date on Saturday.

The audience burst into laughter. The producer nodded with a satisfactory smile. The 27-year-old Yan then gave her consent by placing her hand in Guan's.

One of China's first dating shows, Date on Saturday has been aired every Saturday evening in Shanghai since 1998. Over the past two decades, more than 500 couples who got to know each other through the program have tied the knot and many of them have also become parents to children who have been dubbed "Saturday babies". Some of these offspring are now old enough to look for their own partners on the program, joked Zhong Wei, the producer of the show.

Every show takes between two and three hours to film but only an hour of it is shown on air. In each episode, the two hosts attempt to matchmake four single men with four single women through a series of games and a question and answer segment. A relationship consultant is occasionally featured.

"The show has enjoyed such a long-lasting popularity because it offers a peek into the most intimate and private aspect of other people's lives," said Zhu, who has been hosting the program for six years.

Asked if he ever worries about being too nosy or invading the privacy of others, the eloquent host argued: "I think young people today have a very clear idea of the type of privacy that can be displayed on TV or social networks, and the type that cannot be shared with the world.

"Besides, it's TV. We need something entertaining," he added.

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