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New wave of nostalgia

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-02 09:04
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Angie Chai, producer [Photo provided to China Daily]

Producer Angie Chai is adapting her hit 2001 Taiwan drama series Meteor Garden to appeal to modern mainland audiences. Wang Kaihao reports.

For a period of time during the early 2000s, it was almost impossible for me to spend a single day at high school without hearing about Meteor Garden, a 20-episode Taiwan drama series featuring a cast of young idols.

Its theme song, Meteor Rain, could be heard on almost every street corner, and the drama was an everyday topic of discussion for my classmates. I can still readily recall the names of every major character in the series now, even though I didn't even follow the program.

It would probably be pretty difficult to find a person of my generation who has not heard of F4, the boy band composed of Jerry Yan, Vanness Wu, Ken Chu, and Vic Chou-the four leading actors from the drama.

Such is the legacy left by producer Angie Chai for a generation of people, not only on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, but also in more than 20 countries and regions around Asia-such was the extent of Meteor Garden's popularity.

So it was no surprise to see that Chinese social networks are currently riding a wave of nostalgia after the drama was recently aired again on internet giant Tencent's streaming media platform.

Chai, who is often referred to as "the mother of youth idol dramas", recently appeared in Beijing to join a cultural creativity conference hosted by Tencent.

Even 17 years after the premiere of the phenomenal drama, 56-year-old Chai still could not hold back her tears in front of a packed auditorium resounding once again to the tune of Meteor Rain.

"A young heart is the key to keep on creating new works for the young," Chai says. "It's as important as diligence, devotion and professionalism."

Meteor Garden is a story that plots the romance between a poor girl and a young man attending an elite school, as well as their entangled relationships with their classmates and friends. The success of the series spawned innumerable Cinderella-story themed shows, which dominated TV screens over the following years.

For Chai, Meteor Garden was only the start, however.

In 2007, she produced the drama series Corner with Love, followed by the film You Are the Apple of My Eye in 2011, among many other works.

Stepping into the Chinese mainland market, she worked on the production of the hit film franchise Tiny Times. Although the four films were heavily criticized for their portrayal of money worship, its success was undeniable: "Tiny Times" soon became a buzzword among young people, and the film franchise enjoyed a die-hard following, just as Meteor Garden did in the past.

But things have moved on. And as Chai recalls, while fans once told her: "I grew up watching your productions", their children now keep telling her: 'My mom says she loves your work'.

"Times are changing, but I want to stand together with 18-year-old people in different times," she smiles. "No matter what era it is, young people will still be confused when confronted with love, friendship and dreams. They lack confidence, and will keep searching for their values."

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