Liang Hongfu

TV programs tailored to satisfy youth

By Hong Liang (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-22 07:53
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Television on the mainland is made for older folks like me. I watch TV all the time partly, at least, to learn Mandarin. (If you don't already know, I'm a native Cantonese speaker from Hong Kong.) In time, I have come to appreciate some of the locally-produced TV drama series and become a fan of a few outstanding stars, including Wang Baoqiang and Fan Bingbing.

But the slow pace of the mainland-produced dramas can test the patience of viewers of all age groups. I wonder what theatrical value there is in freezing the scene of a character staring into empty space in deep thought after delivering a long monologue that is neither poetic nor stirring. That may be good for viewers trying to learn the language. Others, who are simply looking for entertainment, will surely have switched channels.

In an obvious attempt to attract the younger audience, some TV stations are churning out variety shows in which the hosts, all dressed up to look like punks, try their best to embarrass each other and their guests in such rude and crude ways that would make even the meanest juvenile delinquents blush. I read somewhere that the idea for such trashy shows came originally from Hong Kong. What can I say?

Winning back the younger audience is important to TV stations because that's the consumer segment public advertisers are keen to reach. It's therefore refreshing to see that a Shanghai TV station, Channel Young, has achieved some success in attracting young viewers in this cosmopolitan city by being hip with tolerable kitsch.

The new station's most successful program is about dinning out in Shanghai, shown every evening between seven and eight. It isn't just about food. Taking us to many different restaurants, the presenters, all of them young, good looking and fashionably dressed without being chintzy, are effectively giving us a guided tour of the city to areas that we probably never would have thought of going.

One evening last week, the show focused on affordable restaurants in various residential neighborhoods. Before watching that show, I didn't know that such appetizing food could be had in Shanghai for less than 15 yuan. One of the restaurants featured in that show serves a set meal of a generous bowl of noodle soup and a basket of 6 meat dumplings for a grand total of 14 yuan. The cup of tea is free.

I went there on Saturday. The food was good, the people, friendly and the place was surprisingly clean. From that pleasant experience, I've gained a new perspective on the standard of living in Shanghai. Contrary to popular belief, you don't really have to be particularly wealthy to live well even in this most expensive city on the mainland.

Channel Young also produces a sort of current affairs program called X File to keep viewers abreast of the local trends in fashion, entertainment and the arts. Every night, it features a list of the top five best selling books in Shanghai. The list is very useful in informing those of us in the media what topics the young local people care enough about to read.

Needless to say, Channel Young has now become my most favorite channel. I even find the channel's promotional footage quite interesting. The 10-second strip shows expertly-shot scenes of daily life in Shanghai from dawn to dusk against a background of percussion music devoid of any irritating voice-over.

The young reporters in my office in Shanghai also said that they like to watch Channel Young, which, they agreed, is more in line with their taste. Instead of sounding like some tiresome evangelists denouncing the vulgarities in those vulgar variety shows, the authorities may want to spend more effort and invest greater resources in producing alternative programs of more uplifting themes to woo the young audience.