SHOW­STOP­PER

A va­ri­ety pro­gram on Chi­nese TV still wins au­di­ence ap­proval nearly two decades af­ter its de­but, Wang Kaihao re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

He Jiong, one of China’s most fa­mous va­ri­etyshow hosts, is 41. Hap­pyCamp, the pro­gram he anchors on Chang­shabased Hu­nan Tele­vi­sion ev­ery Satur­day evening, just turned 18 years old. It is per­haps the coun­try’s long­est-run­ning such broad­cast.

For Chi­nese who grew up in the 1990s, the then-young host’s good looks and on­stage energy re­main a part of fond child­hood mem­o­ries.

“I have my way to keep youth­ful vi­tal­ity,” He tells China Daily. “I can at­tribute that toHappy Camp.”

Now, at a time­whenChi­ne­seTVis full of va­ri­ety shows and galas, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the mother ship.

And, for He, the jour­ney has been re­mark­able, too.

In 1998, he first ap­peared on China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion as the pre­sen­ter of a chil­dren’s pro­gram. Many TV hosts at the time had stud­ied some form of stage pre­sen­ta­tion in col­lege, he says, but his case was dif­fer­ent — he earned a de­gree in Ara­bic from Bei­jing For­eign Stud­ies Univer­sity.

“I was a bit stiff onTVini­tially, but grad­u­ally be­gan to in­ter­act more with the au­di­ence and also joke with them.

“Nev­er­the­less it’smy duty to keep the pro­gram run­ning at the right pace. And never look like you think you are su­pe­rior to the au­di­ence.”

But you can’t make all au­di­ence mem­bers happy all the time, so you need to be true to your­self and reach out to au­di­ences in a friendly man­ner, the vet­eran host cau­tions.

Happy Camp has sur­vived all these years try­ing to live up to peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions.

“New pro­grams will al­ways nat­u­rally ig­nite peo­ple’s cu­rios­ity, and the long-run­ning Happy Camp faces greater ex­pec­ta­tions. We can­not rely on habit, and we need con­tin­u­ous cre­ativ­ity.”

To ex­pand on his cre­ative ideas, He re­cently di­rected a movie, ti­tled For­ever Young, that earned nearly 400 mil­lion yuan ($64.5 mil­lion) from the box of­fice.

An­hui Tele­vi­sion’s Su­per Win­ner and Bei­jing Tele­vi­sion’s Hap­pi­ness Gen­eral Mo­bi­liza­tion be­came the two other ma­jor va­ri­ety shows that si­mul­ta­ne­ously ap­peared in China along­side Happy Camp. But in the years that fol­lowed, the two shows were taken off air.

Happy Camp not only sur­vived that phase but also stayed pop­u­lar dur­ing the 2000s, when a wave of re­al­ity TV shows hit China.

The av­er­age au­di­ence rat­ing of Happy Camp was 2.53 per­cent in the first half of this year, which is still high among pop­u­lar va­ri­ety shows on Chi­nese tele­vi­sion, ac­cord­ing to CSM Media Re­search, a lead­ing tele­vi­sion-rat­ings anal­y­sis com­pany.

“It’s al­ways bet­ter to take the ini­tia­tive tomake changes,” He says. “If we had waited un­til the au­di­ence rat­ings fell, it would have been too late.”

Luo Xin, the pro­ducer of Happy Camp, says that each episode of the show has been treated as a sin­gle pro­gram since its de­but.

“No mat­ter how late it is af­ter a record­ing is over, we (the team) meet to judge how the episode went and plan the next one,” Luo says.

Not all of the pro­gram’s as­pects are taken from its past, as the team is keen that in or­der to pop­u­lar­ize Happy Camp among Chi­nese youth, there’s a need to “be ahead of the trend”.

Although the show cur­rently fo­cuses on bring­ing on en­ter­tain­ment stars for sit-down talks and fun games, Luo doesn’t rule out out­door ac­tiv­i­ties in re­al­ity-show for­mat.

“We need to walk in our own path like adding more new tem­po­rary sec­tions. If they are pop­u­lar, we can de­velop them into per­ma­nent sec­tions.”

As for the fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese va­ri­ety shows, He says that the shows will fo­cus on emo­tional res­o­nance with au­di­ences rather than ex­pen­sive ap­pear­ances of flam­boy­ant guests.

“How­ever mag­nif­i­cent the scene on a TV show, what re­ally touches au­di­ences are still the per­se­ver­ance, love and other strong emo­tions that pre­vail in the par­tic­i­pants,” He says.

High-bud­get re­al­ity shows will likely fiz­zle soon, but those who care more about or­di­nary peo­ple’s emo­tions will last, he adds.

And, with more and more pop­u­lar Chi­nese va­ri­ety shows, in­clud­ing

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Hap­pyCamp, hosted by He Jiong (right), has grown into one of the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar TV shows since its de­but 18 years ago.

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