Re­al­ity show tries to make it real for stars

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - ByWANG KAIHAO

Fol­low­ing film stars as they play games and be­gin ad­ven­tures in tourism hot spots over­seas is noth­ing new for Chi­nese TV au­di­ences. But how about let­ting them drop their haloes to ex­pe­ri­ence the pres­sures of life as or­di­nary folks?

When Huang Bo, the ac­tor whose films earned nearly 5 bil­lion yuan ($810 mil­lion) last year in China, sud­denly finds him­self on a crowded sub­way train to de­liver fast food — or work­ing as a street ven­dor selling shash­lik — he brings some­thing re­fresh­ing not only to TV view­ers but also to him­self.

“Though I mostly play or­di­nary peo­ple in films, frankly speak­ing, I am not very clear what their lives are like now,” the 41-year-old ac­tor says.

“An ac­tor can­not only rely on imag­i­na­tion, and I have rea­sons to look back.”

SinceGo Fight­ing, a re­al­ity show with­out ex­pen­sive gear and flam­boy­ant out­door scenes, pre­miered in June on Shang­hai-based Dragon TV, peo­ple have found “other sides” of Huang: He is a tal­ented singer, a skill­ful swim­mer and a good fish­er­man.

The show in­vites six A-list Chi­nese ac­tors of dif­fer­ent age groups to com­plete mis­sions in a loosely de­signed sto­ry­line.

Episodes Sun­days.

“We al­low the par­tic­i­pants to use their ex­pe­ri­ences to freely ex­ert them­selves,” says di­rec­tor Yan Min. “They will not feel any celebrity priv­i­lege.”

In a re­cent episode, when the ac­tors nav­i­gate a leak­ing rub­ber dinghy while strug­gling to stay afloat at sea, the per­ils they face


re­leased on ap­pear more con­vinc­ing than dan­gers their char­ac­ters face in films.

How­ever, each thrilling film­like story is ac­tu­ally based on com­pli­cated post­pro­duc­tion work. Only 1 out of ev­ery 400 el­e­ments shot is used in the fi­nal re­lease, to cre­ate a tense at­mos­phere.

“Through them, we want to re­flect the pres­sure peo­ple face and dif­fer­ent ways of han­dling it,” Yan ex­plains.

“Like in real life, each choice is closely con­nected to the next. It cre­ates the at­mos­phere of a thriller film,” adds Ren Jing, a pro­ducer of the show.

“Stars show their ugly sides in some pro­grams to briefly win laughs. But brain­storms will be more in­trigu­ing in the longer term. Re­al­ity shows can be some­thing more than fast food.”

Au­di­ence ap­pre­ci­a­tion seems to have paid the bills for this experiment. On, the coun­try’s film and TV critic web­site, Go Fight­ing got 8.6 points of 10, which is among the site’s high­est rat­ings for do­mes­tic TV re­al­ity shows broad­cast this year.

“Though Go Fight­ing is still a celebrity re­al­ity show, which is main­stream genre in China, it in­cor­po­rates more so­cial sig­nif­i­cance,” says Zhang Yiwu, a cul­tural com­men­ta­tor and Chi­ne­se­lan­guage pro­fes­sor at Pek­ing Univer­sity.

Yin Hong, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sor at Ts­inghua Univer­sity, says do­mes­tic out­door re­al­ity shows need a break­through like this.

“When mov­ing a pro­gram from an en­closed space to city streets via com­pli­cated pro­duc­tion skills, it prob­a­bly pushes this type of show to its ex­tremes.”

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