TV shows the way

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - YOUTH - By WANG KAIHAO

First broad­cast on China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion in 1990, Zhengda Va­ri­ety Show was a mix of video clips, in­ter­views and quizzes. It also fea­tured a travel show that was screened in the stu­dio with dis­cus­sions after­ward.

This was prob­a­bly the coun­try’s first TV show about trav­el­ing abroad.

“For our gen­er­a­tion, born in the 1980s, this va­ri­ety show was prob­a­bly the first win­dow lead­ing to the out­side world,” says Zhou Kui, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Univer­sity of China. “Peo­ple con­sid­ered the an­chors of the travel show to have the best jobs in the world.”

Ac­cord­ing to Zhou, the air­ing of the show sig­naled that China was view­ing the out­side world after being viewed with cu­rios­ity by the rest of the world for a long time.

“How­ever, it was more like a tour guide for sight­seers,” Zhou says.

In 2000, Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV de­vel­oped a new type of travel pro­gram with Mil­len­nium Trail, which fea­tured Chi­nese scholar Yu Qi­uyu as a guide to the cra­dles of the world’s an­cient civ­i­liza­tions and re­li­gions.

Then in 2003, Pole to Pole Ex­pe­di­tion, co­pro­duced by China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion and Phoenix TV, be­came an­other pop­u­lar travel show.

The pro­gram fol­lowed the crew’s ex­pe­di­tion from the South Pole to the North Pole, pre­sent­ing the natural won­ders and his­tor­i­cal her­itage of the Amer­i­cas.

“These shows had great sig­nif­i­cance and were very pop­u­lar. But they were made from the view­point of the elite. To­day’s au­di­ences want a more downto-earth ap­proach,” says Zhou.

He con­sid­ers the online travel show On the Road, which fol­lows a cou­ple’s ad­ven­tur­ous jour­neys, to be a re­sponse to the au­di­ence’s de­mand for some­thing less high­brow and more en­ter­tain­ing.

Leng Song, a me­dia re­searcher at the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences, says: “Or­di­nary peo­ple can be­come celebri­ties through online shows.”

The rise in online broad­cast plat­forms has helped to cre­ate new for­mats for travel pro­grams, Leng adds.

With the boom in Chi­nese re­al­ity shows in re­cent years, one of the lat­est fads is for celebri­ties to act as tour guides, while also play­ing games.

“These shows rely heav­ily on post­pro­duc­tion, which is usu­ally far from re­al­ity,” says Leng.

As in-depth ex­plo­ration be­yond sight­see­ing is be­com­ing more pop­u­lar, he also pre­dicts that fu­ture travel pro­grams will of­fer prac­ti­cal ad­vice to wannabe ad­ven­tur­ers, such as how to re­pair a plane.

Chen Chaoy­ing, a re­searcher at the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion, says: “What we first saw after the re­form and open­ing-up was the ad­ven­tures of Western­ers. But now Chi­nese ex­pe­di­tions re­flect our cultural con­fi­dence.”

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