BEIJING — Despite growing openness internally and a hunger for U.S. culture, there is still something of a great wall blocking U.S. skeins in China.
A strict regulatory environment and the keen eyes of the censor mean that China is focusing more and more on domestic fare to fill its schedules, with reality TV the order of the day.
“American Idol”-style programs such as “Supergirl” (Hunan Satellite TV) and “Dream of China” (CCTV) are popular, though the government thinks such skeins are decadent and has recently transformed “Supergirl” into a men-only show renamed “Happy Boy.”
“My Hero” (Shanghai Dragon TV), is a kind of male beauty contest with lots of singing that selects winners based on charm, looks and moral integrity.
Another classic example of the kind of skein Chinese broadcasters are treating the public to is “Win in China,” a reality show in which aspiring young Chinese entrepreneurs compete against each other to win 10 million RMB (around $1.2 million) in venture capital to help them fulfill their business visions. This skein may actually be sold to the U.S., which is quite a development.
That said, don’t expect too many Chinese buyers at the L.A. Screenings. “Desperate Housewives” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” have been big hits in China, but Korean skeins are the truly sought-after products for Chinese viewers. U.S. producers have to compete with Korean TV dramas like “Jewel in the Palace,” which even President Hu Jintao admits to being addicted to, as well as Tang Dynasty costumed epics such as “Zhen Guan Chang Ge” and shows about the legendary Emperor Qin (“Qin Shi Huang, The First Emperor”).
“Prison Break” nearly made it onto Chinese screens before being deemed too violent. Just as there are restrictions on foreign movies coming into China, foreign content on TV is limited.
For kids, “SpongeBob SquarePants” and Japanese manga cartoons go down a treat, but there are growing efforts to popularize homemade toons among rugrats.