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About a BOY

Editor:Sharon Lee
Updated:2007/6/12 16:40:59

Stand aside girls. Your time on TV is gone. This year the boys take center stage. After two years of top-rating, female-focused talent shows, television producers are saying: Let's hear it for the boys. In 2005, Central China's Hunan TV launched Super Girl, an imitation of American Idol, creating a rating miracle of 400 million viewers in its first season. This year producers hope their new incarnation, Super Boy, will do the same.

At the same time, Shanghai-based Dragon TV, a strong rival of Hunan TV, has launched its second season of My Hero, another show about boys. East China's Zhejiang Province is also muscling in on the act. In keeping with the 2008 Olympic fever, True Boy was launched by the local TV station and features sports competitions. Jackie Chan is also running The Disciple, a reality TV show aimed at discovering the next big martial arts movie stars.

Huang Rui, reporter and online entertainment host with Sohu.com, has regularly covered Super Boy and thinks boys' shows are flourishing because men are naturally more competitive and this makes better television.

"They are stronger and more aggressive," he says.

"If they keep tough when they lose, people think they are real men; when they shed tears, people see the sentimental side of their manhood and this is also attractive."

Jin Lei, general director of My Hero 2007, told China Daily the boy-show set up replaced the girl format because audiences were ready for something fresh.

He said the move was understandable after two years of girl-show overload.

"People are looking forward to something really manly," he says.

This year's batch of boy shows is attaching a lot of importance to masculinity.

This is an obvious reaction to last year's season of My Hero, which attracted criticism because the contestants were considered too "girlish". The wannabe stars sported teased hair, wore colorful clothes and confessed their deep feelings to the delight of teenage girls.

This year there is less mush and more macho.

In My Hero and Super Boy, some contestants wear heavy black boots and army-style pants. They high-five each other, banging together their clenched fists in the air to show support.

In both shows, contestants are divided into two teams. All the members have to not only fight for themselves, but work together.

True Boy's focus is sport and the show's high-profile faces include Tian Liang, former world diving champion and Huang Jianxiang, famed soccer commentator.

Jin, from Dragon TV, says the demonstration of man-power in My Hero sets the platform for the show's moral direction. "We want to promote men's virtues, such as courage, aspiration, sense of responsibility, confidence and integrity," he explains.

"American Idol is only a singing competition, so are most other Chinese boys' shows. But we are confident in making the show more than just a show."

The show's producers are pushing the boundaries of Chinese reality television and have staged some challenging tasks. The contestants were flown to Pu'er County in Southwest China's Yunnan Province on June 6 three days after an earthquake devastated the town. They met students who sat the national college entrance exam in makeshift classrooms, despite the fear of possible aftershocks.

Jin believed the visit would inspire the boys' empathy for those who still held on to pursue their dreams despite their tribulations.

The "Super Boys" helped fix the tents, and gave gifts to a baby born the very day the earthquake occurred.

Last year's "Heroes" also re-trekked part of the Long March routes, raised donations for those suffered from typhoon in Zhejiang, and performed for seniors at a community nursing home.

Long Danni, general director of Super Boy, said the show not only encouraged good singing but also pushed charisma and good virtues.

"The sense of honor and responsibility, team spirit and courage are all what they present to the audience by the team competition," she says.

This year, another highlight has become the judges.

In American Idol, Simon Cowell is loved and hated because of his satire and cruel comments. But in China, viewers have to stand not only the judges' "poison tongue," but also the flirting between some of them and the contestants.

One of the Super Boy judges is Yang Er Che Na Mu, a celebrity from the Mosuo tribe in Southwest China. She is known for her Western lovers including a Norwegian diplomat and a National Geographic magazine photographer.

After the success of Super Girl which created a rating miracle of 400 million viewers in its first season, producers hope their new creations of My Hero (pictured top) and Super Boy (pictured above) will do the same.       File photos

She wears long black hair, which always covers two sides of her face and is highlighted by a big crimson flower. What impresses audiences most is her bold comments and romantic rhapsodies for contenders.

"I want to plant you in my garden.

"I want to find a horse and ride with you, of course, only us two.

"Your voice is like a ripe peach. You are like a blossoming flower. I really love you."

Thanks to these spicy words, Yang Er is making headlines. But not all people love to see that.

"She makes me sick," says Yang Ping, a young newspaper editor. "She is here to give a professional evaluation on the contestants' singing, not to choose her boyfriend."

But college junior Huang Yuan disagrees. "I see the show just for 'red flower Yang'. What fun would it be if she were not in?" he says. "Chinese people are too introverted, and it's fresh to see such a straightforward person on TV."

In her blog, Yang Er blasted the flak. "Those who criticize me lack imagination and ability to appreciate beauty," she writes.

Long, the show's general director, says judges are supposed to have their own original ideas.

Ji Jie, contestant for Super Boy, sings during a talent show.

"We fully respect and understand their opinion," she says. "We choose judges who not only know the entertainment industry well, but also who are endowed with fresh and original ideas.

"Only by various judges can we find various talents. Different opinion will definitely raise clash. Something must be wrong if there is no controversy."

Sandra Ng, famed Hong Kong comedian and another of the show's judges, is also attracting attention.

"Who is prettier, me or your mother?" and "how about introducing my daughter to you?"

Although the boys maybe taking center stage, it still seems to be the girls, yet again, who have the final word.


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