Hit Chinese variety shows in 2017

Editor:Sharon Lee
Updated:2017-12-29 09:48:46

  2017 has seen great diversity in Chinese variety shows both on TV and on video sites.

Cultural programs including Readers and National Treasure reignited people's passion for traditional culture; Birth of Performers became a dark horse success, sparking heated discussions of acting skills; The Rap of China ushered in an unprecedented wave of interest in hip-hop among Chinese youth; and programs calling for slower-paced lifestyles won hearts.

  Here we've rounded up some of the most popular shows from 2017. Which entertained you most?

  Cultural TV programs make a comeback

  Cultural TV programs have made a comeback this year. TV shows such as Readers and National Treasure rekindled people's interest in traditional culture and enhanced their knowledge.

China Central Television's Readers, for example, sparked fresh enthusiasm for Chinese literature. The weekly show, aired from February to May, invited people from all walks of life - mostly celebrities - to read aloud excerpts of classical poems, essays and books they like or wrote.

Voice-recording booths were also set up across the country for recording and broadcast use. The booths attracted throngs of ordinary people who hoped to make appearances on the country's largest state TV network.

  Life slows down

This year also marked the success of programs that seek slower-paced lifestyles such as Back to Field, The Chinese Restaurant, and Dear, Inn.

The Chinese Restaurant, for example, stars famous actresses Zhao Wei, Zhou Dongyu, actor Huang Xiaoming, model and actor Zhang Liang, and TV hostess Jin Mengjia. They run a Chinese restaurant on the Thai island of Koh Chang to bring Chinese delicacies to foreign people and to help Chinese travelers experience hometown tastes. The ultimate goal of the show is to help spread China's culinary culture to people overseas. 

In addition to well-known Chinese dishes, the beautiful seashore, the sound of waves and lives on the exotic island also brought refreshing experiences to audiences.

  Moving to the beat

The Rap of China, China's first reality TV show on hip-hop, prompted an unprecedented wave of interest in the US-born music genre when its first season was broadcast on video and entertainment site iQiyi in June.

The stylish rappers, together with four celebrity judges - Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu, Taiwan musicians Wilber Pan, Chang Chen-yue and MC Hotdog (the stage name of Yao Chung-jen) - fueled the rising popularity of a largely underground culture among Chinese youth.

The program has also witnessed the birth of 2017's most trendy internet slang, such as "Can you freestyle?" and "diss".

  A still from  Where are we going, Dad? [Photo/Hunan Satellite TV] 

  Family bond

  Where are we going, Dad? entered its fifth season in 2017, featuring celebrity dads on camping trips with their children. 

Four years after its first season was produced and aired on Hunan Satellite TV, its popularity has stayed steady. On Douban, a major reviewing website in China, Season 5 gets an 8.3 out of 10.

In each episode, fathers and children are taken to remote villages to experience rural lives. Through teamwork in the field, their family bonds, personalities and parenting styles are captured on camera.

  Acting skills have a say

As the first of its kind in China, Zhejiang Satellite TV's Birth of Performers became a smash show in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The acting competition show stars celebrities Zhang Ziyi, Liu Ye and Song Dandan as judges and coaches, examining the acting skills of participating performers.

After short plays lasting about 15 minutes, performers are scored and voted by the coaches and audience members to decide whether they will be eliminated or advance to the next round.

As of the end of December, the show's Chinese hashtag #BirthofPerformers has been viewed more than 4 billion times on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, triggering over 13 million online discussions.

The reputation of the show plummeted, however, as actress Yuan Li disclosed a behind-the-scenes story. Yuan was eliminated in the first round, but she later revealed on her Weibo account she was promised a "free ride" through the round before filming - she was approached by working staff from the organizer, an acquaintance of her's.

  Hilarious talk shows

  Hilarious yet thought-provoking talk shows are getting clicks online in recent years, with sharp words and dark humor.

Video site iQiyi's yearly show U Can U BiBi is a typical example. Each episode features people with outstanding eloquence debating catchy topics such as, "Are wedding ceremonies necessary?" "Will you forgive your lover if he or she ran away without you in life-threatening cases?" and "Should people leave cities lingering with smog?"

  Commenters say such shows match the tastes of China's younger generation - those born after the 1990s or even 2000s - a group that are more straightforward and pursue individuality and freedom.

  Go Fighting!

Go Fighting is an inspirational reality show produced by Shanghai's Oriental Satellite TV, with a starry cast including actors Huang Lei, Huang Bo, Sun Honglei and Sun Yixing.

A big selling point of the show is interactions and cooperation between celebrities and ordinary people. In order to finish challenges and tasks in each episode, celebs need to rush through the city's hustle and bustle, and sometimes ask for favors from passersby.

  In the first episode of Season 3, the stars were asked to find people that "awaken the city" and take them to a reception dinner to honor their contributions to city development. It's part of an effort to raise public awareness for urban early birds, such as restaurant workers, milkmen and sanitation workers.

  Keep Running

Zhejiang Satellite TV's reality series Running Man invites celebrities to compete in obstacle races and vie to rip off each other's name tags. It's based on a hit SBS show with the same title.

The program changed its name to Keep Running in Season 5 in 2017. However, with a star-studded lineup including actors Deng Chao, Li Chen, Chen He and actresses Yang Ying and Dilraba Dilmurat, the show's reputation didn't meet expectations this year. Season 5 is scored 5.8 out of 10 on reviewing site Douban, a sharp decline from 2014's Season 1, which got a 7.5.