It started with the UK’s semi-successful Pop Stars, which mutated into the very successful Pop Idol, which duly crossed the Atlantic and transfixed the United States as American Idol, and now it would appear that Asia, or more importantly, China, is getting in on the act of making a television sensation out of finding a pop star. Taiwanese entertainment network ETTV is running its second series of Top Idol this summer, in which contestants battle it out for their share of a $50,000 prize fund and the opportunity to sign a contract with ETTV. Last year’s inaugural competition saw wannabes from across Asia, and indeed the US, strutting their stuff, but despite the hype, the audience at the finals in New York numbered little over 100.
Perhaps more successful, certainly as far as the massed ranks of China’s television viewers are concerned, is Wo Xing Wo Show (莱卡我型我Show), a Pop Idol-style programme in which contestants are judged not only according to their singing prowess, but also general charisma. Teams of editors whittle down and re-order the audition footage so as to package the hopefuls as particular “characters”, thereby giving the judges and TV audience a juicier, if less representative, basis on which to vote contenders in or out. Viewing figures last year hit a record 430 million, and 50,000 hopefuls turned up for auditions this year, of which only 40 make the cut. However, Shanghaiist must confess that when six female Shanghainese friends were canvassed regarding their interest in the programme, some had never heard of it, and only one had ever watched it. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the explanation given by one, that “these types of programmes are generally preferred by people from Hubei and Sichuan.” As opposed to the more sophisticated Shanghai audience, one might assume.
Given that the Pop Idol format has now been successfully franchised in over 21 countries worldwide, it is unsurprising that the Wo Xing Wo Show production company has felt the need to deviate from the traditional plain-vanilla format of the programme. Simon Fuller, the brains behind the reality pop concept, makes millions each time the show is sold, and has already sued partner-in-crime Simon Cowell, infamous for his high-topped trousers and withering dialogue, for coming too close to copying the format of the show with Simco’s The X-Factor. Things could get interesting if he felt he was missing out on his cut of China’s vast television viewing population to an imitator.
Speaking of which, hot on the heels of the pop reality show comes Dragon TV’s Wise Man Takes All, a take on Donald Trump’s televised search for a worthy assistant, The Apprentice. Contestants between the ages of 20 and 40 submit a business plan which is then judged by a panel of professors, venture capitalists and management consultants, with the winner receiving RMB 1 million ($120,000) to put the plan into action. Vincent Lo, chairman of Hong Kong’s Shui On Land group, the programme’s sponsor, has often been labelled the Donald Trump of Shanghai, with several landmark buildings in the city to his name, including the ever-popular Desperate Housewife-esque bouffant hairdos, he may just fall below The Apprentice’s imitator radar with this one.
Wo Xing Wo Show airs Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday’s at 8 am on Dragon TV (东方卫视).
Official Wo Xing Wo Show site
Wo Xing Wo Show page at Dragon TV
Blog for ETTV’s Chinese Top Idol show (It’s on Blogspot, thus blocked in China)
Live Journal of someone who works for the Wo Xing Wo Show
Super Voice Girl sings for sour yogurt (Danwei)
Photo taken from the Wo Xing Wo Show site.