Now that the season has ended for that summer sensation, Super Voice Girls, it seems like every provincial station has a talent show of some kind. While they all follow the same basic formula, Star TV‘s Meiren Guan (美人关 or Beauty Checkpoint) is a little different. Ten ordinary young men compete for the affections of the studio audience, made up of 200 girls. When it began airing in 2002, it was the first program in China where the winner was chosen by popular vote — although unlike Super Voice Girls, only members of the studio audience can cast ballots.
The men are eliminated in a series of contests, beginning with the introductions.
Introduction Round: The contestants come out one by one and dance (or fake seizures) on the runway before lining up in front of a small wading pool. The audience votes and several models pace back and forth, teasing the men, then push three of them into the water.
Talent Round: The remaining seven contestants each demonstrate a “special talent,” which usually involves the singing of an overplayed Chinese pop song off key and showing off a few more uncoordinated dance moves. Again, the audience votes and three contestants are pushed into the pool.
Dream Girl Round: This and the following portion have generated the most criticism from conservative viewers. Each contestant is asked to describe the girl of his dreams (long hair, pale skin and big eyes), while the cameramen search the audience for someone who may or may not be anything like what was described. The contestant, without knowing which girl was selected, attempts to sweet-talk her with a few poetic phrases. He’s then allowed to turn around and see her face on the monitor, and she’s invited to the stage. The host reads a set of instructions for a romantic embrace, such as “the girl should rest her head on the man’s shoulder while he places his arm around her waist.” After much giggling and blushing the couple act out the instructions while the man recites his wooing speech. The audience votes again, and this time one contestant is pushed into the pool.
Beefcake Round: Finally, the three remaining contestants strip down to a pair of swimming trunks and run around doing push-ups, climbing ropes or lifting weights. The audience votes for their favorite, and the winner walks away with RMB 10,000 and possibly a few phone numbers.
The contestants are homely at best and the talent section is excruciating, but their enthusiasm is contagious and like the proverbial train wreck, it’s hard to look away. Anyway, it’s better than watching another CCTV craptacular.
Meiren Guan airs Tuesdays at 7 pm on Shanghai TV’s Lifestyle and Fashion channel (上海电视台生活时尚频道, aka Channel Young).
Image from Star TV.