Are you ready to watch the nation go star crazy? Because, after two seasons out of the limelight, a new version of the hit China idol show “Super Girls” is coming! This time around, Hunan Satellite Television is calling its karaoke contest “Happy Girls” (快乐女声).
The original Super Girls (or Super Voice Girls 超級女聲) was an annual national singing contest in the vein of the U.S.’s American Idol. Contestants from all over the country went through preliminary selection rounds held in five provinces – Hunan, Sichuan, Guangdong, Henan and Zhejiang. The remaining singers would engage in a weekly knockout competition, in which the weakest two (as decided by the judges and by SMS votes) would face off.
The show was immensely popular. More than 280 million viewers tuned into the 2005 season’s finale, displacing the CCTV’s annual New Years gala as most watched program of the year. But with great ratings came greater scrutiny and certain government organizations began to worry that the show was “poisoning youth.” The most outspoken of Super Girls’ critics was Liu Zhongde, director of the Science, Education, Culture, Health, and Sport Commission of the CPPC, who told China Times (as translated by Danwei):
Cultural products are special commodities. The majority of cultural products possess a commercial side, they are well suited to enter the market and are subject to the influence of the market’s rules that regulate production of artworks.
But cultural products have another side, distinct from material goods. So the market cannot completely decide the success and failure of cultural products. Some organizations have a system where the lowest are cut, which sounds like a good idea, but upon careful consideration it doesn’t stand up to examination.
Cultural products cannot rely entirely on the market’s choices and selections. What the market chooses are not necessarily good things. Super Girls is certainly the choice of the market, but we can’t have working people reveling all day in low culture…
…Behind the Super Girls entertainment lies poison for the youth. Take a look at the youth who are following the Super Girls now. See what state of mind they are in, what direction they are headed. Take a look at how the audiences are watching this program, and you’ll find that amid unthinking laughter people have been corrupted. The cultural departments have a responsibility to prevent this corruption; they must strengthen their administration of this sort of program.
And so the 2008 season was canceled. Well… not quite canceled. The government ordered that while tv stations could continue hosting singing shows, they had to remain regional competitions. These regional competitions were, obviously, never quite able to match the ratings or buzz of their national predecessor.
In order to air a national version again, Hunan TV had to agree to certain SARFT conditions. The new Happy Girls season can only last for two months and each episode must air later in the day, at 10:30pm. Judges must hold themselves with some decorum (no Simon Powell-like snickers here).
Also, text-based and online voting systems – possibly one of the biggest draws of the last shows – are no longer allowed. But Hunan TV seems to have found an interesting work around: to still give its audience a way to participate, the station said that fans will be able to support the show by downloading MP3s of their favorite artists’ performances that week.
Sweet! We’re looking forward to seeing who’ll be the next Li Yuchun (李宇春).
Also on the web:
China’s version of ‘American Idol’ gets green light
Want to be the next Super Girl?
Previously on Shanghaiist:
Final week for TV sensation Super Voice Girls