Xi Jinping’s crackdown on widespread government corruption is set to play out inside living rooms across China with a new 42-episode drama titled “In the Name of the People.” Rather than a story about false conviction in Ireland, this will be the first Chinese series to feature the take down of a corrupt top government official [SPOILER ALERT!].
Directed by Fan Ziwen and starring TV darling Lu Yi, the series will follow government investigator Huo Liangping’s relocation to the fictional Bianxi province to learn more about the murder of a head honcho. As Huo probes deeper into the killing, his wife, an undercover agent, also begins to scrutinize the shady actions of the local party secretary. The series ends with the crooked party secretary being put on trial on charges of bribery and misconduct (Is any of this sounding familiar to anyone?).
Fan and select cast members were granted exclusive access to Pukou Prison in Jiangsu province to help them better understand and replicate the realities of prison life for criminals serving sentences for corruption and bribery — so this series promises to be high on the realism.
The Guardian has cast the series as “House of Cards” with Chinese characteristics (a “House of Cadres,” if they will); however there would seem to be a few differences between this series and the one featuring the lovably underhanded actions of Frank Underwood. In an interview with Beijing Youth Daily, Fan warns: “The official character is never actually seen by the audience, but rather heard over the phone.”
So, more like a cross between “Veep” and “House of Cards” then?
While Frank Underwood is a friend of Jack Ma, and the Netflix show has enjoyed massive popularity in China, we have a feeling that this series, funded by China’s top law enforcement agency, will trend more toward Party-line propaganda. Besides even Xi Dada himself has said his anti-corruption crackdown “is no House of Cards” — though it’s not like they don’t have a wealth of source material to work with.
Upon entering office, one of the central pillars of President Xi’s administration has been his ongoing fight against rampant institutionalized corruption across the country. Still, despite a massive austerity campaign that has snared hundreds of “tigers” and thousands more “flies,” China only ranked as the 83rd “cleanest” country out of 167 in Transparency International’s annual “Corruption Perceptions Index” this year.
However, the crackdown still maintains widespread support with the common people, and this series should enjoy a large audience, especially if censors keep taking out the competition. This year, SAPPRFT has already banned television shows featuring smoking, drinking, adultery, sexual freedom, homosexuality, perversion, reincarnation, and, most importantly, the children of celebrities, to make way for reality shows that are “more real.”
Filming wraps up in June and “In the Name of the People” is set to air later this year.
By Tracy Wong