Chinese TV

Since I’ve been sick, I’ve had a lot more time to spend at home watching TV. Usually I don’t watch much, but since I’m loathe to get out of bed, I only have a few movies, and books tend to put me prematurely to sleep, I’ve been watching the Chinese tube a lot.

What makes Chinese TV so interesting is it’s sheer terribleness. Because the channels are staterun, there doesn’t seem to be a big push for quality programming or variety. Almost every single Chinese soap opera is set in the imperial times, which I suppose comes from some kind of nostalgia and possibly avoidance of the present state of affairs. The more popular shows on TV are Korean soaps, which are badly dubbed. There is one channel that seems to have movies on sometimes, and one channel for cartoons. There’s an English channel, but it doesn’t come in too well. I’ve seen about two cooking shows, which sometimes make the most awful looking food — I just watched a segment in which easy cheese was an ingredient.

Sometimes they take a show from an English speaking country, and insert little English lessons into it. The weirdest one I saw was a completely ridiculous conspiracy theory show about how aliens taught the Egyptians and South Americans how to build pyramids. The show only interviewed crackpots and the narrator asked many questions like “How did the Egyptians carry those heavy rocks? Why did people separated from across the world build the same structures?” and so on, positing that no theories existed besides the alien one. But every few minutes, the show would pause and a little screen would pop up with some grammar or vocabulary lesson taken from the completely insane show.

For now, my favorite show is Journey to the West, but only for sentimental reasons. The show itself is pretty awful, right down to the pathetically poor special effects that rely on 1950s-quality superimposing of characters that need to fly. There’s a lot of flying and magic in the show, so it’s pretty bad. In two separate episodes, demons are turned into lions, which means the same clip of a lion walking was awkwardly pasted into the film and then made to move up the screen as if the walking lion was flying. I kid you not. I’m fairly sure they do a lot of physical cutting and pasting of film to make characters do magical things.

In addition to the quality of shows being low, the quality of programming is incredibly shoddy. Most shows don’t seem to be filmed without a commercial break in mind, so about every half hour at some random point, the show will stop for a few minutes for commercials.

Even more annoyingly, sometimes shows just end midway through and never resume.

Right now 22 of my 44 channels have the same exact broadcast of the National People’s Congress meeting on legislation. I guess their strategy is to force people to watch by way of eliminating other options. Sadly, this means the show I was watching about some crazy man who had a pet snapping turtle was cut short before I could find out the turtle’s fate. Bummer, I was hoping something dramatic would happen with a killer turtle!

From this post, it really sounds like I watch a lot of TV, but actually I’ve just been channel surfing a lot, and thus have gotten a broad taste of what there is to offer. Honest!