Since the early 1990s, Chinese TV programs have soared in quantity and diversified into a series of seemingly set categories. In recent years, there is an annual output of more than 10,000 episodes. Certain TV program categories have prospered more than others in the Chinese TV industry.
Some have become so popular and so frequently adopted by TV producers that they have become the crassest of stereotypes, the most typical of China TV. These TV program categories include ones set in ancient China (古装剧 gǔzhuāng jù), war dramas (战争剧 zhànzhēng jù), and those of a rather more modern setting. Here is the TWOC breakdown of Chinese TV genres:
Guzhuang Ju 【古装剧】
Lishi Ju 【历史剧】
These TV programs are based on or adapted from historical stories or biographies. They can be further categorized according to the different time periods and dynasties of Chinese history. The most popular theme for screenwriters and TV producers is probably the Qing dynasty. Of course, the most favored stories are those about the emperor and his concubines, alongside the conspiracies and struggles within the imperial palace, known as Gongting ju (宫廷剧). Such examples include the famous Zhen Huan Zhuan (甄嬛传) or Empresses in the Palace, which has been broadcast not only on the Chinese mainland, but also in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and Canada. In recent years, there has emerged new works by a younger generation of screenwriters, which are set in a historical background, but are totally fictional stories. Some of these TV serials even contain plots where the main character travels through time; the cultural clashes causing amusement to many.
Shenhua Ju 【神话剧】
These are based on mythological stories and legends in China. The most frequently adopted story is perhaps Journey to the West, about the Monkey King. The one with most remakes are Liao zhai (聊斋), mythological stories about fox-fairies, ghosts and other supernatural creatures.
Wuxia Ju 【武侠剧】
Based on Wuxia fictions, these are about heroes and heroines, expert in Kung Fu and other special skills. They are often made up of different cliques–with some enemies and others allies. The heroes and heroines are upright and chivalrous and there are, of course, bad guys who try to destroy the original order in the Wulin (武林), i.e. the world these legendary figures inhabit. The most screened Wuxia fictions are those of Louis Cha, Xiong Yaohua, and Liang Yusheng.
Zhanzheng Ju 【战争剧】
Kangzhan Pian 【抗战片】
These are programs involving conflict with Japanese soldiers (who else?) and are very, very common. According to statistics published, 48 out of the 150 TV programs produced in Hengdian World Studios in 2012 were Kangzhan Pian. In recent years, there has appeared some Lei ju (雷剧)—these are particularly ridiculous TV programs, usually fictional and not based on historical facts. They include plots which are deemed impossible and hilariously shocking to the audience, like enemies being torn apart with bare hands, airplanes being taken out by men on the ground with grenades, and dozens of other improbable stunts, as well as inappropriate props and costumes such as Harley motorcycles and other anachronistic items. Accordingly, in all their wisdom, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) are now taking firm measures to control this situation, forbidding the broadcast of Lei ju.
Diezhan Pian 【谍战片】
These TV programs also have a war time setting, but are about spies and underground intelligence agents during the Anti-Japanese War and the Chinese civil war. These programs, such as Qianfu (潜伏) became very popular and TV producers swarmed into the field, hoping to get a portion of the Diezhan Pian pie. In 2008 alone about 30 Diezhan pian were produced, and this figure doubled in 2009. In recent years, however, such TV programs have proved boring to audiences. And other than the odd handsome or charming special agents, the programs do not live up to audience expectation.
In addition to the war themes, there are also programs about cops solving crimes, that is, Jing fei pian (警匪片). The most well-known cops and crime TV serial in China is Zhongan liuzu (重案六组), which has seen four seasons so far.
Jiating Lunli Ju 【家庭伦理剧】
These are about trifles and conflicts in family life, such as the inevitable conflict between a young wife and her demanding mother-in-law. More often than not, several families are involved. Most of the audience are women and elderly people. To many young people, particularly men, such programs are intolerably naif dross.
Qingchun Ouxiang Ju 【青春偶像剧】
These involve celebrity idols as their eye-catching selling point, and girls make up the main audience. On the Chinese mainland there are not so many such TV serials, but Taiwan produces an abundance that are all very popular in China. There is another similar category, Dushi yanqing ju (都市言情剧) which are urban romance serials. These are similar to Qingchun Ouxiang Ju but with grittier more realistic urban settings.
Nongcun Ju 【农村剧】
This is an immensely popular category. Unlike Dushi yanqing ju, they are set in the countryside, and talk about the life of the villagers, and there are humorous elements and acts, such as the use of dialect. The most popular is the Xiangcun Aiqing serial (乡村爱情), country love stories, directed by the famous comedian Zhao Benshan. It has seen its seventh season this year. As the Korean TV serial My Love from the Star mesmerized Chinese girls, the Chinese TV industry still have the Xiangcun Aiqing season 7 which beat the former on internet audience rate.
So there you have it, enough Chinese TV to bore you for years…
Image from douban.com