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Show of the Week: The King of Kanone

Reality TV on ice, the King of Kanone wants to capitalize on the Winter Olympics craze, but barely skates through

In 2008, China used a grand opening ceremony to mark the peak of its Olympics craze. Perhaps still addicted to that rush, nine years later, Beijing is busy with Olympic Games yet again, but this time, it’s the Winter Olympic Games in 2022. Since Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in July, 2015, the Olympic atmosphere has been pushed in many quarters, though without quite the same panache as the original.

That being said, the Olympic craze can still be seen in many places, starting with TV. Just look at the schedule of CCTV5, the sports channel. There’s a plethora of winter sports on air, including curling, speed skating, figure skating and freestyle skiing, which were not commonly seen on TV in the past. More and more “special programs” for the Winter Olympic Games are being produced, and more brands have begun to invite winter sports athletes to star in TV commercials.

Naturally, reality TV wasn’t far behind.

In January this year, Beijing TV launched a show called “The King of Kanone,” (Kanone referring to an expert skier) which invites eight celebrities, who have little or no experience, to learn and perform figure skating.

These pop stars are assembled in a training camp, take professional training together and give a performance on ice in each episode. The show has a pretty impressive cast: Zhang Yimou, the chief director of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, takes up the role of director and also appears on camera. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, the first Chinese pair who won a gold medal in figure skating at the Olympic Winter Games and the current coaches of Chinese national figure skating team, are responsible for training these rookies.

Actually, the Chinese name of show “跨界冰雪王” literally means “the cross-boundary king of kanone.” The “cross-boundary”, part means making celebrities do something they don’t specialize in. The King of Kanone is already the third show of Beijing TV’s “cross-boundary” series, following the “Cross King (跨界歌王)”, a singing contest held among professional actors and actresses, and “The King of Comedy (跨界喜剧王)”, which had pop stars take part in comedy acting.

The King of Kanone is designed as an experiment to see whether a person without any foundation can become a qualified figure skater after three months of training. The show records every detail about their training and life in the camp. Aiming for an inspirational tone, it tries to tell the audience that they are just common people without any special talent at skating. At first, they looked like this:

They fall down all the time. Of course, they always stand up again to show their courage and strong will. It’s a far cry from the scenes of trashy drama and tears you would expect in Western reality TV.

They do cry though. This is still reality TV after all. And after some monologues in front of the camera, they wipe away the tears and come back to practice and the audience are supposed to applaud their plucky spirit.

They perform in all kinds of outfits. So one supposes that there is at least some creativity involved.

On the face of it,  The King of Kanone contains all the necessary elements for a good show—stars, conflict, a good concept, and the exciting live-your-dream-and-overcome-your-problems storyline. But it seems that the audience isn’t all that interested. Its first episode received a rating of just 0.424, ranking 15th that night. Though the following episodes performed a little bit better, it’s still much lower than expectations. Besides, it didn’t cause wide discussion on the internet, either. Douban gave it a moderate rating of 7.2, but only 182 people provided their ratings for it. And few reviews can be found on social media.

Many people are curious about why Zhang Yimou’s fame and the craze for the Winter Olympic Games didn’t make the show popular, given that the cast and the production are not  bad. Maybe the problem is just like some netizens put it: As a reality show, it’s not funny enough; As a figure skating performance, it’s not excellent.


Cover image from Weibo



author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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