Social media users are mourning former CCTV host Li Yong, who died of cancer on October 25, aged 50. Since joining the state-owned broadcaster in 1991, Li had hosted several popular variety shows, the talk show Yong Le Hui, and 10 years of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, cementing his position as one of the most popular male TV stars in the country.
To say farewell, netizens posted pictures of themselves making Li’s (center) iconic “6 plus 1” hand gesture
For many post-80s and post-90s viewers, Li’s death is the end of an era: “There was not much entertainment in my childhood. I mostly watched CCTV at my grandparents’ house,” reminisced one Weibo user. With few other options CCTV hosts, naturally, were also the major celebrities of their era. Sadly, not all have aged or thrived as well as the late Li Yong. Here, TWOC looks back at some popular hosts of yesteryear whose careers have taken a surprising turn.
Zhu Jun: involved in sex scandal
If one counts the number of times an emcee has hosted the Spring Festival Gala as the standard, Zhu Jun might be considered the top dog in the industry, having hosted the gala 21 consecutive times since 1997. However, lately, his name has been associated not with the Chinese New Year program, but China’s #MeToo Movement.
In July, a former intern at CCTV alleged that Zhu made unsolicited sexual advances while working on his show Artistic Life. According to the intern, she reported the unwanted incident to police after it occurred, but eventually dropped the case following threats and promises from both authorities and her school. A friend of the accuser shared the story through social media on July 25, but the post got removed only a few hours after publication.
But that didn’t stop the incident from leaking. Zhu denied the accusation via his attorney and sued his alleged victim, her friend, and Weibo. At the first hearing, held on October 25, however, Zhu did not show up to court. There have been no new developments at the time of writing.
Cui Yongyuan: Social crusader
Cui Yongyuan rose to fame hosting Tell It Like It Is from 1996 to 2002, and was known for his natural, unscripted style. After a battle with depression, Cui returned in 2003 to host Talk with Xiao Cui. From 2012, Cui hosted the show Thank the Heavens and the Earth That You Are Here until he left CCTV in 2013.
In September 2013, Cui re-emerged in an online spat with science writer Fang Zhouzi, a supporter of GM food, and things quickly got personal. Cui claimed that Fang operated an illegal trust fund and bought a mansion in California with his ill-gotten gains. In response, Fang sued Cui for slander. Judges ruled that both parties should apologize to each other publicly
In 2015, a satirical Weibo account posted news stating “French fries from both KFC and McDonalds have been found to contain a potentially poisonous chemical called sodium chloride.” Not recognizing the scientific name for table salt, Cui reblogged the post, commenting, “This is not scientific, because medical research has not found even one case of a person getting sick from KFC or McDonalds fries. This is exactly the same as GMO!” Predictably, he was ridiculed for his lack of chemistry knowledge.
Recently, though, Cui has apparently redeemed himself by drawing attention to the practice of yin-yang contracts in the film industry, which led to famous actress Fan Bingbing’s detention and fine for tax evasion. Cui also hinted he has lots more dirt on the rest of the industry.
“Old Bi”: Ate his words
Nicknamed “Lao Bi” or “Grandpa Bi,” Bi Fujian used to be known for hosting CCTV’s singing competition Avenue of Stars. He also hosted the Spring Festival Gala from 2012 to 2015, and was beloved for his sense of humor and improv skills.
But in 2015, an video appeared online of Bi making “inappropriate” remarks, with a song criticizing Chairman Mao at a dinner party. After this incident, CCTV suspended all his programs, and Bi has since disappeared from CCTV’s stage.
Sa Beining: Became a meme
Sa rose to fame as the face of serious legal discussion on TV (Douban)
A graduate of Peking University with a Master’s degree in law, Sa Beining used to host CCTV’s Legal Report. Viewers were familiar with his on-screen image: suit and tie, poker face, inspiring trust with his solemn voice discussing dry legal matters.
In recent years, however, Sa has begun to take part in shows produced by other TV stations and internet platforms, where his image saw a complete 180-degree turn. It turns out, Sa is a funny guy who is quick with one-liners and cheeky banter, earning him the nickname “段子手 (duanzishou, punch-line master).” His face is also surprisingly expressive, and perfect for memes:
“Wow! So magical!”
“What happened just now?”