TV tastes terrible, my old China

SHENANIGANS in Shanghai and a bit of belligerence in Beijing have caught my eye lately.

For the wrong reasons – but with the right outcome – China has been conducting a campaign recently to protect the country from TV talent contests, reality game shows and the attraction of other “excessive entertainment”.

Now it is claiming victory with the state television regulator saying there had been a major success in cutting the number of “low taste” shows on the country’s 34 satellite channels.

The 126 shows judged to be unsuitable to be shown at prime time have been cut to 38.

All of this is being done in a war against Westernisation, with the authorities wanting to place the emphasis on “promoting traditional virtues and core socialist values.”

I wouldn’t put a lot of importance on that – but getting rid of rubbish shows from the small screens of both China and the Western world would be a good thing.

To my mind, the quality of TV programmes – both from this country and the USA – has taken a dive in recent years. A lot of the comedies are not funny and dramas are unconvincing and boring.

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Big screen productions, however, are different. In a piece in the Community Party magazine Seeking Truth, China’s President Hu warned: “We must be aware that international enemy forces are stepping up their plots to Westernise and split our country.”

But it was too late. He wrote this shortly before it emerged that the Hollywood film Kung Fu Panda 2 had been China’s biggest cinema blockbuster of 2011.

Indeed, Chinese domestic films attract small audiences while ticket sales from a handful of Hollywood movies such as Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean 4 represented nearly half of the �1.3b spent at cinemas behind the Bamboo Curtain last year.

There is also a heavy demand for pirate DVDs featuring bourgeois Western shows such as CSI, House and Desperate Housewives.

Much of this demand, of course, comes from young people now much empowered by the internet, iPhones and blogging. Even a state as extreme as the Chinese variety cannot legislate or cajole too successfully against that thank goodness.

A far cry from the Community state is the Western world of the super rich, the population of which I was unable to feel sorry for when I read a story at New Year.

This detailed how bankers whose enormous bonuses had not materialised, entrepreneurs suffering cash flow problems and other wealthy types suddenly finding themselves in dire straits had been turning to pawnbrokers to help them survive their newly impoverished life.

The poor things had had to put their Ferraris, Rolexes, fine wine, fabulous jewellery – and even a Henry Moore sculpture – into hock to see them through.

But with the threat of a double dip recession just around the corner, it could be many of us ordinary citizens (the ones with fewer possessions) will also need to seek a meeting with the pawnbroker in 2012. Now what do you think I could get for a 10-year-old computer?