How do you make a hit Chinese TV series?
There is more potential in Chinese TV than in Chinese film. And now is the time to get your piece of the action. Recently Korean dramas captured Chinese hearts. But then the THAAD hoo-ha hit and the Chinese government but a ban on Korean talent. In the article “The Chinese obsession with Korean dramas is making bad Chinese TV look bad.” Xu Qinsong, a Guangdong delegate to the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), said that that obsession “…is hurting China’s “cultural self-esteem.'” What about Chinese TV? Xu described local TV content as “poorly written and lack creativity.”
But South Korea’s loss could be your gain. With a Chinese audience hungry for good content and time slots to fill – now is the time to grab this opportunity. So, what can you do to create a hit Chinese TV series?
1. FOCUS ON WOMEN
Last seasons’ hit on-line drama “Ode to Joy” has been view 24 billion times. That’s 24 BILLION. “Ode to Joy” is an online drama about five Chinese young women who are neighbors in a Shanghai high-rise apartment. The show has covered socially conservative ‘off-limits in China’ themes such as sex, sexism, and status.
Why is it so hot? The article “China’s answer to ‘Sex and the City” is breaking new ground in socially conservative state TV” explains how “China has seen rapid change in recent decades and the problems women face now are very different from those faced by women decades ago.” Take a clue from 29 billion fans – put female characters front and center.
2. TELL A MODERN STORY
In the article “Can Chinese TV shows recapture their former glory in SE. Asia?”, Zhou Xing – a Beijing Normal University professor said “Just look at the most-watched South Korea and US dramas in our country, most of these are telling modern stories.” Stick to modern times.
3. PLUG A FOREIGNER INTO THE CAST
You will need a bi-lingual foreign actor but they are more common than before. (see this IMDB link). In the article “In China, fame comes easier with a foreign face” a director for state-owned China Central Television, Liu Yongli, said, “When Chinese people see a foreigner who speaks good Chinese and has gotten to know Chinese culture well, we get a very warm feeling, seeing that someone respects China so much.”
4. ADD CHARACTERS THAT POP
TV critic and author of The Revolution Was Televised, Alan Sepinwall quoted in the article “What it takes to make a hit TV show” said for a TV series to have staying power “It just can’t be some variation on something that’s been done 50 times before. It has to have a specific point of view. It has to have characters who pop.”
5. USE INTERNATIONAL WRITING TEAMS
China is looking for Hollywood screenwriting talent. China Daily reported in the article “Hollywood writers to coach young Chinese” one top Chinese director Bao Bei’er, said “China needs more quality screenplays and Hollywood’s rich experience in storytelling can be an inspiration.”
6. ADD CLIFFHANGERS
Why do audiences keep tuning in each week to their favorite TV shows? It’s the cliffhanger. The article “The Secret Behind Cult TV Shows” reported that “…today’s best showrunners have elevated the cliffhanger into a true art form.” Keep your audience wanting more by leaving them on the edge of their seats every week.
7. HOOK THE AUDIENCE
Furthermore, your audience must not only be drawn to your engaging hero but they must feel the need to take the journey with her. This is why your audience keeps tuning in week after week.
What’s your favorite (Chinese or American) TV show? What qualities do you think would translate to both markets? Leave your reply in the comments.