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Chinese Television
About Chinese TV

Chinese television is pretty good in general, with a great selection of channels. The default language is Mandarin of course, but local cable suppliers and satellite systems offer many other regional variations -and there are always a few English language channels on offer. We highlight the main genres below:

1. Sitcom (Soaps) - Most of these are just as horrendous as their western counterparts! However, if you have nothing better to do, or actually enjoy this form of entertainment, then you will have many to choose from.

2. Period Drama - Often of the Qing Empire, or the Qin Empire - and everything that happened in the intervening 2, 400 years! These are widely watched by all Chinese people, and are usually based upon a parody of factual history.

3. Recent Historical Drama = 'The Japanese War of invasion, and the Chinese war of resistance and independence' = WW2. Several channels specialise in this, and usually offer two or three series running during any one day (Over 24 hours). You can usually manage to follow the whole series of about 30+ episodes by swapping channels and looking for the 'what's next' indicator bottom left.

These series will run for one week, either beginning or finishing on Sunday

4. Comedy: Some great stuff here, and often of the 'slapstick' variety - so no language barriers

5. Police Story: Classify under 'Drama' as opposed to 'Action'. These can be either excellent or awful, and there is not much in between. These often follow a Police Officer during his investigations into a case, but focus more on the human elements and interactions, rather than upon action scenes. Often they examine traditional Chinese values as compared to the quickly emerging new modern world, so have a very valid place in contemporary Chinese society.

6. Kung Fu: These are period dramas or action films usually set in the Qing Empire. Most likely they will feature 'Wong Fei Hong' as he is known in Cantonese. There are literally millions of these things, and some are excellent, but others not.

These can also run as a serial, and one of the latest is the life of a young Bruce Lee. I would not dare hazard a guess as to how factual this would be compared to real life, but the lead actor is up for the part, and portrays Bruce very well!

See also: The very best of Chinese films in our Kung Fu Films Section

7. Grand Performance - Features pop stars from Hong Kong and China, singing famous songs. This is usually for Friday and Saturday evenings.It would be normal to have three or four performers singing to an adulatious crowd. This can be ok.

8. Western media - There is a lot from the west featured on all Chinese channels, and specifically the English speaking channels: MTV (Versions), films, action drams, and comedy.

9. CCTV 9
- This is the state media channel, and can be worth watching as they offer: The latest news (Chinese, Asian, and international versions), Documentaries (ie: Dialogue = Insights into world politics and discussions about current world events), History (Start with 'About China', then progress as suits you to 'Travelogue' or 'New Frontiers'. 'Documentary' is also very worth watching.

10. Chinese Opera - enough said!

11. Movie channels
- One of the best is CCTV6, which continually shows current popular movies - some of which are in English. Please be aware that just because a movie is shown in Mandarin, does not necessarily make it a bad movie - these can be awesome and very informative. However, Chinese movies per sai will normally have a tragic ending, be warned if you get into one!

12. Baby TV
- This is totally awful, and worthy of a neutron bomb! If 'Chinese people dressed in tele-tubby or sesame street costumes is your thing, please fill your boots!

13. Journey to The West (Monkey) will always be showing on one channel or another. Enjoy!

When things go wrong:

One of the worst aspects of Chinese TV when related to western media - is stupid commercials. It goes something like this:
• You are watching a Western TV programme from Hong Kong. (ATV or TVB), then you hit a commercial break. Sometimes it is fine. Normally you will cut to the HK advertising, and then the Chinese area advertising, and then the local cable TV advertising. Normally this will be the same advertisement, running for 5-minutes, and repeated constantly. These are extremely annoying, especially as they employ 'sound compression techniques so it sounds deafeningly loud. I simply hit mute and go make a coffee when they come on. They are always in Mandarin, and are very likely to over-run the re-start of the program you are trying to watch. Sometimes they over-run so long, that you return in time to catch the regular Chinese advertisements. Once (For the sheer hell of it), I tried to watch CSI, and viewed just 87 seconds of the drama in one hours worth of viewing. The rest was totally stupid advertising = I will never buy that companies products! (999 medical supplies). See, they got me to remember their name, for totally the wrong reasons!!!

Likewise, don't be at all surprised if the local cable companies advertisements cut in before the program you are watching has finished - it is quite normal for them to cut this in with stupid commercials - with 1 or 2 minutes left to show = the finale. Durrrh! This does vary from city to city, but viewing HK TV in Foshan is extremely bad over the last few years, so you better choose a different city if you want to watch full programmes without missing most of them because of the advertising.

Similarly, expect to miss things like the weather or financial update in Foshan, because they will be showing stupid Mandarin advertisements instead. And we pay for viewing this?

After midnight you may as well forget it, as the stupid adverts will probably run unabated for hours on end. Sometimes you can catch a late film, but expect this to be replaced by a static picture and music at 2AM, regardless of whether the film has actually finished or not.


Another common feature of local TV is that they like to use the small hours to train staff for program production editing and testing their skills with respect to commercial breaks and censorship. They do this live of course!

These are usually the same episode from a western cookery program, and you can view many versions of the cut show over a period of say: 18 months. First we endured Rosco's restaurant in New York, and currently have some Australian guy with a pony tail. The extremely interesting thing is that each version aired is minisculy different, and occasionally you get glimpses of the shows second part. Wow! They have recently started a new run featuring an episode from 'Local Food Hero's' with Gary Rhodes. However, this is shown in preference to the actual TV I am paying them to view.
Related Pages:

Chinese Films - General Introduction with some links
Kung Fu Films - With links to famous stars and short biography
• Chinese Television - This page
Introduction - Overview of Chinese visual media

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