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
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
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
• 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
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
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.
Films - General Introduction with some links
• Kung Fu Films
- With links to famous stars and short biography
• Chinese Television - This page
- Overview of Chinese visual media
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| A very intriguing film set against the background
of Chinese Opera. Regarded as a modern classic, it follows
the life of two young Opera stars, focusing mainly on
the one playing the female lead - who is 'gay', which
is taboo in China (Even today!)