This has been a good week for TV stations in China. Monday saw the conclusion of the hard-hitting courtroom epic “The Show Trial,” starring Bo Xilai. The main man himself gave a stellar performance, outshining Gu Lailai, his real world wife, and Xu Ming, a former business partner. Retired action hero Wang Lijun, known by Chongqing residents for his starring role in the dark police drama “Strike Black,” also made a surprise appearance.
Not to be outdone in the ratings war, Shanghai Media Group pulled out the stops with an updated version of the once popular format “Laowai Done Bad”. Peter Humphrey, a private investigator at the centre of a pharma graft scandal, was dressed up in an orange clown suit and paraded around for the cameras.
On Wednesday national broadcaster CCTV aired a scandal and a spaceshow, effectively competing against itself. Realizing that Chinese viewers are tired of seeing foreign enemies on their screens, producers managed to dig out some domestic scapegoats. Three executives at unpopular oil major PetroChina were accused of “disciplinary violations” and summarily resigned. Still, the show of the day was “Monkey Goes to Space,” a documentary about China’s space program. The country plans to land a probe on the moon by the end of the year for scientific purposes, a government official said. Documents seen by China Economic Review however reveal that local governments are sourcing new land to sell to developers to raise cash as their own supplies are running desperately short.
These blockbuster shows by the leading operators have put pressure on smaller players. Even a repeated of the classic wartime show “Saying no to Japan” couldn’t do much to lift their figures. China’s post-90s generation are clearly not interested in folk stories of Communists bashing the nationalists and Japanese.
But the week’s best-rated show was the product of confusion and absolute bewilderment. News reports said scandal ridden Mengniu Dairy saw first half profit jump 16% after the company introduced new, more expensive milk products. Millions of internet users went online to question why anybody would pay more to poison themselves.