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Since I talked about online dating in the last post, I figured I might as well jump into the wild world of Chinese dating game shows today. Alongside the explosion of the online dating market in China, game shows full of young Chinese who are single and ready to mingle have also gotten incredibly popular in recent years. It all started with one show, so that’s where we’ll begin:
This smash TV program – whose name literally means “if not sincere then don’t disturb” – is far and away the most popular dating show on Chinese TV. It’s so popular, in fact, that it is now even broadcast in Australia and New Zealand with English subtitles. If you haven’t seen the show, here’s the basic premise:
Twenty-four women stand in an arc on stage and are greeted by a single man. The eligible bachelor carefully chooses his “heartbeat girl” (心动女生 – xīn dòng nǚ shēng), whom he reveals only to the host. Each lady is situated behind a lit up podium. To begin, a few short videos are shown to introduce the guy. After the videos, the girls can choose to turn their light off, thus signalling their lack of interest. A new feature allows ladies to turn on a “burst light” (爆灯 – bào dēng) – her light changes to a pulsating heart and she has punched her ticket to the final round. There can end up being a few girls in the final round, where the guy will ask a series of questions and try to narrow it down to one. Even if his “heartbeat girl” turned her light off, she’s still automatically in the finals where he can try to win her over. In the end, the guy will either choose a girl or elect to depart alone. Ditto for the ladies – they can accept his offer of a date or tell him no thanks.
Even 老外 can get in on the fun.
This show – which has pushed the boundaries for what you can get away with on Chinese TV – unsurprisingly fell into the bad graces of the censors. It was said that the program was spreading the “wrong values” by focusing on topics such as wealth, materialism, and sex. One famous interaction between contestants went as follows – a man asked a girl if she would ride on the back of his bicycle on a date with him, to which she replied:
Male contestants were often asked to show bank statements or material possessions to the ladies. One guy was rejected by all of the women for coming on the show simply to show off his expensive sports car. The show has since been toned down quite a bit, thanks in part to the addition of a party school psychologist as a third host. It still does quite well, and continues to be one of the most popular shows on Chinese TV.
On this famous dating show out of Shanghai, sixteen lovely ladies are introduced to one bachelor. Here’s the catch – the 100-member audience also has to like the guy. After a short introduction, he will give a short performance to show off one of his talents. If at least 70 members of the audience are impressed, he’s allowed to continue. There are more self-introductions and questions, and then the guy has to choose two ladies – his favorite and least favorite. While all of this goes on, the ladies are free to switch off their light if they lose interest, however this goes on behind the guy’s back so he has no idea who is still in the game. Finally, he will voice his requirements for a girlfriend. If any ladies remain, the guy can make his choice. He can confess to his favorite girl, choose the one still left standing, or simply walk home empty-handed.
A full episode of “One Out of 100” for you to study!
This dating show has an interesting twist – contestants are joined by their mothers. The moms can participate in the questioning and their disapproval can see their son or daughter disqualified from the round. As you can imagine, this is quite nerve-wracking for the guy or girl competing. In order for a match to be made, both the contestant and their mother must agree – something that we all know can be quite difficult. There’s a lot of potential for hilarity here with Chinese contestants, but imagine how funny the scene is when an American dressed in a “sui-sey” (suit/jersey) shows up with his goose and very poor Chinese.
Donnie Does Chinese Dating Shows
There are plenty of other funny stories from people who have appeared on these dating shows. Here are three of my favorites: