BEIJING, Jan. 23 -- Sitting through China Central Television's (CCTV) Spring Festival shows following the traditional family reunion feast was once a custom for millions of Chinese people.
In recent years, however, as more and more people, especially the young, have been distracted from a variety of holiday traditions, CCTV's holiday programmes are losing viewers by the year, prompting TV producers to rack their brains to solve the problem.
In the early 1980s when CCTV started the Spring Festival gala, few Chinese people had such a buzzing nightlife and TV sets were still a luxury for many families. But the dramatic changes over the last 25 years have presented a real challenge for TV directors, performers and producers. How best to captivate the attention of those that are now exposed to the fast developing evening entertainment industry? They have tried their best every year, but the public response revealed by the media always fell short of expectations.
But it seems that CCTV is not going to stop. Many rising singers still see these shows as a window of opportunity with hopes of getting exposure to millions of viewers in one night.
Since nobody has questioned the meaning and purpose of the TV variety shows so far, we had better let the custom go on. At least, when metropolitan people go to live shows, bars, discos or karaoke houses on festival nights, CCTV's galas are still a treat for those in the remote or poverty-stricken areas. It might be their only chance throughout the year to see their favourite stars.
As every Spring Festival, the most popular variety show on CCTV-1 is on the Lunar New Year's Eve, which falls on January 28 this year; CCTV-2 presents a song and dance show and CCTV-3 presents a folk opera. On January 29, CCTV-1 presents a special show produced by the Ministry of Culture.
Compared to most other TV variety shows, the Spring Festival Gala produced by the Ministry of Culture is consistently popular with its audience. Now in its 15th year, director Tang Wenjuan from the China National Oriental Song and Dance Company and musical director Wen Zhongjia will introduce more pop stars to the show.
All the hosts are popular national movie stars such as Wang Tiecheng, Yang Zaibao, Tian Hua, Tong Dawei, Yin Xiaotian and Jin Ming.
"Though we know young people don't like such TV shows so much, we still hope that the entertainment stars and some fresh genres such as hip-hop would attract them to our show," said the female director Tang.
Starting with a festival drum dance, the show consists of six parts: "Festival Celebration," "I Love My Family," "The Beautiful Homeland," "Youth and Dreams," "Love Forever" and "Spring is Coming."
The highlight of the first part is the Mongolian, Korean, Uygur and Tibetan ethnic songs. The second part portrays a group of people taking the train home for their festival family reunion.
Sun Heng, who is a construction worker in Beijing, will perform the song written by himself, "Thinking of the Year I Left Home," and some vocalists who have established a successful career abroad will sing a series of songs along the theme of homesickness. For example, the famous singer Liao Changyong will perform "Memory of My Hometown."
"The Beautiful Homeland" will feature dancing and singing from the 56 ethnic groups of China while "Youth and Dreams" presents hip-hop, R&B and break-dancing performances. In "Love Forever," the Huangmei Opera performers, Shaoxing Opera performers and Peking Opera performers will give different versions of the piece "Butterfly Lovers."
CCTV-2's song and dance show for January 28 will bring the cream of China's popular singers and dancers together.
The festival TV line-up is composed of 58 programmes in four parts. The first part features various celebration dances while the second presents songs and dances from the Dong, Tibet, Uygur, Dai, Miao and Bai ethnic groups.
Family, friendship and love make up the theme of the third part while the last section explores the balance between human beings and nature.
Special highlights of the show include break dance performances and household songs on the Internet such as "Mice Love Rice" and "Song of Pigs."