OK, I admit it. This Chinese TV show called 非诚勿扰 (English name: If You Are the One) has ensnared me. It’s just silly dating game television, but I find it interesting for a bunch of reasons. Here is the basic premise of the show, explained by Hello Nanjing:
The basic concept of the show is that 24 girls will stand in a line, each atop a podium with a light hanging over their head. Facing them is one boy, who will at first secretly choose one of the girls to be his date. Then, he reveals some basic information about himself, after which each of the girls will decide whether he is ‘date-worthy’ or not.
If a girl doesn’t like him, she will turn the light above her head off. If all 24 lights go off, the boy loses. If some lights remain on after the boy’s introduction, the boy may choose two or three of the girls for ‘future communication’. He also has the option in this case to choose a girl who turned her light off.
Finally, with three girls left, the boy will ask another round of questions, after which he will make his final choice. If the girl accepts, they may walk towards each other, join hands, and head off into the sunset for a future date and possible romance.
The name of the show, 非诚勿扰 (as well as the English name), is the same as a rather boring movie by Feng Xiaogang (the article quoted above mistakenly included a shot of the cast of that movie). It’s taken from a line used in personal ads, which literally means, “if you’re not sincere, don’t disturb me” but would be translated more along the lines of “serious inquiries only please” in English language personals.
OK, so what’s so good about this show? It’s hard to say, but here are my guesses:
It’s interesting to see which guys get shot down immediately by the 24 female candidates, and which can make it to the very end. (I evidently still have a lot to learn about the psyche of Chinese women.)
The background music, which is always the same and used in every show, is hilariously cheesy, and yet so appropriate.
The concept is so simple that it’s easy to follow the show, but there is enough interesting language used that I feel like I still learn useful words and phrases.
The host, 孟非, and his “psychological analyst,” 乐嘉 make for an entertaining, bald-headed duo. They don’t feel like typical moron TV show hosts.
乐嘉 in particular is entertaining. He invented a personality analysis system based on colors which my wife had to use for her job (and I’ve been hearing about for years). At first you think, “who is this smiley, smug little bald man?” but then you really start to like him. And he totally casts a spell over all the female contestants, many of whom thank him specifically, all teary-eyed, when they finally leave the show. This guy is interesting!
Although the show is filmed in Nanjing, participants come from all over China, which means you get to hear a wide variety of accents.
There’s no dancing, cross-talk, acrobatics, or skits, and very little singing.
It could be staged, or at least quite fake, but the show has captivated China’s younger generation; in some small way, this is modern China. And it wants to be noticed.
Anyway, if you’ve never heard of the show or never bothered to watch, I recommend you give it a chance.