My Take

Why Chinese censors miss mark on television shows

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 4:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 10:44am

Mainland censors must have no clue about what they are censoring. They probably received instructions from higher-ups that some popular foreign TV series being shown online must be shut down as part of an internet campaign to clean up pornography and other undesirable contents. So to meet quotas, they randomly picked a few.

This is proved by not only what they have cancelled over the weekend, but what they have allowed to continue. The four series censored by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television are: The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, crime series NCIS and legal drama The Practice. Yet, you can continue to watch House of Cards and Game of Thrones.

How does that work? If I were a censor, I would go after the last two. An Americanised version of the original British series satirising the dark and murderous politics in Whitehall, the newer series features the underbelly of Washington politics, which may reflect back on the even more byzantine power politics that characterises China.

Meanwhile, even hardcore viewers of US paid cable TV, which can run much more extreme content than free TV, have been shocked by the levels of violence and sex in Game of Thrones.

I recently spent 30 hours flying between Toronto and Hong Kong and so gorged myself on several seasons of The Big Bang Theory. President Xi Jinping, if you had watched a few episodes, I am sure you would personally approve. A recent and favourite one of mine has Sheldon Cooper, the physicist, breaking up with his one true love: string theory. He finally realises he has wasted his career on a theory that was supposed to unify everything but has got nowhere in the last 20 years. The show has him grieving and recovering as from a bad relationship.

The Big Bang Theory has had billions of views since 2009 on the mainland. A show that features geeky young scientists trying to find elusive success in their careers and love life must resonate with a whole generation of college graduates in China. It also romanticises geeks and promotes science and technology.

What's not to like?