China's most popular reality shows come from South Korea

Hit show 'Where are we going Dad?' reflects growing popularity of Korean-style reality TV in China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 4:42pm

A Korean-style reality show about Chinese celebrity dads spending 72 hours with their young children in the countryside has become China’s latest television sensation.

Baba qu naer? (meaning "Where are we going, Dad?"), based on South Korea’s hit reality show of the same name, debuted earlier this month on Hunan Television and has since become one of the most trending topics on Chinese social media.

Video: Dad, where are we going?

Not only has the show been leading the ratings, but its verified account on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, has also garnered more than a million followers and upwards of nine million comments. Its three episodes so far have attracted nearly five million views on the country’s biggest video-sharing website Tudou.

Much of the show’s appeal comes from its star-studded cast: Olympic diver-turned-actor Tian Liang, Taiwanese actor Jimmy Lin, actor Guo Tao, model Zhang Liang and director Wang Yuelun.

Korean dramas and entertainment programmes have been embraced in China because they don’t conflict with Chinese culture and values
Zang Zhi

In each episode, the five celebrity dads and their young children need to complete tasks, such as cooking and finding ingredients for food, in the countryside. Every task appears to make every father-child pair co-operate with each other while pitting them against other teams.

Chinese celebrities usually guard their private lives and families from the public eye, but the show offers what appears like unscripted interactions, precious father-child moments and glimpses of famous dads disciplining their children. For example, in the second episode, Tian Liang jokingly warns his daughter Yucheng that as a child he did not have a bad habit of scratching his feet.

Where are we going, Dad? is the latest among a string of Korean-style reality shows that have become popular in China in the past two years.

The first Korean reality programme remade into a Chinese version was the quiz show Golden Bell Challenge in 2003, but Korean reality shows did not take off until last year when Hunan TV purchased the rights to remake the popular singing contest I Am a Singer. The Chinese version of the show did so well that a second season has been scheduled for next year.

“Demand for Korean reality shows has gone up ever since I Am a Singer became a hit,” Song Ihn-jeong of the Korea Creative Content Agency told the South China Morning Post. “The most popular shows in Korea are the ones that are exported to China.”

This year’s hit audition programme Superstar China was also a remake of Korea’s Superstar K.

In May, Korean broadcaster JTBC sold the rights to a Chinese network to remake its programme Hidden Singer, in which a famous singer and his impersonators sing behind a curtain and then viewers are asked to vote on who is the real one.

“A number of Korean dramas and entertainment programmes have been embraced in China because they don’t conflict with Chinese culture and values,” said Zang Zhi, the director of Superstar China.

“Japan exports a lot of cultural content.. but Chinese viewers want sentimentality in entertainment programmes and Japanese programmes don’t have that warmth,” he said. 

The trend of importing and remaking entertainment programmes from South Korea and other countries is likely to continue as China continues to open up, observers explained.

“Think of this as the beginning,” said Kang Myung-koo, the director of Seoul National University Asia Centre. “China is becoming the melting pot of the world’s most popular television programmes.”