Judge dread

Is Zhang Ziyi an early casualty in the battle of the singing shows?

Judge dread

Not exactly a knockout performance: Zhang’s debut as a judge left viewers unimpressed

Divas don’t always deliver. That was the message last year, when Simon Cowell, the creator of American Idol, announced that Britney Spears would be joining the US version of the X-Factor, another of his productions.

“This year, we are going to seriously kick butt,” Cowell told the press. “We are going to deliver on our promise – we are going to make this the best series we’ve ever made.”

But the “best” wasn’t good enough and Spears dropped out of the show after a single season. And in China, another diva may be thinking about bowing out early from yet another singing competition. Last week newspapers reported that actress Zhang Ziyi, a judge on Hunan Satellite TV’s The X Factor: China’s Strongest Voice, is considering curtailing her time on the show, after a barrage of criticism of her performance on the premiere.

Many viewers seemed to struggle to warm to Zhang, slating her for “really bad verbal expression” or complaining that she and the other judges lacked chemistry.

Audiences were also sceptical that Zhang has the qualifications to judge a singing contest (she is the only judge without a musical background). It didn’t help that she voted against one performer not because of his voice but because his facial expressions “could induce nightmares”.

Zhang isn’t the only member of the panel to face criticism. Eason Chan, one of Hong Kong’s most popular vocalists, was also slammed by netizens for his judging, including a decision to say “yes” to one contestant because (as Chan put it) he would “always give a ‘yes’ to fatties”.

In fact, China’s Strongest Voice seems to have gone down poorly with the audience in general, with complaints about chaotic editing and mediocre participants on the show. The not-so-strong debut is a rare miss for Hunan Satellite TV, the pioneer of reality singing shows in China, and the creator of the first hugely popular vehicle, Happy Girl. Its success inspired a slew of similar formats like Dragon TV’s China’s Got Talent and last year’s runaway hit The Voice of China, aired on Zhejiang Satellite TV (see WiC162).

Hunan TV’s last reality singing show I Am A Singer, which wrapped in early April, did well in the ratings (see WiC183), making more than Rmb300 million in sponsorship and advertising revenue. And China’s Strongest Voice producer Xia Qing told Xinhua that his own show will do similarly well, with subsequent shows much more entertaining than the first episode.

Expect more scenes of the judges bickering with one another and much stronger talent from the wannabe singers, the show’s producers hinted.

But China’s Strongest Voice will soon face further competition too. Shanghai’s Dragon TV is launching Chinese Idol, a similar format featuring singer Coco Lee and actor Huang Xiaoming as judges. And Zhejiang TV will be back with another series of The Voice of China this summer.

But the unknown quantity in the competitive stakes could be Super Star China, a new show being produced by Hubei Satellite TV. The channel is a newcomer to the reality TV genre, but China Daily reports that it has caused a stir by spending Rmb60 million on the show, a record for Chinese television.

It also spent $100,000 on a primetime ad slot to alert audiences to its new show. No prizes for guessing where it booked that ad: appropriately enough on Hunan TV’s I Am A Singer.

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.