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Pretty in pink: Angelababy

Angelababy w

Pretty in pink: Angelababy

Angelababy has a lot to celebrate this year. Romantically, the 26 year-old starlet got engaged to Chinese heart-throb Huang Xiaoming back in May – and is set to wed next week. Career-wise, she landed her debut role in Hollywood and will appear in the blockbuster film Independence Day: Resurgence, which is due for release next year.

Meanwhile, her first appearance in a TV series, Yunge from the Desert, which recently premiered on Hunan Satellite TV, has also topped the local ratings. Already, it has accumulated over 250 million views on iQiyi, the online video platform that bought the online distribution rights to the series.

The drama, set during the Western Han Dynasty, tells the story of a young girl, Yunge. The chief reason for the show’s success appears to be the star power of Angelababy (see WiC29 for our first mention of her), who plays the title role. Prior to the release of the show, she published frequent posts about the series on her personal weibo, where she has over 65 million followers.

“Angelababy is so pretty. Who cares if she is [in a TV series] that’s like a very long music video, we’d still watch it,” was Tencent Entertainment’s verdict.

“All the flashbacks in the first episode made me want to give up on the show until Angelababy showed up in the second episode. She is the only reason I tune in every night,” another fan wrote on weibo.

Adapted from the novel Yun Zhong Ge, written by popular author Tong Hua, the drama wrapped up filming more than two years ago but was unable to secure a broadcast date until recently.

But despite the strong ratings, the show has plenty of detractors. Since it began airing late last month, fan reactions have been decidedly mixed. On Douban, a popular Chinese film and TV review site, the series received a rating of 4.1 out of 10. Fans of the book complain that the adaptation of the story deviates too much from the original work.

“If you are going to base a story on a book at least respect the work,” one netizen lambasted on weibo.

“Is the show even based on the same book I read?” another asked.

Critics also say it’s obvious the drama was filmed two years ago. Shenzhen Evening News makes the observation that the costumes in the series are outdated (ironic for a historical drama). “Angelababy has so many colours on her she looks like a peacock. While Du Chun [another lead actor] looks like a red cabbage because he’s always in that purple cloak,” the newspaper mocks.

Subsequent advances in digital technology also make the computer-generated imagery in Yunge from the Desert seem dated: “It looks like the producers have spent 5 cents on CGI,” says Southern Metropolis Daily.

Another netizen concurs: “I can’t believe the CGI technology was so crappy two years ago.”

Still, Hunan Satellite TV can politely ignore the criticisms as the show continues to perform well in the ratings. “As we all know, in the Chinese TV market, a good platform is everything. No matter how good a drama, it is going to tank if it is not shown on a good network. And no matter how bad a series is, as long as it is on a top platform it is going to generate buzz, thereby winning over viewers as well as advertisers,” says Information Times.

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