A history of disaster

Fan Bingbing’s historical drama rejected by censors and fails to air


Fan: her drama The Legend of Ba Qing has been postponed indefinitely

Hollywood has often been home to family success stories. There are the Baldwin brothers (Alec, Daniel, Stephen and William), the Afflecks (Ben and Casey) and the Olsen sisters (Ashley, Mary-Kate and Elizabeth). And needless to say, there are few sisters more focused on fame and fortune than the Kardashian-Jenners.

In China, another family is hoping to take over the entertainment industry. It is the Fan siblings: the actress Fan Bingbing and her 18 year-old brother Fan Chengcheng.

Fan Chengcheng grabbed headlines recently when he became one of the contestants on the reality series Idol Producer, which has been one of the biggest trending shows online since its debut on streaming site iQiyi in early January.

The first episode of the show captured over 100 million viewers within the first hour of broadcast, according to China News Service.

The premise of the series, which is very similar to the South Korean reality hit Produce 101, is that a pool of contestants competes for a spot in a boy band. And rather predictably, Fan turned out to be one of the winners, who are forming a new group called Nine Percent.

Much like his older sister – who has pushed back against rumours that she has undergone plastic surgery – he has stirred controversy over his looks. There are claims that the aspiring singer had plastic surgery in South Korea prior to appearing on the show. South Korean netizens have sounded amused in response. “If this is true, I’m truly amazed at Korea’s cosmetic surgery skills,” one netizen quipped.

Having an A-list sibling certainly has its benefits. Each time a new episode was about to air, his devoted sister posted encouragement on her personal weibo, where she has more than 62 million followers, and drummed up support for her brother.


But with her sibling now on the road to celebrity status, Fan Bingbing has more time to deal with her own more pressing problems – namely, the fate of her TV series The Legend of Ba Qing.

The series, which was originally scheduled for release on Dragon Satellite TV and Zhejiang Satellite TV at the start of this year, has now been pushed back indefinitely.

Industry insiders blame measures imposed to restrict the release of historical dramas (see WiC400). According to Sohu, a news portal, regulators have ordered a ban on dramas that “distort or dramatically alter history” on satellite TV networks. Even though some series thought they had been waved through (including The Legend of Ba Qing), they’ve since failed to get final approvals to broadcast. Actress Zhou Xun’s costume drama Royal Love in the Palace has likewise been declined a slot on networks and there are rumours that the costume drama will end up being a web series – given internet-streamed content generally faces less scrutiny than televised material.

As if the situation were not bad enough for The Legend of Ba Qing, its lead actor Gao Yunxiang was also in the news in March when he was accused of sexual assault while filming in Australia. According to the local reports, Gao, 35, and another man named Wang Jing were arrested on March 26 in Sydney after a 36 year-old woman alleged that the two men assaulted her in her hotel room.

The woman is believed to be part of the production crew in Sydney.

The actor has pleaded not guilty to the charges and tried to get bail but the local court ruled that the two men should remain in prison during the trial. Chinese media flocked to the bail hearing, forcing the magistrate to close the public gallery.

Prosecutors argued Gao posed a flight risk and that a lack of an extradition treaty with China meant there was no way of compelling him to return to Australia if he fled.

“To even suggest he would flee the Australian justice system would make a mockery of his reputation in China. It would ruin his career,” Gao’s barrister complained .

However, industry observers reckon that the scandal means that the fate of Fan’s series is now sealed. “At a time when the media regulators are sanctioning celebrities for lewd behaviour at odds with the values of the Communist Party, the latest scandal involving Gao Yunxiang, the lead actor, puts the nail in the coffin of The Legend of Ba Qing,” one entertainment sector blogger surmised.

The author of Finance Street Detective, a financial blog, concurred. “The specific impact on the drama will depend on how the court rules. But even if he wasn’t guilty of sexual assault but only played a role in the assault, his reputation will forever be tainted and he will be on the black list of SAPPRFT [the media regulator]. If he was guilty, then for the rest of his life, his acting career will be ruined. The Legend of Ba Qing, too, won’t be able to air unless all his scenes are edited out, which is very hard because he is the male lead.”

That’s bad news for Zhejiang Talent, the producer of the show. And after news of Gao’s arrest started to spread, the company lost as much as Rmb1.3 billion ($206.83 million) in market value over three days of trading. The series cost an estimated Rmb500 million to make. If it is banned from broadcast, the studio will have to pay back its licencing fees to the two satellite networks. The studio had already booked almost Rmb1 billion in revenues based on the sale of the broadcasting rights (both TV and online), says Changjiang Times.

Fan Bingbing is one of the shareholders in Zhejiang Talent. She held 1.61% of the studio’s stock when Talent went public on the A-share market back in 2015. Under the terms of the IPO, the lock-up period lasted for 36 months, only expiring last month, says Sohu. So unless Fan dumped her shares as soon as the lock-up expired, she’s likely to have suffered a significant paper loss over recent days…

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