In the HBO hit Entourage, Vincent Chase (played by Adrian Grenier) is an actor who becomes a Hollywood star. Despite finding fame, he keeps his old friends close and they free-ride on his celebrity, enjoying the lifestyle that Hollywood brings.
Last month, Taiwanese Mandopop star Jay Chou, 41, released a travelogue series called J-Style Trip that seems to draw on some of the elements of the Entourage format.
The reality show sees the singer travel the world with three of his best mates – one is his long-time make-up artist, the other two are Chou’s magician friends.
While the series is exclusive on an international basis to Netflix, in mainland China J-Style Trip was picked up for broadcast on Zhejiang Satellite TV, with Hunan Satellite TV buying the online streaming rights.
But even before the second episode had aired in late March, Zhejiang Satellite TV quietly pulled the show from its schedule.
What happened? An early episode that saw Chou and his gang travelling to Singapore did well enough in viewing numbers but critics were decidedly less enthusiastic.
A frequent complaint is that there is little footage of the city backdrops, which have so far included Paris, Singapore and Taipei. Instead, most of the airtime surrounds Chou and his banter with his “parasite” friends, some netizens mocked.
Adding a dose of drama, the show also features Chou performing magic tricks and illusions, to a generally lukewarm response from the television reviewers.
“If you look at the show as a travelogue, it has completely failed: all the tourist hotpots are barely seen. In Singapore, Chou and his guests didn’t even bother getting out of the car to take a good look at the iconic lion’s head,” Tencent Entertainment protested of the segment about the Lion City.
“Just because the travelogue is unscripted and spontaneous doesn’t mean it should have no content. All we can say is, as a show, it has satisfied Jay Chou’s vanity. He is so happy being surrounded by his friends and captivating passersby with magic tricks. But all the audiences sitting in front of the television at home are just confused.”
“If you are just a curious viewer and not a fan of Jay Chou, you will likely find the show completely meaningless,” another critic derided. “The only successful part is that it shows the world Chou’s talent in magic. So, what now?”
Others complained about the lack of structure to each episode. Chou abruptly hops from one location to the next without further introduction.
More of the budget also seems to have been spent on Chou’s fee than on the rest of the production. “The hardware of the show is just downright sloppy: the camera is shaky; the lighting, I don’t even think there is any; it definitely cannot be classed as a ‘fine’ production,” one netizen wrote.
Another opined: “It doesn’t even feel like a travel show but at best a Vlog [ video footage that is usually self-produced ]. Even though the show is clearly targeted at Chou’s fans, Nicholas Tse’s Chef Nic (a travelogue-cum-cooking show, see WiC247) was much better produced.”
Thankfully for Chou, Zhejiang Satellite TV has now resumed the broadcasting of the series, blaming a “production issue” for the previous unexplained hold-up.
But with the show back on TV again in mainland China, the pop star has turned his attention to how badly it has been marketed on Netflix.
Displeased with a lack of promotion, Chou lashed out at the US streaming giant for not giving J-Style Trip more attention. In support of his complaint, the singer posted a screenshot of Netflix Taiwan’s Instagram feed, which was packed with mentions for South Korean series like Itaweon Class and Kingdom, but not much sign of his own travel show.
“Is this Korean Netflix?” he queried.
Netflix quickly responded, saying that it had taken a decision not to promote a travel-centric series at a time when countries around the world have been imposing travel restrictions owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, to pacify the Asian pop icon, Netflix did begin to feature J-Style Trip in its email marketing at the top of its recommendations.
This week Chou happily posted that his show now ranks in eighth place on Netflix in Taiwan and Singapore.
It was also the eighth most popular watch on Netflix in Hong Kong at the start of the week.
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