When: Every Sunday at 6pm
In a nutshell: China's longest-running TV show
In September 2010, CCTV made a deal with the UK’s BBC to turn Zheng Da Zong Yi (Zhengda Variety Show), China’s longest-running entertainment TV show, into the Chinese version of a BBC game show called Hole in the Wall. At the time, the move came as a shock, partly because, in Zhengda’s glory days, it was the king of Chinese television.
First aired in 1990 on CCTV-1, the show was a bubbling, chaotic hotpot of clips, interviews and quizzes, all filmed in front of a live audience. Most bizarrely, it also incorporated a travel show (imported from Taiwan) that was screened in the studio and filmed live, with discussions afterwards. This was the first time on Chinese TV that a world outside China could be viewed in your own home.
The show also became the default PRC home of Guinness World Records, with clips from foreign shows and audience members answering questions on the Records for prizes.
These days, the rules of the revamped Zheng Da Zong Yi strictly follow the now defunct BBC original (minus the celebs). In the show, two teams dressed in silver catsuits and safety helmets basically hang around a pool trying to balance on, catch, squeeze through and negotiate various inflatable obstacles as their prize money builds up.
It’s dumb family entertainment, but the makeover is, in a way, a kick in the teeth for anyone with fond memories of the original. However, times change and the show continues to survive despite the increased competition. Still, you can’t help but wonder: why do the contestants’ suits have to be quite so unflatteringly tight?