A Marathon of Missable TV

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We’ve mentioned a few Chinese New Year pastimes, like visiting family, setting off fireworks, battering your way through crowds, but have yet to touch on a granddaddy, the Spring Festival program on China Central Television. It’s a four-hour Busby Berkeley extravaganza of song, dance and comedy routines. Since its start in the ’80s it became required holiday viewing on the mainland, and it now rakes in a reported $62 million in advertising revenue. But its dominance isn’t what it once was, with more than two-thirds of 20-35 year olds in one poll saying they didn’t watch the show. China Digital Times reports on a couple of other viewer surveys, including one that found more than half of the respondents didn’t like the CCTV program

I sat through some of the show a decade ago while studying in the northern city of Harbin, and have avoided it since. Most of the comedy routines were lost on me, but the singers, with their gaudy costumes and excessive stage makeup, had a certain humor value all their own. It’s understandable that viewers might not be so enamored with the program anymore. When it started, people were lucky to have a TV set, and the Spring Festival program had little competition. It was designed to be everything to everyone, with a fair amount patriotism thrown in. Now there is more variety on the tube and DVDs galore (pirated and legit). China also has 137 million web users, who can go online to play a game, watch a video or read a blog. Why watch something tailored for everyone, when you can spend your time on something tailored for you?