Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So yeah, we were on TV on Monday night. We got a call on Friday morning from the show's staff, who had seen us on another show where we had participated as audience members a couple months back through a friend who works at SMG. We went to the TV station Friday night for an interview and planning session. On Saturday a crew came to our house and filmed for over 2 hours. Sunday we spent working on homework, as Jodi is near the end of her summer program and I'm getting ready for school next week, and practicing for the program. And Monday was taken up working/in class in the morning, and rehearsal beginning after lunch at the SMG TV station headquarters on Dongfang Rd. The dress rehearsal started at about 6:30 and the live show ran from 9:15 to 10:30. We did OK; I think we got 2nd or 3rd place. We were hoping not to win because it would have meant going back to tape on Wednesday and were just too busy for that right now. Overall, it was a nerve-wracking and very mixed experience that we probably won't repeat.

There are three things that stick out in my mind from the whole debacle:

  • It drove home for me the point that I'm far from fluent in Chinese in a way I hadn't thought of before. As part of the filming process I had to memorize a lot of Chinese and I found that I'm still missing a lot of the probabilities models that I've built up over the years in English (what words could come after "stormy"? easy in English, not so in Chinese for me). Also, during the home filming time I was often given a general idea of what I was supposed to say and asked to come up with a sentence on the spot and on camera. What I found myself doing was asking for the exact wording and trying to memorize it. It's easy for me to translate from a concept to words in English but I still struggle in Chinese, especially when under pressure and trying to be concise. Finally, during the rehearsals I found myself reacting very slowly and missing a lot of lines because I hadn't cued up the right sentence in my mind. I'm sure this is partly because I'm a slow person by nature, but there's also some sort of connection between the language I'm using the way I process non-linguistic signals that slows things down. I think the best way to get over these weaknesses is just practice. Having gone through the show made me aware of them and knowing is half the battle.
  • Chinese can't plan or coordinate. That's a horrible generalization, I know, but it proved true once again in this situation. Our routine was constantly being changed around by one director or another. We kept getting asked for or told the same information by different members of the show staff. We kept getting updated information about the show that contradicted earlier information. We couldn't find out what day we'd go on the show until the day before, and weren't told the correct time the show would start until the day of the show itself. We got calls from staff members as late as 1am when they held late-night planning meetings — they are lucky that Jodi and I are night cats (夜猫). This all could have something to do with the median age of the staff being 20-something, but the directors were middle-aged so they really have few excuses: they should be setting the tone. Also, we found them to be really inconsiderate of the guests on the show: wasting our time, keeping us in the dark, and making us feel very unwelcome at the taping of the show. Like I said above, this is a generalization and there were some staff members who were fairly competent. But this is one of the two main reasons we're never going back to do a TV show on an SMG channel without a really good reason. (Hunan TV, are you looking for contestants? Call us!)
  • Mediocre TV show directors, like mediocre reporters, will tell the story that they want and not the one that reflects reality. I think that a good TV show director would work with the guests to bring out their strong points and tell the special stories that everyone has to tell. In our case though the director was stuck on telling the story of a foreigner who came to China fated to marry the spicy Hunanese girl, and who tries ineptly to burrow into the local culture; I was willing to go along with a little of it (ask me in person why much of that story is fiction), but they were lucky they didn't ask me to dress in a Tang jacket or sing Beijing opera. I might have gone off at them. I choose my battles.

The few highlights were Charlotte getting to shake hands with a giant walking Haibao 海宝, and seeing our friends cheer us on both on stage and at home. Thanks Chris & fam, HCY & friends, and Andrew and Michael & Co! And the Liba crew! 谢谢你们的支持!我们努力了!Also, we did end up with consolation prizes: a case of 盗版王老吉 called 吉吉高 and a deluxe bottled water dispenser. Hmm...

EDIT: a heavily edited video of our appearance has been posted on Youku. It may not be worth your time to watch.


At Aug 31, 2009, 11:54:00 PM, Anonymous Jake said:

Charlotte looks like a bit confused on your shoulder.


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