a whole country watching television: made in china tv series vivian cao    In the last five years the production of tv series in China has increased. On average, only 30% of these series, which have 40 episodes each, are shown on Chinese television. The rest are only shown on the Internet or in Taiwan, Hong Kong or other Asian countries. The first televisions appeared in China between 1977 and 1984. Most of the owners of tv sets were politicians and military people. Ordinary families had no chance of owning a set. All
the series of the time were full of propaganda and the subject matter, of course, was political and military.

From 1984 the first foreign series started being shown, mostly from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. That was how foreign-produced mysteries,
suspense, family stories and martial arts tv series were seen for the first time in China. Those series’ subject matter and music went off like an explosion in the China of the time. Every evening, from eight onwards, the city streets emptied and people crowded into the houses which had tv sets, which became improvised cinemas. That success led producers to stop making propaganda series and start adapting classical Chinese novels. The Journey Westwards and Dreaming in the Red Pavilion were the first
productions permitted by the Chinese government. During recording, the actors, directors, production teams and all the other workers lived together. Not being able to enjoy western night-life and leisure, watching tv series
quickly became the favourite passtime in China.

Between 1990 and 2000 the number of tv series and their contents grew at the same pace as the Chinese economy. While classical novels were
the basis of most series in the 80’s, in the 90’s they were mostly police, historical, martial arts, comedy and family series. The tv series’ success led to a strong audio-visual sector growing up around them. In recent years the production of tv series has increased, and a lot of money has been invested in them, but there are signs that the spectators are starting to tire. The actors are the tv series’ main attraction, and because of that they take home 40% of all the money, which leads to lower quality in the series themselves. However, the biggest problem is the series’ subject matter. When young people are asked, they always say that their favourite series are American. And they also mention the fact that contemporary Chinese series are propaganda vehicles to give a cosmopolitan image of the country.