I know we’re only one month into 2015 to make this prediction, but I think in 2015, Asian dramas trend will shift to mainland China. From TVB in the 80s and 90s to the Taiwanese idol drama frenzy in the early 2000s, and then to the current Korean craze, I think mainland Chinese dramas will begin to dominate the landscape in the next few years for a few simple reasons:
1. Actors/Actresses. They put good looking people into their dramas. No one really expects exceptional acting skills in TV dramas. We’re really there for the eye candy ( I don’t know if you are, but I certainly am). The K-dramas do this very well. Though there are actors/actresses who are skilled at bringing a role to life, dramas like Heirs or You’re Beautiful or Boys Over Flowers weren’t popular because they have a great storyline or spectacular acting. They were popular because they have a “pretty” cast, so pretty they can melt-on-your-screen cast. The C-dramas production teams have picked up on this trend and is now placing “cute” looking younger actors/actresses in just for eye candy purposes. Overall though, the four C-drama fadans: Stephanie Yi (Young Sherlock), Tiffany Yang (Perfect Couple), Yang Mi (Palace) and Cecilia Liu (BBJQ) do a decent job on providing the audience with “prettiness” and some acting skills. They are not mediocre, but they are also not fantastic in any way. They do a decent job to keep me interested even if they are a bit “stiff at times. On the men side, unlike the K-dramas, C-dramas are dominated by older looking men who look nothing like their age i.e. Hu Ge (32), Wallace Huo (35), Wallace Chung (40), and Hawick Lau (40). They are all like candy on screen, a face of a 20 years old, but maturity of fine aged wine. No worries though, if older men is not your thing, There are a loads of new, younger looking male cast to fill up screen time just for your viewing pleasure. Not to say that K-dramas have lost its “pretty” cast. They do have gorgeous looking people, but I think C-dramas are catching up really quick. There used to be a day when you can’t even compare the two type of dramas side by side, but these days, C-dramas are not all what it’s used to be.
2. Storyline. Because China is such a big country compared to Korea, Hong Kong, or Taiwan (who all used to dominate the drama world at one time or another), they have plenty of materials for dramas. From wuxia to historical periods to the revolutionary period of the 1930s and 1940s, to modern drama, they have it all. And of course, 2015 is the year of novel adaptations. The secret to a popular drama is to adapt books or novels already with a huge fan base and make the drama even better than the book. Books from famed authors like Tong Hua and Gu Man are almost an instant hit because of the already established fan base. It only makes it better when these authors themselves admit to the weaknesses in their novels and try to make it up in the on screen version. In the past year, authors like Gu Man and Tong Hua even helmed the entire screenwriting process making you really wonder: was the book really better? or the drama? Now if you add up the people who love the book, and the people who love the actors and actresses, and then people, like me, who watches anything rom-com under the sun, you have gotten a huge following even before the drama is even filmed. Dramas like Bu Bu Jing Xin (Tong Hua), Boss and Me (Gu Man), and the soon-to-air Cruel Romance/The Fate of JinXiu (Nian Yi) are well-received based on this recipe. On the other hand, I feel that the K-dramas are running out of storylines. The recipes have all been over used, and there are one or two dramas that are exceptional in storyline, but not as creative as the C-dramas. K-dramas will always have a niche in the Asia dramaland, but in terms of originality, I vote for C-dramas. Come on now, can you imagine Koreans remaking a Wuxia novel?
3. Quantity. K-dramas are generally 16 episodes, 20 if popular, and then a few reach to 24 just for fan service. With three major companies and a few small cable network, they produce, at most 20 K-dramas a year. However, C-dramas is often between 30-40 episodes with airing schedule as generous as 2 episodes per day for a straight 20 days with no weekend break. When one drama ends, there are a few more sitting on the shelf waiting to be aired. There are dramas that can be on the shelf for a whole year without an airing date because the companies do not have enough time slots. China, with its many production team churns out dramas like a production line with beautiful costumes and expensive sets. It is only a month into 2015, but I already have at least 5 more dramas that I am looking forward to in 2015 with no set airing dates because there are simply too many dramas for the available time slots.
So there you have it. I think it’s time people consider watching a C-drama because I can see this underdog going mainstream. For me, as audience, I say, bring it on! The more the better. I don’t mind going from one K-drama to a C-drama. I don’t mind having my days dominated by drama schedule. Even more fantastic, sub teams these day, are, in one word, amazing. Subs are available in multiple languages within 24 hours, so who cares if you can’t speak Chinese or Koreans, there is no language barriers. Now, in 2015, I will be looking forward to the following dramas:
1. Lady and the Liar – Tang Yan and Hawick Lau – I am not fan of either, but the production team behind this period drama is also the team behind one of my all time favorite King of Lan Ling.
2. Cruel Romance – Joe Chen and Huang Xiao Ming – I don’t ship actresses, except Joe Chen, the queen of idol dramas, plus I finished the novel and I can’t wait to see the novel come to life
3. Legend of Fragrance – Tang Yan and Li Yi Feng – I am seriously not a fan of Tang Yan, but I want to watch this drama, that’s it.
4. Destined to Love You – Joe Chen and Bosco Wong – Simply put, Tong Hua is behind the script, and I love most of what she does, so I’m in
5. Yunge From the Desert – Angelababy and Lu Yi – This continues from Da Mo Yao by Tong Hua, even though I am not a fan of either Angelababy or Lu Yi. They actually annoy me, but I can’t help it. I love Da Mo Yao.