The Asian Twist on Western Shows
How regional broadcasters have put their own unique spin on four shows 'borrowed' from familiar formats.
CHINA: Only You
Imagine The Apprentice, multiply its production values and audience reach by 10, and you will roughly arrive at the sway (and notoriety) commanded by this mainland Chinese job-hunting reality show. Launched in 2010 by cable channel Tianjin TV, the weekly program puts contestants through no-punches-pulled interrogation by 12 "judges" -- most of them real highflying executives -- who sit on thronelike seats. Those who pass get job offers on the spot, those who fail return home with their academic qualifications and personal integrity torn apart. The most controversial case was that of Guo Jie, a 32-year-old who was mocked and disparaged so mercilessly in May that he passed out onstage.
INDIA: Bigg Boss
Since its 2006 debut on Sony Entertainment Television, Bigg Boss -- the local version of Endemol's Big Brother -- has sparked more controversy than any other TV show in India. Contestants have included a gangster's moll (starlet Monica Bedi), an American porn actress of Indian origin (Sunny Leone) and a surprise guest in Pamela Anderson. With participants getting into profanity-laced verbal -- and sometimes physical -- altercations (a 2009 contestant was sent packing after assaulting two other contestants), Bigg Boss started making headlines until the government stepped in and moved the show to a late-night slot. The move had no effect on its ratings: An estimated 27 million viewers watched the opening episode of Bigg Boss last year, and the program regularly placed among the top five Hindi shows during its three-month run.
SOUTH KOREA: Superstar K
This American Idol-like singing competition is so popular that it fielded 2 million applicants this year. And because of the phenomenon inspired by Psy, one of its judges, the show keeps getting bigger. Thanks in part to the global success of his infectious hit "Gangnam Style," Psy has helped the show become a ratings juggernaut: As of the third week of September, it had the highest viewing rate among all South Korean cable channels, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research. Superstar K's popularity also derives from the real-life drama of its contestants, which is reflected keenly in each episode, sometimes leading the judges to sob on screen. In the season-two finale, for instance, judges took a shine to lowly ventilator repairman Huh Gak when he was up against John Park, a Korean-American who had been a contestant on Idol. Despite Park's experience and fame, Huh won, becoming an instant celebrity in South Korea.
PHILIPPINES: Ina, Kapatid, Anak
Ostensibly based on a 1979 Filipino film of the same name, this upcoming teen drama about a group of glamorously privileged young people in cosmopolitan Manila isn't fooling anyone: It's Gossip Girl in the Philippines. The production values will be markedly lower and the melodrama ratcheted even higher (if you can believe it), but the concept is a natural fit for this market: The decadent travails of upper-crust Manila are as ripe for vampy social satire as the Upper East Side. It's one of the most anticipated fall series in the Philippines, premiering on ABS-CBN domestically and worldwide on The Filipino Channel on Oct. 8.