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May 31, 2011

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Talent Vs Tearjerkers

SEASON 1 of "China's Got Talent" got lots of thumbs down for weird stunts, sob stories and minimal talent. Then how about the Season 2? Xu Wei tunes in.

China's Got Talent" Season 2 is one of the country's top-rated TV programs but its showcase of weird and wonderful grassroots talent is a far cry from the UK original and Season 2 has already generated controversy.

Like Season 1, some love it, some hate it. The big issue, again, is whether the show presents real talent or just a collection of odd stunts and touching human interest stories.

Is manipulating a mouthful of boars' teeth and sticking them out in patterns a genuine talent? That's one of the shocking acts this season.

Last year and already this year, some viewers are saying there's nothing on the Chinese show that can compete with foreign grassroots talent.

In addition to singing and dancing, contestants have performed various stunts and displayed numerous skills, such as body-building, celebrity impersonation, moving a crystal ball over the body, ventriloquism, roller skating and performing aerial acrobatics and dance, while suspended by a cord from the ceiling.

There's a boy scientist, the "lightning man," who moves spectacular electrical current around with his homemade Telsa coil. A woman who "throat warbles" with a metal object in the back of her mouth and - most bizarre - a woman who manipulates a mouthful of 5-cm boar's teeth to display unusual patterns. This "tooth playing" is a dying folk art.

Producers say that the idea is not to copy a Western show and they insist that this year they have made a greater effort to seek people with "real" talent and gifts. This year there's less glitz, fewer weirdo acts, fewer weepy monologues and more professionalism, they say.

Judging criteria are supposed to be stricter this year; the three-person judging panel includes Shanghai stand-up comedian Zhou Libo, Taiwanese singer-actor Annie Yi and Taiwan singer-producer Jerry Huang. Only those with real talent can survive and advance to the second round, it is said.

Season 2 started airing on May 1 and the final show, with around 20 contestants, will be aired on July 10.

On May 22, the viewership rating was 20.1 percent, the highest among all local programs at that time. Nationally, it ranked No. 1.

"The contestants can advance only after displaying their real, unique and creative talent," says Jin Lei, director of "China's Got Talent." "This year we are happy to find a lot of amazing stunts by young people, particularly the post-80s and 90s generations."

Although lighting, sentimental music and close-up shots are commonly used in Chinese domestic TV to hype acts and generate emotion, the second season offers a new, more documentary-style record of the contestants' progress in performance, as well as their stories - from registration to performance.

In this season contestants don't deliver their life stories before they perform and they talk about themselves only later, when judges ask them questions. Their time on stage for performance and talk is quite limited, so contestants are supposed to focus more on their act and not give vent to their tears.

Most of the contestants are ordinary people and amateurs with little training. But they want to be stars.

The winner gets a contract with a prestigious entertainment company.


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