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Do-it-yourself dramas a new trend

CHINESE directors are spicing up TV series, making them more interactive and giving them open endings so the audience can help craft the plot.

At a time when American TV drama series like "Prison Break" and "Desperate Housewives" are winning Chinese fans, domestic TV is also tapping the audience for ideas.

Plans to invigorate domestic TV series were described last week during the 15th Shanghai Television Festival.

This summer local Dragon TV will launch two interactive romance-dramas, "Cheer up, Youya!" and "Sufei's Diary."

They don't feature big-name stars, but they offer flexible storylines and lots of interactivity.

Adapted from the Mexican TV drama hit "The Most Beautiful Ugly Girl," "Cheer up, Youya!" is about an independent woman's romances with three men.

"Sufei's Diary" follows an 18-year-old girl from a divorced family in Beijing, who begins university studies in Shanghai. She faces typical social and emotional challenges, like dating and pressure to excel in her studies.

The story was a popular video series on, and its TV debut marks a transmedia cooperation between television and new media.

To accompany the programs, will provide a platform for TV viewers and others to discuss issues faced by Chinese young people of TV protagonist Sufei's generation.

Netizens' input may generate the story of new episodes.

The two series have open endings, which makes them rare in China where stories are usually wrapped up in advance with all the shooting done. The audience can vote online and change the plot. They can also decide who will play protagonists in the next season.

The two series, "Cheer Up" and "Sufei," will be part of the channel's new TV contest for actress wannabes, "My Angel," says Su Xiao, deputy director of Dragon TV. The "Angel" winners will play leading roles in both shows.

"Feedback from our audience determines the future direction of the story," Su says. "We will also explore new hot topics among young people to provide an insight into this group."

The idea is that the audience will no longer be bystanders, but will get involved in the drama itself.

Other new Dragon TV productions, without audience participation, will be "A Story of Lala's Promotion" about a white collar, and a family drama "Humble Abode."

At the TV festival, the DocuChina project selected five winning documentary scripts from 15 finalists, all young film makers.

The winners include Shen Shiping and Chen Fu's environmental protection-themed "Don't Cry, Three Gorges;" Fan Jian's "The Fault Zone," about a volunteer going to the quake-hit areas of Sichuan Province; and Liu Shuo and Fei Youming's "Sole," about the rise and fall of a Chinese businessman's family.

Winners will each receive around 80,000 yuan (US$11,700) for filming and get technical support from veteran director Jia Zhangke.

Additionally, Shanghai Media Group has also signed a cooperation memorandum with Taiwan's TVBS (Television Broadcasting Station), covering TV programs, technology and other fields.

An 11-episode documentary about Taiwan's culture and its roots is being filmed and will be shown in September. It features interviews with many major Taiwanese figures, including scholar Li Ao and pop idol Jay Chou.

Another TV series, "Growing Through Life," is about a famous electronics retailer and his big traditional family. It will be aired late this year and star Hong Kong actors Damian Lau and Raymond Lam.

There's romance, greed, intrigue and conflict among different groups and generations.

The series is a cooperation between Chinese mainland and Hong Kong producers, following the popular show "The Drive of Life."


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