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English>>Life & Culture

Treating 'sickcoms'

By Zhang Zihan (Global Times)

09:03, August 23, 2012

Chinese TV sitcom series iApartment has been a hit with viewers since it first hit the airwaves in 2008. Its third season has been aired since July 30, even managing to win the gold medal for ratings ahead of this year's London Olympic Games. More than 400 million searches have been made on baidu.com, China's largest search engine, for "iApartment 3." While the success of iApartment is unmatched in Chinese television, it can't overshadow the failures of the country's ailing sitcom production industry.

"How many Chinese sitcoms can you name? Home With Kids, iApartment, My Own Swordsman, but what else?" questioned Wei Zheng, director of iApartment, emphasizing the lack of original domestic sitcoms.

Wei's words might sound harsh, but they reflect the fact domestic sitcoms have struggled to win over audiences in China. More than two decades after China's first sitcom Stories of an Editorial Board made its debut in 1991, only a handful of sitcoms have achieved success on the small screen.

Despite the fact there have been few sitcom success stories, demand remains strong. Gao Jin, editor-in-chief of online video website iqiyi.com, confirmed to Metro Beijing that more than 200 million search enquiries had been made for iApartment - over double the total number of searches for videos of Chinese swimming duo Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen.

Wei blamed the lack of comedic talent in China partly for the disappointing quality of sitcoms. "We can hardly find good, young comedians," he said. "Comedy is a forgotten frontier at most Chinese performance schools, and I've come across a large number of comedians who don't know how to properly deliver jokes."

Wei added even subtitles require greater care, as often they spoil punch lines before actors actually speak them.

But the greatest pitfall for sitcoms is scripting, Wei said. "Comedians make their living on good scripts, otherwise their talent can't be fully utilized," he said.

One of the key problems is the lack of originality, pointed out recently by Web users who have discovered many Chinese sitcoms simply follow the scripts of American sitcoms including Friends and The Big Bang Theory. Some sitcom fans have even launched boycotts online via social networking websites including weibo.com and douban.com.

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