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Empresses in the Palace may be headed West

By Han Bingbin and Eric Jou (China Daily)

10:51, February 05, 2013

A screen grab from the popular Chinese TV drama Empresses in the Palace. There are plans for it to be re-edited and broadcast in the United States. (China Daily)

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Wysteria Lane, the fictional setting of the US TV series Desperate Housewives, may have some competition from some more ancient surroundings - or at least that's the plan.

Recent stirrings in the Chinese TV scene have pointed that the Chinese TV drama The Legend of Zhenhuan, or Empresses in the Palace, may be headed West. But rumors of such a move are right now only that.

The Chinese TV drama, with its critical and meticulous display of the intrigue between emperor's concubines in the imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was arguably China's best-received and most influential TV drama last year.

It gained a record-breaking 10 percent rating at its peak and some 2 billion click-throughs online. After attracting a large audience on the mainland, the drama has unexpectedly become a popular sensation in Taiwan as well.

Unusual for any mainland TV production in the past decade, reactions have included an audience rating that tops many star entertainment shows, many talk shows that sing its praises, and continuous social discussions.

For Cao Ping, the TV drama's producer, these are all surprises. She said she could finally hold her head high after news that the show has scored high ratings in Malaysia and Singapore, and that it has been sold to Japan.

A US production company noticed that it captivated Chinese audiences in the US, Cao said. But she declined to reveal the name of the company.

Confident in both the show's cultural value and its movie-like production level, the company purchased the right for broadcasting in all English-speaking regions, Cao said.

Cao said the company will re-edit the 76-episode series into a six-part mini-series with one-hour episodes. Due to the possible edits, there may be some loss in the fluidity of the plot, so Cao said the company is considering investing in reshooting various scenes with the original cast.

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