Chinese TV show concept inspires foreign networks
China Daily

A screenshot from Duos Increibles which is airing on Spanish state TV network RTVE.

In 2006, the then 27-year-old pop icon Jay Chou released Faraway, a song in which he duets with veteran singer Fei Yu-ching, who is nearly double his age and possesses a silvery, operatic voice that is very different from Chou's own modern singing style.

Chou, with R&B and hip-hop being his musical staples, attracts younger listeners, while Fei's traditional singing style plays to a loyal, much older fan base.

The song became a sensation and helped the two singers widen their respective audiences.

The cross-generational duet's success later inspired program producers at Shanghai Media Group to create an original music show that offers singers and singer-songwriters, from a variety of age groups and music genres, a platform to collaborate on stage. In 2019, the music show Singing with Legends was born, and has enjoyed lasting popularity among Chinese audiences.

Its first season, which debuted on SMG's Dragon TV, has obtained a relatively high ranking, scoring 8 points out of 10 on the popular Chinese review site Douban.

September saw the premiere of the show's fourth season. This time around, producers have invited veteran singers, including Hong Kong diva Priscilla Chan Wai-han, 57, and Taiwan singer-songwriters Terry Lin, 56, and Steve Chou, 53, to pair with singers from younger generations, among whom are Zhang Yuan, 37, Lu Hu, 36, Angela Hui, 29, from Hong Kong, and 24-year-old Huang Xiaoyun, and perform duets of classic songs from yesteryear.

"We bring them together to see if any spark of inspiration will ignite from their musical exchanges," says Chen Hong, chief producer of the show.

"Singers can explore more possibilities by cooperating with different partners. Also, the audience can get a feeling of freshness when watching the performance of different duets."

The original show Singing with Legends, produced by Dragon TV, gathers singers from a variety of age groups to perform duets together. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The idea of cross-generational collaboration among music-makers not only successfully connects to the audience, but also appeals to Chen's counterparts in foreign countries.

Recently, the show's Spanish version, named Duos Increibles, has been airing on the country's state TV network RTVE, marking the very first time a Chinese original program model has been adapted and broadcast on a mainstream media platform in Europe.

The Spanish adaptation also emphasizes intergenerational collaboration and the rejuvenation of classic hit songs. Veteran artists Ana Belen, Miguel Poveda, Ainhoa Arteta, Victor Manuel, Sole Gimenez and Antonio Carmona have joined the show, and chosen their respective partners from a group of novices.

According to Ana Maria Bordas, director of RTVE Originals, Spain's entertainment market has long been short of music shows. Duos Increibles, with its program model from China, will use its intergenerational perspective to bring the Spanish audience a unique, incredible experience, she says.

Additionally, Dragon TV has also signed option agreements with French TV agency Herve Hubert Sas, Sony Pictures in Germany and Italian company Garbo Produzionis for the program's formats in French, German and Italian respectively.

Sun Kan, vice-director of SMG's new media business unit, says that supported by the National Radio and Television Administration, SMG started to promote China's original TV programs at international events such as the Cannes International Film Festival in 2018.

He says it's an energy-consuming process for those foreign TV program producers who purchased the authorization to make the show's adaptations in their own countries to actually land the project, because they have to negotiate with local TV stations and sponsors.

"The reason why those experienced producers are willing to pay for the program model must be because they believe that the show is a promising prospect for the market," Sun adds.