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Highlights from the CCTV Spring Festival Gala

Last night, in between mass consumption of jiaozi and the occasional trip outside to blow shit up, we gathered around the television for the annual CCTV New Year’s Gala. I’m a cornball at heart and I actually get a kick out of the program, so in the spirit of Chunjie, I thought I’d pass along eight random thoughts on the 2008 broadcast.

1. Good list of international stars–Zhang Ziyi and Jay Chou did musical numbers, though Jay’s was a helluva lot more musical than Zhang Ziyi’s. I mean, I know she’s famous and all but seriously. I turned to YJ and asked, “What’s next? Yao Ming break dancing?” On an unrelated note, who wins in this deal: Is Song Zuying lucky she bagged Jiang Zemin and so gets invited to every gala from now until the Great Wall falls down or is old panda eyes the one who should be thanking Marx that Song gives him the time of day? Not sure how to score that one.

2. Sorta topical with sketches on traffic rules, public transportation, dishonest real estate developers and irrational investing in the stock market, plus yet another bit this year celebrating migrant workers. It was almost edgy. I mean, in a well-rounded, safety first, pillows on every hard surface kind of way.

3. A tribute to the snow disaster last week, complete with a group reading/song recapping the struggles and triumphs battling the storm. (Though I kept waiting for a Kayne West moment that never came.) That said, I’m not sure what the propaganda department was drinking when they cut to shots of the Guangzhou ‘celebration’ held for the workers who couldn’t get home. Not many happy cheery faces in that room, and who can blame them? Not good times, bad times.

4. Did you know a lot of foreigners speak Chinese? Really, it’s true.

5. Montage of leaders: Mao, Deng, Jiang, Hu…Where was Hua? Wtf.

6. The two funniest sketches? The “three women and the sailor” bit (Lao Gong! Wo ai ni!) and Song Dandan and Zhao Benshan answering questions on an Olympic trivia quiz show. (Q: What is the English word for ‘cha’? Song: “Tea!” Q: What is the English word for ‘lucha’? Zhao: “Lu Tea!” Runner-up: Zhao Benshan’s ‘Mahjong Tai Chi.’)

7. CCTV did a decent job (at least until the last hour) of not burying the telecast in Olympic schmaltz, though the basketball demonstration was probably more impressive to people who have never seen And 1.

8. Finally, nice touch at the end with the astronauts. Who doesn’t give it up for astronauts?

After the show, we went outside to watch total bedlam. One neighbor was carrying around strings of exploding M-80s, another was shooting sparks out of his 3rd floor apartment onto somebody else’s brand new car below. YJ’s parents live next door to a fire station, and the trucks were coming and going all night. Renao, indeed.

14 Comments on Highlights from the CCTV Spring Festival Gala

  1. I liked Song Dandan’s “Cao Cao is the fastest man in history” best, and I’m finding it hard to fault her logic.

    But actually, I’m just glad I stayed awake for the whole thing, then ran outside to blow shit up before the astronauts came on- saw them in one of the endless re-runs this morning, far too hypernationalist for my tastes, had I seen them last night I would’ve been tempted to down a whole bottle of Ergoutou to stop myself exploding- and then what would the family do with the fuse-lighter in chief too sozzled to crawl up off the floor, and a major fire risk every time he exhaled?

    As for the staying awake bit, it’s not because I dislike the gala so much, I’ve managed to enjoy it most years. The last two I seem to wind up shattered by the time it starts. That’s probably because of waiting till the Mrs gets off work to head up to the village. Next year I’ll have to make good on my threats to come up here a few days early.

    Oh, and congratulate YJ’s parents on their choice of neighbour. We’re next to a cornfield littered with straw, don’t know where the nearest fire station is, but I’ve never seen one anywhere in our township. So far so good, though….

  2. JJ aka Cornball — thanks for the rundown for this would-be Beijinger who spent the holiday in very un-rènǎo Minnesota. Foreigners speaking Chinese is hilarious, although I’m too culturally out of touch to know who any of those people are. Xīnniánkuàilè to you and your people!

  3. Chris,

    That was a great line, too. I liked how Song Dandan emphasized the “historical” part of the question.

    I agree the nationalism bordering on jingoism of the Chunjie gala is a bit tiresome, but then again, I grew up in the United States where gratuitous displays of patriotic fervor are de riguer for many televised events and perhaps I’ve become a bit too desensitized to such things.

  4. Syz,

    Thanks for taking time out from your vacation to stop by. I’m sure you can find the footage online, YouTube already had several clips from the gala posted by this morning.

    There weren’t too many foreigners speaking Chinese during the gala, which made the S.H.E. song all the more ironic. It’s a catchy tune though, and it will give me a useful retort for the coming year whenever a cab driver expresses surprise that a laowai can string together eight words of Hanyu.

    Happy New Years to you as well.


  5. A comment about Hua Guofeng. I am born at the end of 70s. I knew nothing about Hua until I was in high scholl and started reading something more than historical text books taught at school. He was one of the “Long-live” man who ever stood on Tiananmen. Nevertheless, he is always disregarded by all official historical textbooks. Anyway, easy come easy go!

  6. “I grew up in the United States where gratuitous displays of patriotic fervor are de riguer for many televised events and perhaps I’ve become a bit too desensitized to such things.”

    It’s easy to be turned off to US patriotic fervor when you picture the type of people that show up in John Melloncamp videos or any sort of midwestern or deep south summer gathering.

  7. Ji Feng Jing Cao // February 11, 2008 at 6:28 am //

    I thought Zhao Benshan and Song Dandan’s sketch was pretty bad by their usual standards. When it got to the last bit where Zhao Benshan was giving that speech I was like WTF is this? He normally wouldn’t get out of his way to sing praises or anything like that unless the lines were really funny. This one was a huge disappointment.

  8. Liyang,

    Yeah, the Hua thing was a bit of an inside joke. As many, if not both, of my longtime readers know, Hua Guofeng is something of an unofficial pet project of mine. Click the link above to find out why.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Ps. Only nine months and one day until Hua Guofeng Day, 2008 (October 12).

  9. Nanhe,

    The example I always remember is a Bruce Springsteen concert I saw in the early 1990s. As soon as the band played the opening chords to “Born in the USA,” a bunch of yahoos started waving giant flags around and bellowing “USA! USA!” It was obvious they had never actually listened to any of the other lyrics in the song.

  10. Ji Feng Jing Cao,

    I’m certainly not a connoisseur of their comedy, they’ve been doing roughly the same bit since 《懒汉相亲》(“A Date with Slug”), but I’ve only been watching them for about four or five years, so certainly you’ll have the more critical eye.

    But good or not so much, they’re usually one of the highlights of the gala, and it was the one that caused our family to guffaw the most.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Ji Feng Jing Cao,

    From what I’ve read, Zhao and Song were forced to do a bit about the Olympics (and, presumably, not ridicule it as they should — though that “什么运动最揪心?足球!什么运动更揪心?中国足球!” line had my wife and I in stitches), and then forced to add a bit at the end consoling the folks caught in the snow. Those are two tough topics to make funny.

    The drunk driving bit at the beginning was my favorite this year.

  12. John B,

    That was a nice line, too and I agree that given the tough parameters and guidelines for content, pulling off great comedy is quite an Olympian feat in and of itself. Good point.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  13. I am contemplating making a bid for a spot on the 2009 Gala show. I covered ‘Xiao Fang’ on Dalian TV at the end of 2004, and am wondering about covering She’s ‘Zhongguo Hua’. Anyone know where I can find the chords and lyrics?

  14. Ivan,

    I would imagine a quick google search would yield the basic lyrics, though they were changed for the gala. I’m willing to bet between an online copy and a couple of passes through the YouTube video linked above, a passable set of lyrics could be transcribed.

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