CCTV New Year's Gala

CCTV New Year's Gala

The CCTV New Year's Gala (zh-cp|c=中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会|p=Zhōngguó zhōngyāng diànshìtái chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì) is arguably the premier mainland Chinese television event of the year. It is an evening gala of the drama, dance, and song, which is broadcast on the eve of Chinese New Year, live on CCTV-1, and by satellite on CCTV-4 and CCTV-9. Because it is viewed by an estimated 700 million people on New Year's Eve every year, the CCTV New Year's Gala has become a cultural phenomenon beginning in the early 1990s in mainland China, and since then has become a necessity of New Year's nights.

History and significance

The first CCTV New Year's Gala was held in 1982. It was the successor to Beijing Television's irregular New Year's Eve broadcasts, dating back as far as 1956. In the 1982 show, a unique and live New Year-related stage was set up at CCTV in Beijing, with performers in the arts, drama, dance, and song from all over the country. In 1983, the first annual "Chinese New Year Celebration Evening Gala" was held, and for every year since then at the turn of the Lunar New Year, the program begins at 8:00PM and lasts until roughly 12:30AM on the first day of the New Year. The program has become increasingly more expensive every year, and tends to be set on grander stages each time. The evolution of the New Year's Gala is almost representative of China's technological growth since 1983, with a significantly new look every five years or so. Research commissioned by China Television Research (CTR) in 2007 indicated that an estimated 93.6% of families watched the Gala on television.

The program has received extremely large audiences, which have grown significantly over the years. The CCTV New Year's Gala is currently the most watched annual Arts and Performance event anywhere in the world, and as such, its importance has reached over to political, economic, and ethical territory. As the Eve of Chinese New Year is a time where the family gathers, the typical situation involves a large 3-generation family gathered in front of their TV set while making dumplings for the first New Year's meal. The Gala adds a mood of celebration in the house as people laugh, discuss and enjoy the performance. It has become an ingrained tradition on Mainland China to watch the New Year's Gala on New Year's Eve, and the audience numbers over 700 million people (est.).

Rural areas that previously been unfamiliar with concepts such as television often holds great gatherings on New Year's Eve to watch the program. The CCP Government has often emphasized rural areas being able to receive the New Year's Eve Gala as a progress in their economic development.

Synopsis and features

Although the show has evolved greatly since its creation, the basis by which the Gala is formed upon has remained largely consistent. The makers of the Gala tries to target all demographic groups, including programs obviously directed at a specific intended audience. The Gala has a few basic components that accompany it every year.

The show has four hosts, most of whom are CCTV regular programming hosts. There are an additional two hosts for the mobile hot-lines.

"Skits" (小品) has a focus on comedy. They tend to portray typical New Year situations in all walks of life, and more or less reflects on society. Skits use enough stage props to rally its message. While always funny, these usually attempt to convey a message such as unity, respect for the elderly, or education.

"Xiangsheng" (相声), the closest English equivalent of which is probably Stand-up comedy, also focuses on the element of comedy. It usually involves two people who feed off each other in what seems to be a conversation discussing a certain topic, but in other times could also be the basis for a skit without props.

"Song and Dance" (歌舞) are regular occurrences, occupying every third or fourth program. Music of many genres are played, from traditional folk songs, to more modern, Chinese pop music. Every year, there will be a series of ethnic-related songs quickly fading in and out in succession (联唱), representing China's major minority ethnic groups, the Mongols, Manchus, Hui, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Miao, Zhuang etc. Most songs are accompanied by dances, although there are also always dance performances without singing.

"Acrobatics" (杂技) is also a regular feature. During most years, there will be magic tricks (魔术) at some point during the night, often involving non-Chinese magicians.

The emphasis on traditional Chinese arts performances like "Chinese Opera" (戏剧) has decreased over the years, with only a few appearances in recent years, mostly crammed into no more than 10 minutes of airtime. This was partly because CCTV-3 runs a simultaneous broadcast of a New Year's Gala entirely in Chinese opera performances. The categories feature Peking opera, Yue opera, Henan opera, and Sichuan opera.

Since the early 1990s, the Gala has also contained subtle political enhancements. In at least one program every year, the Communist Party leaders are glorified in one way or another, to the background of a song. Displayed every year are images of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. In recent years the entire line-up of Politburo Standing Committee members are displayed. A certain stress has been put on Chinese reunification for many years. National unity is also constantly put into the mix. In recent years, a feature for every provincial TV station has been inserted to reflect regional differences and interests. Programming always includes performers from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, usually in songs, and their affiliation with any of these entities is always displayed on screen. In recent years, however, this trend has disappeared. Every year a performer from Taiwan will stress a message of "we're all Chinese".

In recent years hosts have also become part of the program, participating in "xiangsheng" or in skits.

Live phone and mobile lines open up every year during the hours of the Gala for the choosing of the audience's favourite program during the night. In recent years the numbers have been 168-99-999, and 160-996-996.

Seconds before midnight, the hosts lead a countdown to New Year's, ending with the knocking of the bell. Around an hour after midnight, the program ends with "Can't Forget Tonight" (难忘今宵).

Criticisms

In recent years, scandals and controversy have plagued the program, garnering criticisms from Chinese viewers.

Corruption

Director Zhao An, who directed seven Galas before 2003, was sentenced to ten years in prison by a Beijing Court after it was made public that he had been involved with corruption in the programming.

In addition to the scandal mentioned above, it is known that many Chinese performers have made numerous personal or monetary contributions, so that they can appear on the Gala.

Overcommercialism

Recently, the increase in commercialism in recent Gala productions have gathered criticism from the Chinese public. In 2007, the five-second countdown commercial, sponsored by Midea, cost ¥5.75 million RMB ($750,000 US).

Regionalism

In recent years, the gala has focused more and more on the lives and customs of Northern Chinese people, which has alienated Southern Chinese viewers, whose traditions and customs (especially Chinese New Years customs) differs greatly from their Northern counterparts.

Lack of Creativity

In 2007, the gala was criticized on online Chinese forums, where it was labeled as lacking creativity and novelty. [ [http://www.mzrb.com.cn/news/0702/19/070219014.htm Meizhou Daily: Is the Gala good? So many opinions.] ] The format of the show, in which the two co-hosts finish each other's sentence, are also considered by many people as stilted online.

"Dark Three Minutes"

The 2007 New Year's Gala also became infamous for its so-called "dark three minutes", where the six hosts, Zhu Jun, Zhou Tao, Li Yong, Dong Qing, Zhang Zequn and Liu Fangfei collectively got their lines wrong, setting the trigger to three minutes of chaos seen by hundreds of millions of people. Zhang Zequn was the first to read his lines incorrectly, obviously reciting the wrong "chunlian", although the audience still applauded. Li Yong then mentioned the transition from the year "bingxu" (year of the dog) to "dinghai" (year of the pig) and a greeting to "mother comrades across the country" before being cut off by Zhu Jun's loud "The New Year is almost here!" Liu Fangfei, who was relatively new to the gala, then read a line that was obviously incomplete, and for a few seconds afterwards there was dead airtime. Zhou Tao tried following it up, only to be interrupted by Li Yong. Zhou then gave Li Yong an annoyed stare, obviously visible as the camera was focused on her. Zhu Jun then interrupted Li Yong again, only to be interrupted by Zhou Tao before the ten-second countdown began. [ [http://enjoy.eastday.com/e/20070224/u1a2642674.html Chunwan screw-ups: Viewpoints and analysis: Eastday.com 春晚名嘴集体掌了自己嘴 孔庆东博客炮轰春晚] ] Host Zhang Zequn has since then apologized on his CCTV blog.

The three minutes of mismanagement, along with the general dullness of the programming led some Chinese online forums to criticize the 2007 Gala as "the worst in 20 years", citing Zhao Benshan's skit as the only bright point.

Despite the criticisms, the Gala is still a ratings powerhouse, a program in which ither TV stations, some of which have gained prominence in recent years' Gala performances in their own right (notably Hunan TV) trying to avoid clashing with CCTV's Gala by arranging them on the day before or after the New Year's Eve. [ [http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-02/19/content_811772.htm CCTV gala gets mixed reactions ] ]

Eminent performers

As the program is watched by more Chinese than any other, a performance in the New Year's Gala could propel a relatively unknown name into household talk and national celebrity overnight. The following people are often associated with the Gala:

Hosts

There have been over twenty hosts in total, beginning in the early 1983. The first ever production of the show was hosted by Jiang Kun, Liu Xiaoqing, Ma Ji and Wang Jingyu. In later years Zhao Zhongxiang and Wang Gang gained prominence. Ni Ping appeared in over ten galas beginning in 1991, making her the most veteran female host.

Current hosts are Zhou Tao, Zhu Jun, who have been hosting since 1996, and Li Yong, since 2004, and Dong Qing, since 2005.

Performers

*Zhao Benshan; Gao Xiumin ; Fan Wei - skits
*Song Dandan; Guo Da & Cai Ming - skits
*Chen Peisi ; Zhu Shimao - skits, 1990s
*Feng Gong and Niu Qun - "xiangsheng"
*Jiang Kun - "xiangsheng"
*Cai Ming ; Guo Da - skits
*Dashan (stage name of Canadian Mark Rowswell), gained his fame through the Gala
*Song Zuying, Peng Liyuan; folk singers

Guest appearances

These performers have made appearances at the Gala:
*S.H.E, Fei Yu-Ching, Jay Chou (2008)
*Zhang Ziyi (2000; 2008)
*2008 also featured a poem dedicated to the victims of the 2008 Chinese winter storms with it read out loud to the audience by eminent performers, including Li Ruiying, Kang Hui, Pu Cunxin, Wang Gang, Chen Daoming, Jiang Wen, Han Lei, Wei Wei and Zhang Guoli
*Angela Chang, Jolin Tsai, David Tao (2007)
*Lin Junjie (2006)
*Jackie Chan (2005)
*Joey Yung (2005; 2007)
*Cui Yongyuan (1998, 2006)
*Andy Lau
*Ruby Lin
*Fei Xiang (1987)

ee also

*"Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve"

References

Pinyin converted with [http://www.cozychinese.com/convert CozyChinese]

External links

* [http://spring.cctv.com/2007spring/index.shtml CCTV Official Website for the Gala]
* [http://news.xinhuanet.com/newmedia/2007-02/19/content_5755742.htm Behind the Scenes: The CCTV New Year's Gala]
* [http://list.mp3.baidu.com/list/chunwan.html New Year's Gala: Compilation of Songs from Baidu]

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