On January 30, Running Man became the latest in a series of Chinese TV shows being adapted for the big screen. Like its predecessors, it lost something the transition.
But for anyone whose mind was powered by logic instead of red stacks of 100-yuan notes, the approaching train wreck should have been obvious: reality shows make for poor movies.
Running Man was originally a Korean reality show formula purchased by Zhejiang TV. The quality of the domestic version was ensured by a cooperation that gave the Korean production unit temporary oversight. Little was changed save for the addition of some elements borrowed from famous Chinese literature.
Running Man invited seven popular celebrities including Angelababy, Deng Chao, Wang Baoqiang, Chen He, Wang Zulan, Li Chen and Zheng Kai to compete in various tasks with minimal audience aid. It also featured guest appearances by popular actors and singers, and all of them were separated into groups to compete.
While the formula did not break any new ground, it did provide for some fun discussion.
The film of Running Man is something else entirely.
The writers attempted to create a story framework that would involve cramming a cast into the popular reality show setup. Unfortunately, the best they could manage were a group of brothers and sisters split up between different cities.
The cast includes all the go-to personalities of uninspired Chinese writers: cooks, rich heirs and gaming addicts. They are united only by an anonymous message informing them they have won a trip to a Sanya resort.
But upon arriving in Sanya, they discover just what kind of horrible movie they’ve walked into.
Two years ago, Hunan TV attempted to drag its Where Are We Going, Dad?! reality show to the big screen. That mistake should have been a free lesson for Zhejiang TV’s greedy producers.
In the first two weeks since its debut, Running Man’s score on Douban has plummeted to an abysmally low 3.0 with so many down votes that even the water army can’t keep it afloat. The comments were quick to spot the film’s most obvious and fatal flaw: even in a world of pre-scripted “reality” shows, a pre-scripted reality show movie goes beyond what any fan can accept.
Other viewers pointed out how media scandals surrounding the film’s cast resemble advertisements in retrospect.
Chen He apologized in January for divorcing his wife of 14 years. He was also exposed being the third wheel of another marriage. Angry fans flooded his Weibo account and urged him to quit the Running Man team.
A few days later, Li Chen was exposed as being in a relationship with Fan Bingbing, the actress who played Wu Meiniang and her breasts in SARFT’s heavily censored cleavage-oriented TV drama.
That so many Running Man actors were involved in these and other scandals have cynical viewers crying foul.