The parents decide who will date their son or daughter, girls may be told they aren’t pretty or young enough, and it has a transgender host….
Welcome to China’s latest zany, hit dating show.
Buoyed by the success of If You Are the One SBS VICELAND will screen the unique and sometimes politically-incorrect, Meet the Parents: China. It is sporadically funny, sometimes touching, and occasionally downright offensive.
Settle down for a marathon screening, this clocks in at a whopping 90 minutes, just about as long as I can ever recall for a TV game show.
Hosting is famed transgender actress Miss Jin Xing (and here I was thinking all things LGBTQI were still frowned upon in China?). The format sees five parents interrogating a single for their son or daughter, before a studio audience.
In the first episode, 5 sons are sent to a holding room where they can watch proceedings and sometimes telephone their parents to help them win -or lose- the girl on offer.
Like If You Are the One, the questions and topics are so uniquely cultural you just couldn’t script them.
One mother doesn’t want any girls with cold hands, because cold hands indicate a cold-blooded uterus and may result in low offspring. Another asks if a girl can do housework? And one girl wants to know if any of the boys have dirty nails and ponders “When did your son last cry?”
One son tells his mother, “Get the girl to pay attention to my inner qualities but don’t blow my trumpet too much,” while one girl tries to sell her best qualities by insisting “I’m good at making soup” (she even brings some along to demonstrate).
Amid a bit of rapping, singing and Katy Perry tunes, the Gen-Y audience punctuates the gameplay with all the best ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ we never got on Perfect Match.
Profoundly, Miss Jin will sometimes offer wise counsel which everybody, parents included, take on board as motherly advice. I just couldn’t work out if it was based on character fiction or actual trans experience…
But there are odd lost-in-translation moments that would never fly on western television. At one point Miss Jin introduces a single female by telling us she isn’t very pretty but hey, she is funny (for real).
Comments from the male singles looking on from a sound-proof booth are positively pack-mentality.
“Not as good as I expected,” observes one. “She isn’t my type,” says another.
The most dramatic moment in the opening episode occurs when everybody seems quite taken by a young woman who runs her own business until discovering she is a single mother of 40. Cruelly, before you can say Please Marry My Boy all the parents suddenly lose interest. It is humiliating and frankly shameful, but admittedly high on emotional drama.
“I’d want her if she were 25,” says one 20-something son. What the?
Yet while Meet The Parents: China is offered as some kind of car-crash, culturally-insightful game show, it may just fly as cult viewing, or even as a Saturday night drinking game.
And if the success of If You Are the One is anything to go by, it probably will.
Meet The Parents: China airs 7pm Saturdays on SBS VICELAND.