You are busy, I am busy, we are all busy.
Maybe that’s one of the biggest turn off in choosing to watch Chinese Dramas. It’s humungus length.A lot of the popular series like Journey of Flower, Princess Agents’ have up to 50+ episodes with length of each episode around 42 minutes mark. Doing some math because I’m totally asian…
Average 50 episodes * 42 minutes per episode= 2100 minutes of your life
That’s 35 hours, which mean around a day and a half of your life
That’s really what turn me off when I first try to watch a C-Drama, it’s too much of a commitment and what’s worse is sometimes there is too many filler episodes in between. In this post I want to really tackle some pros and some cons in CDrama and how to survive most popular series long run.
I’m a glass half empty kind of guy/gal so let’s start with the cons of CDrama. First aforementioned, it’s super looooooooooonggggg. Compare with American Drama series which is much shorter with most shows getting 24 minutes per episode and like maybe 20 episode per season like Seinfeld or How I met your Mother or Friends or Big Bang Theory or game shows (reality TV). Now of course there are multiple seasons to the more popular series like Big Bang totaling at 10 (cries) or Seinfeld at 9. The beauty of these shows is you can skip around season to season, episode from episode without missing much plot. Seinfeld is called a “show about nothing” its humorous but you can pick it up any place any time. Same with like the Simpsons, each episode is like its own thing. Sure there are sometimes “arks”, but rarely. Each major plot episode is probably separated by a bunch of filler episode for laughs that you can skip. There are a lot of popular american series that aren’t “sequential”, you can pick it up if you are a newbie and still can laugh your ass off.
Compare with KDramas, although CDramas may not be as long (sometimes to an hour thanks TvN) after 16 episodes the most KDramas would be over.
You can’t do that in an Chinese Drama.
The plot drags, there hasn’t been one series where I was like “yo get going already” to the plot.
Another cons of CDrama is it is horrible in introducing fresh faces to its most popular series. I think this is an inherent problem for asian dramas, we just hate new faces. Usually there are specific eras where a set of actresses and actors dominate. So it is kind of bad if let’s say an actress or an actor who you know can’t act well but is super popular, well they just ruined probably all popular CDrama series for you for the next 8 years a so. Unlike in American TV series sometimes i get to play the very fun game of “wait wasn’t he yada in yada yada show” or wasn’t she in something something as something something? Then scramble to wikipedia to find out if I am right! If you try that with CDrama, you are going to be right like most of the time. KDrama is at least better at introducing new actors and actresses on to screen not C. I know there are a couple of people out there who watch a drama and then hardship a couple and then refuses to watch other drama where the actor and actresses are pair with someone else, if you do that for CDrama, you will probably watch one drama and then have to wait until the next world cup before you can watch one more. Gosh forbid if she/he is popular, wait until the zodiac make one full circle (12 years) before new faces pop up. Also I strongly advise you don’t get so attached to a pair, because usually if the actor or actresses are old, they are probably married. This is an Asian thing, especially with actresses. This is just a culture thing, in America there are such thing as independent women who chooses not to married, this is rarely found in asian countries. Even if young ladies say “i’m a career woman” most likely not because of family pressure (BEAR US A GRANDSON OR ELSE. But mom and dad I want to be a career woman. parent dies) and social pressure.
Speaking of culture thing, CDrama is still kind of bad at potraying LGBTQ people in a bad light. They are like America Government, but worse. Couples in CDrama are always straight (male and female) and in “modern” CDrama (and KDrama) a popular trope is the parent freaking out that their child is gay until that one girl comes along and make everybody relief that the guy isn’t gay. So if you happen to be LGBTQ, I really can’t think of a solution other than they don’t know better since they seriously don’t….Maybe in another 100 years, it’s kind of sad really
Also CDrama do tend to drag out, it’s not like filler episodes to say but sometimes you can feel the story dragging a little bit. Well don’t worry, there’s almost always light at the end of the tunnel and the light is worth it most of the time to sit through and grind. Just do skip watch if you want to get to fun part, but sometimes the little side plot are important! Enjoy the scenery if it’s dragging, the aesthetics are pretty cool!
Oh yeah I forgot to mention, the CGI is pretty bad. Like you can’t see the “strings” but you can tell if something is CGI, Americans do it much better. Like for example a bear in the forest scenes, you can almost instantly tell if the bear is CGI in CDramas. Unlike American show, which is much harder to tell, for me at least. At least CDramas don’t tend to CGI/Green screen the environment, so that’s good. Usually they will travel to different places and get the shot.
Enough with the negatives, now C the positives!
If you are into action, like sword fighting and military stuff, I feel like CDrama does that the best, and the most authentic out of any types of drama out there. Of course if you are into gun fights (WHICH IS MUCH LESS GLORIOUS) then American TV series does those the best. CDrama fights are authentic, those are real sword skill (with added special effects and stuff) or real military tactics. With the rise of CGI it has gotten much much worse, but there’s still a measure of authenticness that CDrama still has that others don’t.
Also most CDrama series invoke deep themes, especially the ones with sword fighting and stuff with lost, love, or heroic sacrifice that I feel like sometimes American Drama just lack. Like sure there are some deep messages in series like Game of Thrones, but like most of it is like the action that people like to see and the hot actresses/actor. Like what was the point of Grey’s Anatomy other than some of the more overuse themes such as cheating and stuff. Sorry for the shade 🙂 If you looking for a deep, moving adult theme series, CDrama is most likely to have it.
Most CDrama are also historical fiction, they aren’t set in fantasy makeup lands. Location such as Shaolin, Wudang, and Kunlun are real places that did have real practitioner of martial arts. Also Shaolin martial arts and such are all real (of course there’s no shooting out chi in real life). Also the deities in these almost all of these shows are all “real”, these names aren’t made up. Go to China and shout some of the stories about these deities in the street, a lot of chinese will know the story. Most dramas are also set in real dynasties of China (most popular visited dynasty are Han, Qing, Ming, Tang) and the props are made so that they look like they are from that era. The aesthetics are pretty key in CDrama, so if you like a show that pay attention to little details (such as Mr. Robot when hacking is done) look no further!
At the end of the day I feel like most CDrama flesh out their characters much more than other countries TV series just because they have 50+ episodes and 42+ minutes per episode to do so.
Types of CDrama
There’s “Classical” dramas (most popular series fall under Classical) you know the one set in the past with all that cool sword fighting and martial arts. These are the most popular series, and only big name actresses/actor get the really popular series roles. All these classical series are either based on a book of wuxia genre or other popular books (most popular author is Jin Yong, who just recently died), a game (almost always RPG created by a gaming company), a popular folk story, actual history romanticized (made more interesting and heroic).
Then there’s “modern” dramas which I feel like Korea and America does better. These drama have relatively unknown or rising actors and actresses. Most breakout roles for the popular actor and actresses started from a “modern” drama. I classify “modern” drama as dramas that are set in present day in like life situation as in office life, big company chaebol, things like that. A lot of these dramas are based on popular web-series book.