“I always tell trainees there are no shortcuts, there is only practice, practice, never-ending repeated practice. Let it become a kind of habit, a routine.
Because the only thing that lets me have the courage to face all the sounds and lights is just the memories of my own body.”
— Zhang Yixing
The show is a Chinese reality boygroup survival show produced by iQiyi. First episode broadcast was back in January and it has been garnering millions of views (and votes) not only in China but also internationally. This show is very similar (almost a copy) to the Korean show Produce 101.
The show in one sentence: Nine out of the hundred trainees will be chosen through a voting system by the viewers to debut as a unit. These kind of shows in Korea is pretty much the norm though not all process of debuting members of a new group is aired. I was a bit apprehensive when I made the decision to check this out but I’m glad I did.
No major spoilers. I promise.
So what or who is the main attraction of this show?
Though they were one of the reasons why I was curious about this show in the first place, especially because of Lay (EXO) who has been actively promoting his solo career in China as artist Zhang Yixing, and Jackson (GOT7) who is doing the same.
Lay appears as the Main MC or the “Nation’s Producer” for the show much like Jang Geun Seuk in Produce 101 Season 1 and BOA in Season 2 of the korean version. Jackson along with MC Jin are the rap mentors. Chinese singer Li Rong Hao is the vocal teacher and the two lovely ladies, Cheng Xiao member of Cosmic Girls, and Zhou Jieqiong who was a product of the korean version of this show and now a member of Pristin, serves as dance mentors.
Now we got the basic parts of the show, here’s some of the reasons why I love it:
Lay basically dragged me here after binge watching him and his innocent ways in Go Fighting, so it was such a pleasant surprise to see him in a different light. Gone is the innocent Zhang Yixing and naive sheep that he usually was in other variety shows, and in its place is the artist who has been working so hard to get to where he is now. He is strict, charismatic and so much the perfectionist that he is in this show. Though I say strict, Lay really cares for the trainees so much that he wants them to do well, and it’s also pretty obvious later on that he’s very warm and caring towards them. You can’t miss it in each of his solo interviews and the way he would personally look over the performances even though it’s not required of him to do so. The playful Yixing is still there but he is first and foremost a mentor (and a senior) here.
Not only Lay but every mentor really cares for the trainees as shown in the way they wholeheartedly give advice and lessons especially the veteran singer Li Rong Hao during his vocal sessions. Jackson (Wang Jia Er)who also took his role as a mentor very seriously though his playful and exuberant personality is always there — he’s always a joy to be around — and MC Jin who exudes such a free spirit that he gets along with Jackson very well. This show also proved how much of a social butterfly Jackson really is evidenced by him knowing several trainees and admitted that he is very close to some of them.
The staff is hilarious! They may not appear on the show itself but interviews with the trainees are made much more fun because of the staff. Yeah, they’re guilty of making some of the trainees cry, annoyed or even embarrassed, but you really can’t hate them because they bring out the best out of the trainees — they basically pulled the cute out of Cai Xukun, got Zhu Xingjie the Huba annoyed, and teased the hell out of Bu Fan.
They feel like family. All of them – the staff, trainees, and mentors. I often forget that I’m watching a survival show. I mean is this a competition or just a big school trip with adorkable students?
This is a whole meme of a show. Lay started it with his obsession with balance to mentor Li Rong Hao’s must-not-disturb face. Then the trainees carried the torch from Bu Fan and his funny reactions, to You Zhangjing’s obsession with food, and to many more crazy hilarious moments that made up half of this show.
In comparison to the idol trainee system already established in Korea, the trainees here may not be on the same level (in terms of being comfortable in front of the camera) as the ones in Produce 101, though I think it worked in this show’s favor because it made it less the ‘desperate and harsh show‘ as the original but more ‘in the name friendly competition‘ type.
There is so much content! Aside from the official episodes there are behind the scenes, pajama shows, dorm tour, and other unreleased clips provided containing more hilarity and fun.
The editing is very much my style. At times it’s just adorable and funny but there are also those movie-like scenes they would include like in the beginning of the first episode. The show felt like it is very much loved and cared for by the producers and staff. When other shows would focus on the drama, the backstabbing and evil editing, this one would be advertising the friendship between trainees and the way they would support and care for each other. There are so many instances when I just paused for a while and admired this show for all the great content they kept on giving. Not only for the sake of the trainees and garnering those votes, but also because they want to give a worthy and meaningful show.
You know that saying, if you have nothing good to say then don’t say anything at all? I’m always reminded of that whenever I watch this show because they don’t focus on making trainees look bad and all that evil editing, but more of the contrary. They brought fun, positivity and healthy competition to our screens. I could not count the times I laughed so much and also the times I would tear up with them. This show is not your usual survival projects. They took the original version, made it better, funnier and more sincere. It is a show full of the passion of trainees, their camaraderie with each other, sincerity of the staff and teachers, and all things you didn’t know you were looking for in a show.
“Work hard, work hard, and work even harder.”
Then of course there are the trainees themselves who are the center of this show. You know those stereotypical characters or archetypes like in books or anime? Idol Producer offers a wide variety of them too – only they’re more interesting in live action version. In fairness to all of them, it doesn’t seem to be concepts or carefully constructed images at all. It felt genuine and not at all forced.
some examples (edit: I got too crazy with the quantity of examples):
The ‘everyone can’t help but adore’ type (Chen Linong)
Right from the start, Nongnong already has the viewers (and the mentors and trainees alike) in the palm of his hands and he wasn’t even trying very hard. He’s just in his usual positive and vibrant self who trots in with his bunny tie and great personality. He lost his smile for a while because people have been saying such mean things, but thankfully this positive kid came back to us with his usual smile.
The ultimate DIVA (Cai Xukun)
When they say everyone has the hots for xukun, I definitely won’t disagree because even Lay looks like he might be in that club too and Jackson approves of his sexy fishnet style from the get go. Blessed with natural good looks he’s already made a name for himself before joining the show and has adoring fans he lovingly calls iKuns. Boy said he doesn’t know how to be cute but the second picture would say otherwise.
The fanboy (Zuo Ye)
Need I say more? A dream come true for a fan to meet his idol, but this means so much more to him because he wants to be like him. Gotta catch up with Kun soon, Zuo Ye!
I’m scary-looking but really soft inside (Bu Fan)
Bu Fan is the tallest in the show and even though his physical appearance might be intimidating for some, that perception will vanish as soon as you get to know this playful kid. Dubbed as the vampire for his looks and his seemingly cold demeanor at first, he proves us wrong at every turn. He really is a softie but a very intense rapper when on stage.
The party people (Xiao Gui & Zhu Xingjie)
Just… trust me on this. Or better yet go watch the show! Xiao Gui the hyperactive kid and his gege. You either want to be their roommate or be far away as possible (dorm room wise) from these noisy kids.
Tom and Jerry (Bu Fan and Xiao Gui)
What the title said. These two are hilarious and very much in sync when it comes to bullying each other.
The forever ‘cool bro’ (Wang Ziyi)
Well… is there any other way to describe him? Look at that hairstyle. This rapper got the looks, the swag and the passion. Him and Cai Xukun are really close – like super close. Both skilled in rapping and dance, they almost always end up in the same team either by chance or by choice. B-O-O-G-I-E Wang Ziyi even has his own signature introduction and hand sign. Very cool, bro.
The ‘I want my image to be cool’ but got ultimately destroyed by one nickname: “Huba”
Zhu Xingjie is one of the most talented trainees in the show, in my opinion. Already known as a skilled rapper but also a naturally gifted vocal. Not to mention his smile! I swear he gets you every time he smiles. Did I also mention he’s a magician? Yep. Boy has some tricks up his sleeves. He hates being called Huba at first but that went viral so he could just blame Xiao Gui, because if I remember correctly he started it – or rather introduced Xingjie as the adorable monster.
The stage mother (Zhu Zhengting)
Being the leader of the group of trainees from Yuehua, he naturally fawns over them and nags at times. It’s really heartwarming to see and adorable at times especially when his motherly attitude also extended to the rest of the trainees. Zhengting is an eye-catching presence in this show not only for his talents (I highly recommend his modern dance performance) but also due to the fact that he already appeared in the korean version of this show along with labelmate Justin.
From rags to riches though not literally — adorable hamster version (Li Quanzhe)
Everyone loves a success story after all. Hard work pays off for our hamster who went from F to B. Spoiler much? Don’t worry that’s not a major one..
The food enthusiast and meme prince (You Zhangjing)
“If I’m not singing then I’m talking. If I’m not talking then I’m eating.”
But don’t let his foodie character fool you, he’s one of the best vocalists in this show and was highly praised by the vocal teacher Li Rong Hao. Professional level ability!
The heartthrob and his dimples (Lin Yanjun)
Everyone around him swears he’s really more good looking in person. I’ll have to trust their word on that because I definitely didn’t notice it in the first few episodes. The dimples helped too. He’s a rapper but also a vocal ? These trainees are seriously so versatile!
The leader type (Lin Chaoze)
Rightfully so. Every team he is in naturally looks to him when preparing for a performance, especially when it involves dancing. Have you seen his Latin dance? This kid is not only a natural leader but also in terms of killing it on the floor.
The popular kid (Fan Chengcheng)
Even before the start of the show he already made headlines for being the younger brother of the popular actress in China, Fan BingBing. This proved both a boon and a bane to him at first, but I’d say he definitely deserves his spot for his skills and hard work. His quirky personality and hilarious expressions are meme worthy too! Seriously this whole show is full of memes..
Finally, those who creep up on you (Qin Fen)
When did I realize it? Probably when he whipped out those crazy glasses. He’s also close friends with Jackson so it makes sense. Same feather and all that…
I think I got too carried away but I had fun sharing these lovable characters. These are not the only ones in there. There so many more considering the sheer amount of trainees in this show.
This is a show you never knew you wanted to watch until you do. For international fans like me we can only really rely on fansubs from the godsend team of Idol Prod Subs. I know I have already fallen for this show when I started watching it even without subtitles when I was too impatient to wait. I used to do the same for korean dramas (it started with Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo) and other korean shows because I could understand it to some extent to my surprise. But this? My chinese is woefully limited to the honorifics and basic greetings so it is a bad idea to spoil myself in that way.
The amount of love this show has already amassed is clearly reflected in the votes. Maybe it’s because the population in china is larger or because international fans could also vote, but it’s crazy that the votes for the Top 9 in the last weeks would go from six million to more than fifteen million!
The show still hasn’t reached its final episode but several eliminations had already happened and it breaks my heart to see some beloved trainees go.. I’ll be seeing this show to the end and see for myself who are the lucky ones.
“The harder you work, the luckier you get.”