China’s favorite K-pop star turned “little fresh meat” Lay Zhang (Zhang Yixing to his Mandarin-speaking fans) had an exciting announcement last week: he will be starring in his own vertical-format reality show REKNOW (归零).
The show will be streamed on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, as Lay travels around the world and shares his experiences with his fans. The show’s concept is “returning to zero” and discovering the “1% of life experiences.” What does that really mean? According to the trailer, it translates to Lay driving a tank and falling off a surfboard, among other exciting worldly shenanigans. According to a post on the pop star’s Weibo, “REKNOW records the real experience […] always on the road.”
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The first episode premiered on Douyin on November 28. At the start of the ten-minute episode, Lay gets on a plane to Las Vegas and mysteriously says that no one will be able to find him there. For the rest of the show, he makes friends with his taxi driver, explores CVS, eats some lobster, and absorbs the flavor of the city. The whole affair feels very intimate, with much of the footage recorded by Lay himself talking directly to the audience. The second episode jacks up the intensity slightly — Lay sheds his good-boy image, drives into the Nevada desert, and learns to pilot and fire a military assault tank.
The whole thing feels like a mix between a travel show, a reality show, and an elaborate vlog, with Lay himself filming some segments and others clearly professionally shot and produced. Lay also has a hand in producing the show, which is a collaboration between his independent studio and Douyin.
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The vertical format, which is tailored exclusively for mobile viewers, is compelling. Visual effects, sound effects, and excellent cinematography make the show easy to watch, and the one-on-one audience experience with Lay is no doubt is a treat for his fanbase. Expect such star-led straight-to-phone fodder to become a TV trend for 2020.
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