Shine! Super Brothers, the male-centric follow-up to hit “30 over 30” talent show Sisters Who Make Waves, is generating almost as much conversation as its predecessor — but not in a good way.
Back in September, Mango TV’s Sisters Who Make Waves, a knock-out competition where 30 mid-career female celebrities who are all over the age of 30 battled it out for 5 places in an all-female singing group, became a massive ratings success. The show was such a big deal that its name even made it into 2020’s top 10 most-searched terms on Baidu, China’s main search engine.
Since the Sisters finale, viewers and money-seeking marketeers have been keenly anticipating the male version of the program, which finally debuted two weeks ago. But the new TV contest has spectacularly failed to replicate its forerunner’s popularity.
Even the show’s own hosts have joined a wave of criticism against its male stars.
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So where has the show gone wrong? Audiences have criticized the format and the quality of the stars in a slew of scathing reviews.
“Awkward, embarrassing, super cringey,” writes a one-star write-up on user-rating site Douban, where Brothers has a score of just 5.3 out of 10 after 4,907 votes. The review continues, “The production team is disgusting, none of the 21 men are attractive. Screw them all!”
“There is a huge age gap among these brothers,” reads a popular comment on social media site Weibo. “Some of them have resources but still flop.”
Whereas Sisters was seen by some as an attempt to provide exposure to genuinely talented female celebrities cast aside by an ageist industry, Brothers has been roundly criticized for giving a platform to ex-stars who don’t really deserve it. Watching the show, you quickly realize why they’ve faded from mainstream entertainment.
Take the first performer, Julian Chen, formerly in popular-in-the-’90s Taiwanese boyband Little Tigers. At age of 50, his clumsy dance moves, topped with a cheesy wink, killed the hosts and online watchers in the first few minutes of the show.
The 39-year-old singer Jiro Wang did little better when he mysteriously made out with the floor:
Even worse, Wang’s fellow contestants responded with rapturous applause and genuine “this is so cool” compliments.
Part of the issue with the show is that Brothers is not technically a contest. The 21 candidates of mixed ages are graded by viewers, but the score doesn’t really mean anything. There are no real punishments and no one gets knocked out from the show. Brothers is therefore more like a spiritual healing session or year-end party for obsolete male stars and back-slapping bros.
“Do they know what handsome means?” co-host Zheng Shuang asks at one point, reflecting a question that much of the audience seems to be wondering. The hashtag #Zheng Shuang’s reaction is just like mine# has garnished 380 million views on Weibo.
To some extent, the comments from the two hosts — Zheng and transgender celebrity Jin Xing — are the only highlights of the show; they’re certainly more exciting than the performances from the “brothers.” Instead of professional judges, Zheng and Jin perfectly represent the picky audience and function as two living bullet comments (the name given to the user comments that fire across screens on Chinese streaming platforms).
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The show has been so badly panned that its original concept of creating an “all-male group” has been ditched. Last week, the show announced on Weibo that it would switch the plan to select one brother to be a “charity ambassador” for as yet unannounced projects instead.
“Our brothers don’t need to have a group debut, but they should be role models,” the post declared. “We hope the public projects are completed by brothers and fans, which should be closer to women, more focused on the social obligations of men, and a showcase of our ‘altruistic’ values.”
But that news brought even more backlash. One popular comment on Weibo says, “What’s the point of me voting for them? Making myself miserable? I like two brothers so they should have a fight and the winner gets to become a charity ambassador?”
It’s still early in the show’s run, but it seems unlikely that Brothers will be able to salvage its reputation. Sisters had its issues, and wasn’t exactly the bastion of feminism it was sometimes portrayed as — but at least it was entertaining.
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