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China Readies Its Own ‘Gossip Girl’

Posted on 19 October 2011 by M3tan

To read the full article, click here. China, get ready for your own Serena van der Woodsen. The much-rumored Chinese remake of “Gossip Girl” is officially on its way. In an interview last week on the web show “Thoughtful China,” Larry Namer, head of Metan Development Group, the Beijing-Hollywood company behind the show, shared a few details about the upcoming series, talking about the sponsors it might attract and how the current U.S. show is so appealing to Chinese youth. Mr. Namer is no newbie when it comes to Hollywood, or China, for that matter. He was one of the founders of the E! Entertainment network, and Metan already produces “Hello! Hollywood,” a Mandarin-language roundup of entertainment and Hollywood news broadcast in China. “Gossip Girl” is popular in China even though it isn’t aired on any TV network in the country. Instead, viewers have been catching the show through illegal downloads and streaming video sites like Tudou, usually with subtitles that have been added by the show’s Chinese fans. The show’s U.S. producers estimate that its viewing audience in China is even greater than in the U.S., where it has a devoted but small fanbase on the CW and is ranked 229th among all primetime shows, according to ratings tracker TV by the Numbers. Blake Lively, the pouty blonde who is the star of the show, has become a star in her own right in the Middle Kingdom, appearing on the cover of Elle China in March. The first news about an official Chinese remake emerged in July 2010 when show creator Josh Schwartz said his team was pitched the idea. Mr. Schwartz said he approved of the idea in theory but wondered aloud if the show’s focus on high society and its sexual innuendo would get past state censors. In the past, TV shows that shed a light on the moneyed classes — or even those who aspire to it — haven’t been looked upon favorably by Chinese authorities. Already, Mr. Namer’s series will have competition from another “Gossip Girl” wannabe. In a January news conference, a series called “Runaway Sweetheart” unveiled a young cast clad in designer school uniforms, claiming it would be China’s answer to the U.S. series. A few months later, a “Runaway Sweetheart” novel, featuring a photo of the same cast, appeared in bookstores. In its first chapter, readers are introduced to a character named Dan Han Fei — a likely reference to “Gossip Girl” protagonist Dan Humphries. Despite the hype, the show has yet to air. Mr. Namer said that “Runaway Sweetheart” has no connection to his company’s remake but declined to specify his version’s cast, premiere date or other details. “Check back in a month,” he wrote in an email. Whichever riff on “Gossip Girl” makes its way onto Chinese TVs first, its success is not guaranteed. Chinese remakes of U.S. shows don’t have a great track record — a version of “Ugly Betty” drew criticism for its not-ugly-enough casting, and an attempt at “High School Musical” flopped at the box office.

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