Reality TV shows are raising the bar for celebrities. Being skilled in singing, dancing, or cooking is not enough anymore. Celebs have to be agile, strong and fast to handle physical challenges. Just look at the hottest shows right now.
This past May saw the return of Zhejiang TV's "Running Man". After a fierce fight against reality show "Divas Hit the Road", the second season of "Running Man" had a safe lead, pulling in an average of 4.7 percent of viewers across all ages, according to statistics from CSM Media Research.
The chemistry between cast members, all big-name stars, keeps audiences coming back for more of Running Man each week. But the show's biggest attraction is watching contestants survive the cutthroat games.
Another show adapted from South Korea, the Chinese version of Running Man retains many of its predecessor's gags, from simple squirt gun fighting to complicated obstacle courses. Producers build games around certain themes. For example, in the first episode of the show, the Running Man families and guests wore Saint Seiya costumes to complete a mission to "save Earth".
"Watching these outdoor action shows gives audiences the same pleasant satisfaction as watching adventure movies," Chang Jiang, lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University of China, was quoted as saying by China Youth Daily.
Hunan TV also launched an action program that mainly tests competitors' physical strength called Takes a Real Man. Six male actors from different generations dress in military uniforms, train and live in barracks. Standing in the right form and 5-kilometer runs turn out to be bigger challenges than celebrities expect.
Disciplined to win
Compared with Running Man's lighthearted and funny atmosphere, Takes a Real Man appears to be more serious, attempting to test its contestants' endurance, willpower and bravery. Guest celebrities gradually improve their physiques and acquire a deeper understanding of discipline and responsibility.
Sporty reality TV shows The Amazing Race and Real Hero are also coming soon.
Commentary on ifeng.com sums up this kind of TV's charm best: "Audiences thus see the illusion that celebrities who get sweaty or even muddy are but ordinary people like themselves. They might think: If celebrities can go through all this, of course I can survive my hardships."