I have become super familiar with several English-language TV shows here in Shanghai. I wake up each morning at 7:30, which is just enough time to catch part of Culture Matters. It's a panel discussion style show, mostly with expats talking about their experiences in China. I've seen stylish women talking about fashion-type things, parents talking about how they raise their children, and recruiters for Yale talking about what they look for in candidates. (Yale and Fudan University have some sort of joint partnership thingie going on, I guess.) It's definitely not entertaining or interesting, but it's in English and it's not CCTV-9 so I tune in. My standards are lowered a bit I suppose.
What usually comes on next is You Are the Chef featuring the lovely Heidi Dugan. I'll admit I can't get enough of her Australian accent :-) It's a short 15 or 20-minute cooking show where Heidi watches and comments (and snacks) as chefs at 5-star restaurants prepare meals. They go shopping for ingredients beforehand at a local supermarket, so if you wanted to, you could follow them and get the ingredients yourself. Because it's so short, most everything is pre-prepared, so I don't see a whole lot of cooking going on. What's neat about this show is that you see chefs of many different nationalities. For the past month or so the show has been filming in Hainan, so they've been making many tropical dishes have been showing lots of pictures of Heidi's daughter splashing around in pools and on the playground, haha.
Up next usually is Life Source, hosted by Viviana. This is your typical fashion/cooking/lifestyle show, with tips on decorating your house, dressing stylishly, getting that beautiful spa treatment, sewing t-shirts for your poodles, and so on. They definitely focus on expats in the city, I think because doing so allows them to talk to more well-off people who have fabulous houses filled with art-deco furniture, crazy art, and whatnot. Of course it's these lifestyles that make for the most interesting television :-) I think this morning there was a bit about gardening, and how to turn straw hats into plant holders? Something like that, I can't remember really. (Remember, I'm like half-awake when I watch these things.) They also feature cool things like interview a local group who runs an animal adoption agency. So it's not all fluff, although, it mostly is.
These shows are all jumbled around though; there doesn't seem to be any pre-determined schedule for what comes on when. Some mornings I'll turn it on and there'll be a pre-recorded golf or soccer game (although not so much anymore now that the Euro Cup is over) playing. So that's pretty boring. There's also the occasional episode of Power Sports, hosted by a guy whose English accent really sets me on edge.
Speaking of which, all the hosts' spoken English is really good. What gets me is, like, most of the time they will put the emphasis on the wrong parts of the sentence, or even speak in a monotone. It doesn't sound natural. This makes them sound like they're terrible actors, when really it's probably just that, if you're not a native speaker, you don't know how these sentences are supposed to sound. But anyway, like I said, the English of the host of Power Sports just hits me the wrong way for some reason. Damn perfectionism :-) Anyway it's not like my Chinese is any better than his English, so I shouldn't complain. But I can't help it :-)
Umm and recently they began showing episodes of Hannah Montana at 8 AM on the dot. Luckily by this time I'm on my way out the door. But oh lord it's terrible. I don't want Chinese girls (or guys, come to think of it) watching this and thinking that's how Americans speak and how life is over there. And yet one of the ways the announcers promote the show is "Learn the latest sayings on American campus!" Hearing that makes my brain hurt.
That's about all the TV I watch. I don't watch any TV except for these couple shows in the morning. I guess I use them as a way to transition into consciousness.
Another TV show I catch sometimes, mostly on accident though, is a show on CCTV-9 that teaches Chinese via sports themes. The show is hosted by a Canadian guy named Mark Rowswell, but Chinese people here know him better by his stage name, 大山 (Dàshān, or "Big Mountain"). I had no idea, but this guy is really famous in China. He won everyone over in the 90s by becoming a master at xiangsheng, a kind of comedy-as-art-form that involves heavy wordplay and is difficult to master for a native speaker, let alone a foreigner. In fact, I was spekaing with my co-workers about this guy, before I knew he was super famous. My co-worker said that Dashan was the first foreigner he ever saw, on TV when he was little. That's pretty impressive.
Anyway Dashan is completely masterful at Chinese -- even I can tell that just from watching this program. I bet you $5 he will have some prominent role in the Olympics, so if you watch that, look out for a tall Canadian guy. That'll be Mark.
If you're curious, you can see some of his videos on YouTube.