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any good TV series recently?


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I was going to suggest Nirvana in Fire (2015) but was beaten to it by a happy hyaena :D . I might just as well tell a little more about it. The series doesn't quite fit your 'contemporary' requirements, realmayo, the action takes place in the Liang Dynasty (500s) but it is one of the best Chinese TV series for a long time, on a par with top International standards. 


The plot is based on the Internet novel "The Langya List" (琅琊榜) - referring to a sort of 5th Century equivalent of the Forbes List, by Hai Yan, who also wrote the script for the series. It is a clever, intricate tale of revenge and revindication, with endless  twists and turns. The scenery, settings, performances, attention to detail are way above the usual martial arts/historical TV drama standards, the direction by Kong Sheng is superb.and includes some cameo 'allusions' to Kurosawa, and the most incredible battle I've ever seen on any TV series - anywhere, even Three Kingdoms. Some martial arts fights are way OTT, but quite a few (especially sword plays) are totally credible. The language is very clear and elegant, with some sprinkling of Classical Chinese.The original novel is easy to find online and seems quite easy to read.


I thought that the last 2 episodes sank deplorably into melodrama (something possibly imposed from higher up) and not the same standard as the rest, but this is a forgivable slip against 52 good episodes, including numerous outstanding ones.


The free internet channel Viki.com has the license for online broadcast in all countries outside China, and has subtitles in English and over a dozen other languages. Irritatingly, the Chinese subtitles are gone, but at least one can turn off subtitles completely to concentrate on the Chinese. 

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I've enjoyed watching 好先生






After seeing several episodes on TV early this year, and re-runs of others, I finally bought a DVD of the whole series for 10 Yuan. It's nothing terribly artistic or intellectual, but it's entertaining and provides exposure to lots of contemporary situational language. Features the popular and versatile actor 孙红雷。


Plus it has been a very widely watched 电视剧 here on the mainland, making it easy to talk about with your friends. Everyone I've mentioned it to has seen at least a few segments of it and has opinions, likes, gripes, etc. 


You could try one or two episodes and see if they are to your liking. Here is a blurb from IMDB:


The 42-part Chinese language series follows the story of a tough Chinese chef working at a Michelin 3-star restaurant in the United States. Following the death of his best friend in a car accident, he returns to mainland China with his friend's remains. At home in China, he runs into the person he least wants to see. His unresolved relationship and new relationships become a tangled mix. "To Be A Better Man" was written by award-winning scriptwriter Li Xiao ("May December Love"), and produced by Linmon Pictures (series "Love You, Leave You"), a boutique producer and distributor for the Asian markets.
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Thanks for the suggestions! I started 中国式关系 and it's exactly the kind of thing I was after. Plus it's got Chen Jianbin who I think is amazing, ever since watching the 2010 Three Kingdoms series ... I really like his voice, especially his 啊 at the end of sentences.... He played Cao Cao in the Three Kingdoms and although it's nice to see him as an official again, he's nowhere near as bad-ass as Cao Cao which doesn't quite seem right to me, I guess he's forever typecast in my mind now. It's nice too to see the actress Ma Yili again, 奋斗 being the first TV series I ever watched all the way through. I plan to work though 中国式关系 over the next week or two.


As for Nirvana in Fire, I'm curious now people are saying how good it is. Wuxia style language isn't ideal for me right now but I might start watching it anyway.


Meanwhile my first random pick from what youku was offering me turned out to be surprisingly watchable as well, it's called 嫁个老公过日子 and has some quite fun stereotyped treatment of Beijing girls versus Taiwan girls.


I don't know whether production values/scripts have got a lot better over the last five years or so, or if I've just been lucky so far, but I'm very encouraged. The fact that these three are all available and easily downloadable off youtube is another plus.


Thanks too for the suggestions of 好先生 and 欢乐颂. I'll take a look at these.


The holy grail for me I think is to find good shows which also have "soft" subtitles (in Chinese) available, that is, a downloadable text file of subtitles. Until recently I hadn't realised how easy it is to edit or add subtitles. I still watch and then re-watch episodes from the 锵锵三人行 talk show, and have started adding notes to myself in subtitle format so that they pop up at the right time when rewatching, reminding me what certain words mean, or typing out phrases that are spoken too fast for me to understand the first time around. I like the idea of feeding subtitles of a TV show or a film through imron's Chinese Text Analyser, to identify new vocabulary that's worth learning, and then quickly modifying the subs so when I'm actually watching it, selected words & their definitions will pop up prominently on the screen just before they're spoken.


Anyway, if anyone has any more suggestions of TV series worth watching please let me know. The First Episodes topic on this site is an incredible resource, but it's good to just get simple recommendations too of what people are watching right now, without any expectations of someone putting in the time to write up a long introduction or list vocab etc.

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There's nothing funky: only a spreadsheet with some laboured formulas which de-hassle the process of entering timings and make it easy to export to a regular text file. Previously I hadn't realised that subtitle files are simply text files with very simple rules for specifying timings. When the file has the same name (but different extension) as the video I'm watching, the subtitles appear automatically in the programme I use to watch videos, Media Player Classic.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nirvana in Fire is back in viki.com and so is the one I'm watching, A Dream of Red Mansions (红楼梦, 2010), and the one where I'm in the subtitling team, The Three Heroes and Five Gallants (五鼠闹东京). 


They seem to have had some technical issues with updates but are now getting everything back where it should be. 

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琅琊榜 (Nirvana on Fire) started a mini-trend of costume dramas featuring effeminate (a la Korean-pop) princes and their homely consorts


A worrying trend....


Irritatingly, the Chinese subtitles are gone


Yeah I would really like viki if it had Chinese subtitles. But can't be bothered without. Bit pathetic that they're not available.

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You said recent-ish, 赵氏孤儿案 aired 2013 and is one of very few Chinese shows I've been able to endure more than an episode or two of, and one of 3 I've watched in full. Though I personally think it goes downhill around episode 17 - mostly because of certain characters introduced and people I don't like getting more screen time, but also certain story elements later on bother me.

It's not contemporary, but to my mind it's the best Chinese series that I've seen.


Personally I gave up on Chinese TV a long time ago and now just stick to the movies, since I couldn't find any shows I could tolerate. Though, I don't like TV series in general, primarily for one reason: TV is so damn soppy. It's constant crying! Doubly so for Chinese TV.

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