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    In China’s Hot New Reality TV Show, Talent Gives Way to Drama

    While “Memories Beyond Horizon” is meant to spotlight emerging talent, its surge in interest is fueled by debates over participants’ awkward performances and the constant criticism from mentors.

    A Chinese reality TV show created to spotlight emerging domestic talent in film and TV is drawing attention for everything but its acting performances, turning what was meant to be a platform for professional growth into a comedy of errors that audiences can’t help but revel in.

    From controversial casting choices to the buzz generated by its participants’ off-screen antics, the second season of “Memories Beyond Horizon” has also sparked widespread debate on the industry’s penchant for sensationalism over skill.

    Produced in collaboration with Zhejiang Television, Alibaba’s Youku video service, and Hong Kong’s TVB, the show features veteran film and television figures mentoring a group of 18 artists from both the mainland and Hong Kong. Each episode focuses on reinterpreting iconic scenes from classic Hong Kong films such as “Infernal Affairs” and “New Dragon Gate Inn” for their acting challenges.

    Among the mentors are renowned Hong Kong directors and actors, including Yee Tung-sing and Francis Ng Chun-yu, while participants include graduates from professional acting schools, industry veterans, and individuals known for modeling, singing, or high-profile relationships.

    While the first season scored a low 3.5 rating on social platform Douban, the second season, released in February, has topped Weibo’s hot list for five weeks, and commentary videos on video streaming platform Bilibili have drawn millions of views. The surge in interest is fueled by debates over participants’ awkward performances and the constant criticism from mentors.

    For instance, Zhang Rui, known for his 2011 role in “New My Fair Princess,” was lampooned on social media over his portrayal of a villain in “Infernal Affairs” in one episode. After mentor Ng Chun-yu, who played the villain in “Infernal Affairs 2,” interrupted him on multiple occasions, Zhang admitted he’d never played such a role.

    Zhang Ruofan, a 24-year-old primary school teacher who watches the show, told Sixth Tone that the second season seemed to emphasize sensationalism. “While the first season also had many actors who were idols or lacked good acting skills, I felt they all approached it with an attitude to learn. But in the second season, some participants seem to be solely focused on becoming popular,” she said.

    Additional reporting: Li Dongxu

    (Header image: A screenshot from “Memories Beyond Horizon 2” of judges reacting to poor performances. From Weibo)