Fans of one of Shanghai’s most popular television shows were taken aback on Tuesday when their favorite daily program failed to air. The show’s staff members told Sixth Tone that they had not received any notice.
Talk show “Xin Lao Niangjiu,” or “New Agony Uncles,” revolves around family disputes of all kinds, often tackling daring subjects. The program debuted in 2008 and is broadcast by the Shanghai Media Group. Though the reason for its disappearance from the air is unclear, the suspension comes after two highly controversial recent episodes about sexual abuse.
Lu Bin, one of the producers for the show, told Sixth Tone that he did not know the reasons behind the suspension of the program. “We are not clear about the future of the program and whether it will be resumed,” said Lu, who described himself as a low-level employee on the production team. “All of us are waiting for further notice.”
Bai Wanqing, 68, is one of the show’s presenters who mediates solutions to guests’ problems. Bai told Sixth Tone that she, too, did not know why “Agony Uncles” had stopped airing. “I don’t work at the TV station and have nothing to do with the suspension of the program,” she said. “The TV station didn’t give me any advance notice.”
A screenshot from a recent episode of "The New Agony Uncles" shows hosts asking a mother why she didn't call the police after her daughter was raped.
Over the years, “Agony Uncles” has covered a wide variety of family disputes and other thorny situations. In one memorable episode, the guest was a woman who suspected her husband of cheating and made him carry a listening device for four years so she could check in on him at any time of day. But that did not set her mind at ease, and during the episode she produced a pair of stained underpants that she said proved her husband had been unfaithful. The husband countered with a doctor’s note showing he had a prostate illness.
With the backing of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Justice, the show had built a strong viewership and reputation. Its slogan translates as “Communicating positive energy and making tens of thousands of families happy with harmony.”
But its standing took a hit after the two episodes about sexual abuse aired on Oct. 19 and 20.
The episodes discussed the case of a woman, now 22 years old, who had allegedly been raped repeatedly beginning when she was 17 by men she met online, and had given birth to three children as a result of these rapes. The woman’s mother was a guest on the show, and much to the presenters’ disbelief, she explained that she never went to the police because she thought her daughter would disagree, and she had no evidence of the assaults anyway. The episodes led to indignant reactions on social media. As of Wednesday, they are no longer available for online viewing.
“As it turns out, this show reveals the dark side of society,” one net user commented on the show’s official Weibo microblog. “How can they say it’s communicating positive energy?”
With contributions from Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: A play performed at a theater in Shanghai reenacts the filming of a scene from TV show ‘The New Agony Uncles,’ June 26, 2012. Gao Jianping/Sixth Tone)