Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Runaway Hit: HBO First Ever TV Series in Taiwan

By Asia Pop Culture

HBO Asia is an extremely happy camper.  Its new TV series -- 'Teenage Psychic' (通靈少女) -- has become a red hot runaway success in 24 Asian countries the series was released to.  HBO Asia has previously collaborated TV productions with filmmakers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, but this is HBO Asia's first Mandarin Original series and the first to be shot on location in Taiwan.

The series was jointly produced by HBO, Taiwan's Public Television Service (PTS) and Singapore's InFocus Asia.  The story revolves around a 16-year-old Taiwanese girl who possesses psychic abilities but wants to lead a typical teenage high school life, and must juggle the typical teen life with the demands of the spirit world.  The lead role is played by Taiwanese singer and actress Kuo Shu-Yau (郭書瑤), nick-named Yao Yao, a 2013 Golden Horse Award winner for best new performer.

I just watched the full 6 episodes of the Season One (I am assuming there will be a Season Two, Three...).  It is in Mandarin Chinese mixed with some Taiwanese dialect.  It may take a while to have English subtitle ready for streaming.

It kind of reminded me of a popular American TV series, Ghost Whisperer (2005-2010) with Jennifer Love Hewitt playing the lead role. What is different in this Asian psychic series and one of the main reasons it is a success in the Asian market --  It has a lot of the mystic elements of the Temple Culture unique to Taiwan.  A lot of the scenes were shot on location at a real temple in Taipei.  Of course, the added drama of a social misfit teenage girl's first love and peer pressure (think Twilight) also helps to hit the large younger demographic group as well.

Apple Daily reported that the production budget per episode of the Teenage Psychic is a mere 1/87 of another popular HBO series - Game of Thrones.  Higher ROI award obviously goes to the Teenage Psychic!  The lower production cost of course has to do with consumer price levels in Taiwan are typically much lower than that in the U.S. or Europe (Housing is the only thing extremely expensive in Taiwan).  

Taiwan film and TV industry is also very pleased.  This series has established Taiwan's strength in TV production and given people a glimpse into the talent of Taiwanese actors and TV crews.

In recent years, Taiwan TV industry has been on a serious downward spiral losing out to China and S. Korea partly due to budget constraints and talent shortage.  The success of the first ever HBO TV series in Taiwan could be an industry inflection point to attract future cooperation with foreign companies, such as Netflix and Amazon.    

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