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23-Jul-2017 01:59

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In a soft-focus flashback, she wanders alone through a generic cityscape, accompanied by somber piano music.

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(I tried to imagine the conversation between David and the show’s producers about how to construct the story of our two-year relationship for a 30-second spot.) As the reality TV version of me gazes toward the sky in the style of a My Space picture, David explains in voiceover that I was a student when we met, a bookworm, and an aspiring professor.

One is stuck in conservative values (parents wanting virgins and baby makers), and another has become more open-minded (like the 23-year-old guy who wanted to defy his mother and choose the 40-year-old divorcee.) Some viewers have criticized the show for being overly dramatic and suspect it is scripted, which the producer denied in several interviews.

As a Chinese woman who myself has grown up in this divided time—caught in between conservative and progressive China—I found the show almost too real to the point that it’s painful to watch.

We keep in occasional contact, so I knew David had already been on TV a couple times before.

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American expats appearing on Chinese TV is not uncommon: As explained in a June 2012 episode of This American Life, seeing foreigners perform and do “silly” things on TV—speak Mandarin, wear traditional garb, dance—is novel and hugely popular.

As the women listen to a suitor banter with the show’s host, reveal information about his life in video clips, and watch him perform in what amounts to a “talent” portion, they can elect to turn off their podium lights and clock out of the competition (similar to ).