Ode to Joy: A Blockbuster TV Series

“Ode to Joy”, originally composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in the 1820s, is part of the famous Symphony No. 9, and it is an inspiration to generations around the world. The music starts to get more popular on YouTube in recent years.

In 2016, China’s TV series entitled with the same name – “Ode to Joy” – has reached 50 million views for its first season and an average number of 1.6 million views per episode – both figures set the 2016 YouTube records. The “Ode to Joy” TV series stars Liu Tao, Jiang Xin, Wang Ziwen, Yang Zi, and Bridgette Qiao. So what’s so special about this show?

The story begins in today’s Shanghai whose urban population has surpassed 24 million. Shanghai, a global financial centre and an international transport hub, is unarguably the showpiece of China’s booming economy. People within China and around the world continue to move to Shanghai for money, opportunities and perhaps a little glory – this trend has no signs of slowing down. Through multiple persistent storylines, the drama of the TV series “Ode to Joy” unfolds the contemporary life in Shanghai smoothly and vividly across different social and economic dimensions.

At the beginning, I did not pay much attention to the “Ode to Joy” TV series as I thought it was just a chick flick. However, after reading a flurry of in-depth reviews on WeChat, I realised that “Ode to Joy” is more than just a romantic comedy – there is more to it. So I watched the first episode, the second, the third, and most of it – becoming very absorbed in the drama. If you truly understand the Chinese language, the culture and the society, then “Ode to Joy” is entertaining, educating and enlightening.

“Ode to Joy” addresses the touchy subject on equality and social classes using humour and eye-opening scenes that are developed gradually through both the personal and the professional lives of the characters. To keep excitement alive around the central “Ode to Joy” theme, contrasting elements are utilised in character’s performance, which include joy & despair, complacency & frustration, compassion & indifference, collaboration & confrontation, open-mindedness & prejudice, and sense & sensibility.

The key reason for the huge success of “Ode to Joy”, from my viewpoint, is that it resonates with the audience as viewers can relate to one or more of its characters. Put it another way, “Ode to Joy” is more like a reality TV show.

Many people coming to China complain that they travel to China many times a year and every year, but still have no clues of what is going on in the country. If you are really interested in China, would you watch Shanghai’s “Ode to Joy”?

Beethoven might not have envisioned that after almost 200 years, his “Ode to Joy” is still timeless classic, which inspires everyone on earth and serves as the inspiration behind the China TV series with the same name.


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