Take Two: Taiwan Television in the Streaming Era


2018 / December

Chen Chun-fang /photos courtesy of PTS /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

The Public Television Service’s On Children is Taiwan’s first serial to be released simultaneously as a “Net­flix original.” Since it began airing in July of 2018, it has garnered rave reviews both in Taiwan and abroad. On Children examines social values, the education system, and relationships between children and parents. It features well-constructed screenplays with fantastical sci-fi elements. The high production values and major thematic advancements demonstrated by this PTS serial are showing the international community that Taiwan can make excellent television.

On Children was adapted from the novel by Wu ­Xiaole. Drawing from Wu’s own experiences as a home tutor, the novel describes how the pressure-cooker educa­tional system warps family relationships. PTS began planning the adaptation in 2015, placing a tutor at the center as the figure linking all the families together. A romantic storyline was also added to sweeten the other­wise bitter look at Taiwan’s educational system. The show was originally scheduled to air at the end of 2016, but the date was pushed back because of director Chen Wei­ling’s battles with cancer. 

Targeting the global market

If they had gone with the original plan for the scripts, the approach would perhaps have made difficult topics accessible to mass audiences, but the power of the book would have been lost.

During her chemotherapy, Chen repeatedly asked herself: “If it turns out that I only have one more film to shoot, what story do I want to tell?” Meanwhile, with Net­flix having arrived in Taiwan, PTS had seen the demands that the platform was making on different genres: “Our serials are good, of a high enough quality to put on an international platform,” says Yu Pei-hua, director of PTS’s programming department. “They wouldn’t look out of place amid a group of internationally recognized dramas. And they would make viewers eager to see what follows.” The goal for restarting production of On Children was clear: “We wanted to make a splash on international streaming platforms, so that the whole world would see the quality of Taiwan’s dramatic serials.”

Skipping the original “idol drama” elements, the new approach put the parent‡child relationships at the core of the show, before adding some touches of fantasy. There are five separate episodes: “Mother’s Remote,” “Child of the Cat,” “The Last Day of Molly,” “Peacock” and “ADHD is Necessary.” Each was split into two parts for ten separate airings on PTS.

In consideration of the demands on quality that an international streaming platform like Net­flix makes, the originally planned HD format was upgraded to 4K. To accomplish this, the PTS production team not only upgraded camera equipment, but they also paid a lot of attention to furnishings and décor. The interiors for the five separate episodes were carefully matched to the plots, and considerable effort was put into making the fantastical elements look as realistic as possible.

For instance, in “The Last Day of Molly,” Molly’s mother arrives at laboratory where her friend’s son is carrying out neurological research, and sits in a surgical chair where sensors are attached to her and she is able to experience the memories of her dead daughter. The entire lab was constructed from scratch by the series’ art crew in an empty building. Yu points out that if you created a scene involving high-tech devices and then put Styrofoam bowls or hardhats on people’s heads, it would have a comical effect that would make it impossible for audiences to suspend their disbelief.

With realistic sets and excellent plots, success was inevitable: When Net­flix saw a 17-minute trailer, they immediately pushed to finalize terms.

Fostering conversations

Before making the series available for streaming, Netflix put a three-minute ad for On Children on Facebook. Fast paced, it combines clips of mothers’ earnest entreaties and expectations about their children’s academic performance with clips of the children crying or shouting or resisting. It had a big impact on viewers. Compared to most trailers shown on Facebook pages, which might get views in the tens of thousands, this ad had 1.56 million views at the time this article was written.

Internet streaming platforms have wide reach and have allowed PTS to rupture echo-chambers and transcend national borders. In November, On Children was the top-viewed serial on Japan’s Net­flix “hot picks” list. Many reviewers used the term “toxic parent hell” to describe their feelings of empathy for the characters. The New York Post’s Decider website told its viewers not to miss it.

As Taiwan’s public television system, PTS aims to “discuss and analyze important issues.” It understands its duty to lead discussion of issues while maintaining balance and avoiding bias. Consequently, from planning to postproduction, the team making On Children has taken heed of Wu ­Xiaole’s injunction “not to demonize parents.”

The drama does not simply focus on the pressure that parents put on children. It also highlights the invisible stressors imposed by the outside environment and illustrates how these influence parents. “This isn’t the parents’ fault, and it’s not solely an issue of the ‘system,’” says Yu. “Today, every­one’s ingrained values aren’t changing, so no attempts at perfecting the system are liable to do much good. Changing university admissions weighting policies won’t accomplish anything, because the weightings will still exist in people’s minds.”

In light of copycat suicides that followed the airing of a series in the United States, before broadcasting each episode PTS had actors who play children in the shows offer some warm words. For instance, one said, “Love is care, hugs, and respect. It isn’t abuse. Have you said you love someone today?” PTS also found psycho­logists and experts on parent‡child relationships to offer guidance at the end of the broadcasts. Apart from discussing interactions of husbands and wives and of parents and children, they also examined the problem of emotional blackmail and offered suggestions about how viewers can resolve inter­personal issues in their own lives.

Cultivating diverse Taiwan dramas

In contrast to the wide variety of shows found internationally, most of Taiwan’s television serials fall into two categories: family dramas and “idol dramas”—the latter featuring attractive young actors in romantic roles. With this lack of diversity, it becomes hard to raise the cultural level of audiences. Freed from commercial considerations, PTS is naturally able to try out a greater range of dramatic possibilities.

For instance, Green Door, which is scheduled to be aired in February of 2019, is PTS’s first psychological thriller. Adapted from a novel by Joseph Chen, it stars singer Jam ­Hsiao playing a therapist to ghosts. His clients include all manner of strange beings, including one case where it is unclear whether the client is a split person­ality or a beautiful woman possessed by a gangster spirit. Via deep psychological explorations, it examines the search for happiness and security inherent in human nature.

Another show, No Outsiders, begins with an indiscriminate killing and explores the different mental states of the family members of the culprit and the victim. It delves into human rights law, the role of the media and other social issues.

In order to provide the industry with a taste of greater creative possibilities, in 2017 PTS began promoting production of “PTS originals,” welcoming all manner of different genres of shows—from cops and robbers, horror and thrillers to sci-fi and fantasy. These productions give creators much more artistic license to tell their stories.

This greater freedom has achieved the intended effect of producing works showing greater creativity. Take, for instance, the colorfully imaginative ghost film Sam­sara. It describes the year 2020, when all of humanity falls into a coma. When they awake 49 seconds later, every­one can see ghosts. What unexpected situations arise when people and ghosts exist in the same world!

Justice is one of Taiwan’s rare cops-and-robbers shows. If you want to give a show in this genre audience appeal, then you’ve got to get the gunfire scenes and bullet special effects correct. On the other hand, the makeup required for horror shows requires a whole different kind of expertise. The behind-the-scenes skills needed for different kind of productions can only be acquired gradually through experience. That’s how the industry moves forward.

Apart from taking a filmmaking approach to making television, PTS is also working with theaters to put on film festivals, giving audiences different viewing experiences. And apart from broadcasting on its channel, PTS is also sending its original films to international film festivals, where they have repeatedly earned praise. Upstream, for instance, was shortlisted for an award at the Montreal World Film Festival, and Last Verse was shortlisted at the Bu­san International Film Festival.

In the current age of Internet streaming platforms, viewing audiences are not bound by national borders. Only by continually improving quality can Taiwan’s industry attract international attention. May PTS open up new possibilities for serials in Taiwan, so that the world will notice Taiwan’s culture and the power of its film and television production industry!      

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戲裡不是只有孩子單方面的承受父母施加的壓力,劇中也呈現外在環境有形無形的壓迫,是如何影響著父母。整齣戲都緊扣著台灣社會對成功的單一標準 ,這樣堅信不移的主流價值如何扭曲了家庭裡的親子關係為主題。「不是爸媽的錯,也不是單一制度的問題。今天大家根深蒂固的價值不改變,制度修得再完善也沒有用;教改改得再不計較分數也沒有用,因為你心裡會計較。」於蓓華說。《你的孩子不是你的孩子》確實反映台灣超過一個世代的共感,大家都深受其苦。













世界が認める PTS公共テレビの 台湾ドラマ

文・陳群芳 写真・公視提供 翻訳・松本 幸子


『子供はあなたの所有物じゃない』は、呉暁楽の同名小説が原作だ。作者が家庭教師をした際の経験をもとに、学歴偏重主義によってゆがめら れていく家族関係が描かれている。ドラマでは家庭教師を狂言回しに、複数の家族を結び付け、そこにラブストーリーもからめた。PTS(公共テレビ)は2015年に制作準備に入り、脚本、演出、制作チームと顔ぶれもそろい、2016年末に放映の予定だった。ところが、監督の陳慧翎の癌が再発したことで、新たな局面を迎える。



陳慧翎は抗癌剤治療を受けながら、「これが私にとって最後の1本になるとしたら、私は何を訴えたいだろう」と自問を続けていた。また折しも Netflixが台湾でもスタートし、国際市場で求められるドラマの質をPTSも目の当たりにしていた。「数ある世界のドラマと比べても、我々のドラマは劣るものではありません。それに、夢中になれる連続ドラマがほしいという声もありました」と言うのは、番組部ディレクターの於蓓華だ。そこで、『子供はあなたの所有物じゃない』の目標を 「国際プラットフォームに登場させ、台湾ドラマを世界に見せる」と定め直した。







ドラマの世界があまりにも苦しく、のものを犠牲にして何か得るものがあるの?」或 いは子供がこう泣き叫ぶ「私はあなたから生まれ たかったわけじゃない。生まれたいか聞かれもしなかったわ!」ほかの動画の再生回数がせいぜい数万回なのに対し、アップテンポな音楽を背景に衝撃的なシーンの続くこの予告編は、現時点ですでに156万回再生されている。



国の公共放送としてPTSは、「重要な問題や観念に対する分析や解釈」を番組制作の目標とするが、その立場は決して偏り過ぎてはいけない。「角度や観点に注意を払い、選択や判断がずれていないか確かめます」と於蓓華は言う。『子供はあなたの所有物じゃない』でも、呉暁楽からの「親を化け物にしないこと」という注意を制作 チームは常に心がけた。




例えば、2019年2月に放送予定の『魂囚西門』は、PTS初のサイコスリラーだ。台湾の作家、九色夫の同名小説を原作に、歌手の蕭敬騰が幽霊専門の心理療法士を演じる。二重人格なのかヤクザの霊に取りつかれたのかはっきりしない美女や、 30年後に死ぬと鏡に告げられた女子高校生といった患者が登場し、治療の過程で人の心理が深く掘り下げられていく。そして治療を通し、すさんでいた主人公の心も徐々にほぐされ、自信を取り戻す。九色夫の原作には「心の魔を除くことが導きであり、人を導くためにはまず己を導かねばならない」とある。


人材育成では、PTSは20数年にわたる長寿番組「人生劇展」で、多くの若手演出家に初の長編ド ラマ制作の機会を与えてきたが、写実的なドラマが主流だった。そこで2017年から、新たな試みとしてシリーズ「新創電影」をスタートさせ、ホラー、スリラー、刑事もの、SF、コメディなど多様なジャンルにわたる案を創作者たちから募集した。


『完美正義』は、台湾では数少ない刑事もので、魅力あるシーンにするために、銃撃戦の場面や弾丸が飛ぶ特撮などが準備された。また、ホラー作品で特殊メイクを施すなど、それらの経験の積み重ねが、映像産業の向上や育成にもつな がっている。

映画の規格でテレビ番組を作るPTSは、劇場とも協力して映画祭を催す。それらをテレビで流すほか、海外の映画祭にも出品し、好成績を上げてきた。例えば、モントリオール世界映画祭では『濁流』が、釜山国際映画祭では『最後的詩句』がそれぞれノミネートされている。ドラマの質を高めれば、国内の視聴者を育てることにもなり、それによって映像産業の発展も促進されるという好循環が生まれる。ネットの動画 サイトが盛んな現代、視聴者はとっくに国境を超えており、作品を世界で見てもらうには、ドラマの質を高め続ける努力をするしかない。PTSの実践によって台湾ドラマに多くの可能性がもたらさ れ、台湾文化と映像産業の実力を世界に示せることを期待したい。

X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!