Short Show ‘The Long Night’ Offers Quality Over Quantity

With just 12 episodes, the latest series by iQiyi, China’s Netflix, is flipping the script.

Chinese TV series typically follow a set formula: low production values, copious cliff-hangers, and endless episodes. But streaming site iQiyi’s latest hit is proving that shorter, higher-quality shows can become audience favorites, too.

Since the first of its dozen episodes went online Sept. 16, crime drama “The Long Night” has earned high praise, scoring 9.2 out of 10 on Chinese review site Douban. Adapted from a suspense novel by author Chen Xu, who writes under the pen name Zijin Chen, the show tells the story of a young prosecutor who spends seven years trying to right a miscarriage of justice.

It is iQiyi’s fifth show to air in its premier “Mist Theater” section. An earlier installment, “The Bad Kids,” received similarly stellar reviews, with actress Zhang Ziyi praising it as comparable to offerings from the U.S. and U.K. — a bar few Chinese productions have approached

“The Long Night” — its Chinese name, “Chenmo de Zhenxiang,” translates as “The Silent Truth” — is part of a trend of productions with far fewer episodes than what is common in China’s TV industry. For example, period drama “Story of Yanxi Palace,” a hit in 2018, went on for 70 episodes. Such lengthy shows are often criticized for containing a lot of filler and little plot — in other words, for being “injected with water,” to use a phrase referring to an underhanded practice to make meat seem heavier.

The Chinese government, which maintains strict oversight over media sectors, has been pushing TV producers to move away from “water-injected” shows toward shorter, higher-quality content. Ma Shicong, a new media analyst at market research firm Analysys, also points to some domestic production companies pivoting from film to short TV shows more suitable for online viewing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when Chinese cinemas were closed for months.

Their welcome reception, which Ma attributes to better scripts and production values than other shows, will incentivize producers to create more such content. Bringing out more, shorter shows at a higher frequency will also motivate customers to keep paying for subscriptions, she said. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.