Clearly, the “Produce 101” concept is a good one and, despite controversies attached to the Chinese production, the program itself pushes out all prejudices surrounding the allegations of it being a plagiarized show and gets audiences back into the mindset of rooting for 100 aspiring entertainers working towards their dream./WDJ
As an avid fan of both seasons of “Produce 101,” the South Korean competition reality show where 101 trainees compete to be a part of an 11-member group, was curious when first hearing about the plagiarism controversy surrounding Chinese reality show “Idol Producer.”
A statement from Mnet, the television network that aired “Produce 101” in South Korea, noted, “iQiyi’s show, ‘Idol Producer,’ closely resembles ‘Produce 101’ in ideology, composition, system, visual design, and more,” they went on to say, “It caused a lot of misunderstanding and speculation among ‘Produce 101’ fans and viewers.”
The network confirmed: “Mnet is formally clarifying that it did not participate in the production of iQiyi’s ‘Idol Producer’ in any way, nor did it collaborate with the program in any fashion.”
Not to mention, a lot of these issues were raised before the show even premiered.
While browsing YouTube a couple weeks ago, the music video for the show’s theme song “Ei Ei” popped up on recommended videos. Clicked on it to see what the fuss was all about and within those few minutes the similarities were glaring – it would not be an issue if “Idol Producer” was, in fact, a franchise of the original series but, given Mnet made their position firm, pointing out the resemblances was unavoidable.
The opening of the video itself, where the camera zooms in on a stage, eventually showing one person standing in the middle, was similar. In season one and two of “Produce 101,” the same sequence was done when showing the host, or as the show referred to them, the national representative; Jang Keunsuk in season one and BoA in season two. The way “Idol Producer” presented Zhang Yixing, or Lay of Korean boyband Exo, was very much the same.
Once the contestants began appearing, it was another parallel. Both shows audition contestants and grade them on a scale from A to F. In the same way, Class A was presented first, with each subsequent grade appearing on screen on a stage that gradually gets larger to accommodate for more people. The second season of “Produce 101” featured boys, like “Idol Producer,” and the similarity in the “uniforms” worn by the contestants was also hard to miss.
Season one of “Produce 101” became iconic with the “Pick Me” theme song. That was followed up by season two’s “Nayana (It’s Me),” which also carried on the “pick me” phrase.
“Ei Ei,” the theme song of “Idol Producer,” hinges on the line: “Hey You, Hey You, Hey, Pick Me, Ei Ei.”
Combine that visual with the voting system and stage presentation, it is hard to overlook.
However, despite it all, the show is still just as entertaining as the Korean version. Along with the visual similarities, it is also just as compelling.
Alongside Lay are singer-songwriter Li Ronghao; Jackson Wang of Korean boyband Got7; rapper MC Jin; Cheng Xiao of Korean girl group WJSN, or Cosmic Girls; and Zhou Jieqiong, who happens to be a product of the first season of “Produce 101,” debuting with the group I.O.I and later returning to her agency, Pledis, where she now performs with the group Pristin, alongside fellow I.O.I alum Lim Nayoung.
In the same vein with Jieqiong, two of the “Idol Producer” contestants, Zhu Zhengting and Justin of Yuehua Entertainment, appeared on the second season of “Produce 101.” While both failed to make the band on the Korean show, eliminated two episodes before the finale, Justin at number 43 and Zhengting at number 51, the two have both consistently made the top nine ranks in the first four episodes of “Idol Producer” (the top nine go on to form a resulting boyband).
Those two have been compelling to watch, with Zhengting easily emerging as a favorite.
There is also Cai Xukun, who quickly shot up to the top spot, grabbing the attention of both the judges and audiences. Another one is Chen Linong, a contestant from Taiwan, who despite having mere months of training, has shown an incredible enthusiasm for performing and whose smile charms everyone who catches sight of it.
Fans have also taken note of Fan Chengcheng, another Yuehua Entertainment talent, who happens to be the brother of movie star Fan Bingbing, one of the world’s highest paid actresses, who has starred in numerous movies, including “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
Watching the audition process and getting acquainted with the screen personalities of the contestants, along with the judges, and getting drawn into the same grade reevaluation process, “Idol Producer” is still putting out a really absorbing reality show.