Angie Chai is the 40-year-old producer of one of Asia's hippest shows, Meteor Garden, and she's had something of a meteoric rise herself. A year and a half ago, she was toiling away at a Taiwanese production company that made run-of-the-mill variety shows. Then she managed to convince a local network that it should take a chance on something new: a miniseries, based on a Japanese comic book, that tracks the lives and loves of a group of affluent Taipei high school students.
It was one of the first youth-oriented dramas ever to be shown on Taiwanese TV. "If we did a show that young people would watch, then I thought maybe we would have a chance," she explains. The gamble paid off. Since its debut last year, Meteor Garden has been hot. Following its run last spring on Taiwan network TV, the show has spawned a slew of copycat dramas. And Meteor Garden's quartet of cute stars has gone on to create F4, a wildly popular boy band.
Meteor Garden has also sizzled in Southeast Asia and China, where it has touched a nerve among teenagers. Indeed, Beijing's censors recently banned Meteor Garden for promoting unhealthy attitudes--based on its occasional violence and ubiquitous materialism. "It is believed that the serial will mislead and have a bad influence on young people," explained China Daily, Beijing's English-language mouthpiece. In particular, the paper decried the show for promoting "an updated version of hippiedom" while also glorifying "money worship."
Chai isn't too worried about her communist critics. "They just don't want too many fans to become crazy for those four boys," she says, defending the show and its contents as wholesome. She's now hard at work on the sequel to Meteor Garden, in which the show's leading actress will travel to Barcelona, Spain, for fun and adventure after graduation. Chai has formed her own production company, Comic Ritz Productions, and hired Hou Hsiao-hsien--Taiwan's most honored filmmaker--to be executive producer of the show.
Meanwhile, she is also talking to investors about backing other innovative television shows--none of them clones of Meteor Garden--and plans to hire talented young directors to help her. "Maybe we'll do some experiments," she muses. Whatever China's stuffy censors say, millions of Asian teenagers are looking forward to Angie Chai's next act.