The 2019 edition of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala — one of the most watched shows on the planet despite its familiar schmaltz and predictability and sweeping disregard for what young viewers might consider entertaining — ended not long ago, and we can go ahead and say that, in its defense, the sets were colorful, the actors were earnest, and overall it was more cheerful than the Super Bowl. There were no injuries. Probably less angst from viewers at home questioning their life decisions. More smiles, even discounting the ones faker than Tom Brady’s quack doctor. While a nation watched, begrudgingly and likely over liquor, also with the same amount of self-loathing as American football fans, the gala at least wasn’t offensive (unlike last year). It happened, and it was fine.
However. However! This was awesome, a much-needed interlude evoking the kind of surprise and giddiness as when The Mountain stepped over a fallen Bud Knight:
You can check out the full act above, featuring 20,000 performers from the Henan Shaolin Tagou Martial Arts School — mainly teenage boys — performing the kind of synchronized gymnastics that one watches with palms open to the air and mouth agape. It is coordinated absurdity.
The act was filmed in separate parts, with multiple takes stitched together, but tell me that makes any of this any less impressive:
Doritos should try to hire these guys for its next ad. Or…anyone! They can probably march in the shape of an Adam Levine dance move, and less stilted at that.
The characters here read 少林, Shàolín.
And then, the finale:
We’ve seen this sort of performance before, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony with the drummers, for instance, which NBC described as “awe-inspiring and perhaps a little intimidating.” But it’s not as if China does this all the time. Lucky for us, the CCTV Spring Festival Gala — a lunar new year’s eve legacy program that will never go away — is deemed important enough to pull out all the stops. And so we have the above, four minutes of excitement amid drudgery. We’ll take the small victories where we can.
Here’s the entire five-hour show: