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Soldier Sortie
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No beauties, no love, no famous stars, "three nos" for a TV show seems quite out of fashion. But Soldier Sortie was quietly shown on regional TV stations first and then widely spread around the Internet. Now it is being broadcast on almost all TV stations repeatedly across the country. Today Soldier Sortie dominates the remote controls of many audiences and has turned into the hottest topic in offices. The show has accumulated hundreds of thousands "soldier fans" online.

But why it is so popular? This series of 28 episodes doesn't have a single woman character. Without beautiful women, tear-jerking love stories and famous stars, how can this series attract such a wide audience?

What lures the audience in this series is a dumb special task soldier, Xu Sanduo, and his comrades. Men who watch this series are convinced that "they are real men"; women can't help imagining that "they are dream guys".

During all of China's history, the temperament of soldiers has affected the Chinese people's character and even their way of life. The unexpected popularity of Soldier Sortie quickly became a new screen hit after people grew tired of PK TV shows. The unique temperament of a group of soldiers has captured the attention of thousands. In this entertainment-seeking era, the public still has a strong desire to view true-to-life human nature. Xu Sanduo is a rather dumb lad coming from the countryside but his tenacity exhibits a rare quality sadly lacking in our times.

The plot of Soldier Sortie is very simple: a young farmer called Xu Sanduo was forced to join the army by his father because his father thought he was a coward and training in the army might turn him into a brave man. Xu, as his father expected, finally became a special task soldier of "Steel 7th Company". He made a fool of himself many times during the devilishly hard training. Gradually he became the most outstanding soldier of his whole regiment. But he accidentally killed a criminal while carrying out a task. This accident gave him a great shock; he freaked out. But later he found his true self again in the army.

Soldier Sortie was first broadcast on a local channel of a Shanxi TV station on December 26, 2006. The ratings were not good. But at the same time, 30,000 audio-visual products went on sale. On January 18, the first post about Soldier Sortie appeared in a Baidu Post Bar. The netizen who wrote the post said: "I watched the DVD of this play." With the coming of summer, Soldier Sortie became increasingly hot in the Baidu Post Bar. As the months passed, each day there were at least 100 new posts discussing this play. The show became popular astonishingly fast.

A group relating to Soldier Sortie soon assembled together and they called themselves "soldier fans". They ranged widely in age but most of them were born after 1980. Compared with those who are interested in television PK shows, "soldier fans" are more reasonable. Both males and females love Soldier Sortie. Men love it because each soldier in the show is a "true man"; women love it because they can find their ideal man. Watching "dumb" soldiers like Xu Sanduo and company commander Shi, women couldn't help crying out: "They are true men, such manly men. There are no such men now!" or "Unconsciously, we are overwhelmed by them."      

On the Army Day, Beijing TV broadcast Soldier Sortie during prime time. And the ratings that night hit 3.0 and ran higher every day afterward. Hebei, Henan and Sichuan satellite televisions broadcast Soldier Sortie simultaneously. From mid September, Jilin, Guangxi, Yunnan, Zhejiang satellite televisions and many others began broadcasting Soldier Sortie.

Now Soldier Sortie has become the hottest topic in offices across the country. And of course, the Internet is an important platform for the successful spread of this play. The posts concerning this play on the Baidu Post Bar have risen to 710,000. According to a survey organized by netizens, audience ages of Soldier Sortie range from 10 to 70, with 20 to 30 years old viewers being the most numerous. Viewers come from all walks of life.

Some netizen exclaimed: "We were poisoned by Soldier Sortie this summer." "I was lost in this play, completely lost in it!" Huang Min expressed her feelings after watching Soldier Sortie, "I feel my whole world has changed." 24-year-old Huang is an administrator of the network service center in a large state-owned enterprise in Chengdu. She is in charge of the administration and maintenance of the LAN (local area network) of the company. She is also a yoga coach after work so she seldom watches TV shows.        

One of Huang's friends recommended Soldier Sortie to her. But her initial response was, "I don't like this kind of TV series. Even the name doesn't appeal to me. The stories of soldiers have nothing to do with me." Her favorite plays are several Korean series such as Dae Jang Geum, Paris ei yeonin and All about Eve. "But later I watched it for I found everyone around me always talking about this play." Many viewers like Huang Min began to love this play via recommendations by others.

In Huang's eyes, each actor in Soldier Sortie is excellent and every one of them has his own personality. A great many people agree with her. Each character of the play has a large number of crazy supporters on the Internet. Their enthusiasm for this play is so high that some of them even make inquiries about the background of a minor guard who flashes only once in the play.

When talking about Soldier Sortie, the expression Huang Min uses most frequently is "will power". "I think people of our age like these kinds of series. Young people always encounter a lot of problems, difficulties and doubts," she said. So they also need will power and perseverance like Xu Sanduo to deal with their problems and difficulties.

Another soldier fan is already 61 years old. He is Peng Hailiang, a retired Beijing high school math teacher. He now devotes most of his time to learning English to welcome in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. But on Army Day, the 30-second promo of Soldier Sortie aroused his interest. He finished watching the show because he likes Xu Sanduo. He said, "He performed extremely well!" "Our times need such inspiring shows." He also gave his comments about the lines of the play, "They are easy to understand and are worth meditating upon, such as 'Never give up!' 'To live happily is meaningful; to live happily is to do something meaningful'" 

( by Zhang Ming'ai, October 1, 2007)

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