The finalists of this year's Happy Girls together on stage.
If you want to read tea leaves about China, the just concluded Happy Girls talent show offered a basketful of foliage.
The Hunan Satellite Television program was unsurprisingly a ratings champion, beating even most primetime shows while occupying an unenviable 10:30 pm to 1 am slot. With other regulator-imposed constraints, such as no mobile phone voting, the show still managed to stand out when almost all other televised singing contests have fallen by the wayside.
Formerly Supergirl, the show started in 2004 and went nationwide the next year, turning into a business dynamo and a cultural phenomenon. However, it was accused of being a copycat as it was obviously patterned after American Idol. But Wei Wenbin, the big boss of the local office of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the government agency overseeing the industry, was unapologetic when I interviewed him two years ago.
"Everyone has access to foreign programming and everyone is attempting to imitate the best. The trick is in localization."