Chinese reality show canned after Godfrey Gao’s death

SHANGHAI • Zhejiang Television has cancelled its Chase Me reality show in the wake of Godfrey Gao’s death.

The Taiwan-born Canadian model-actor died on Nov 27 in Ningbo, China. He was then tackling a run in the show that poses challenges to participants.

His body is now back in Taiwan for a funeral on Dec 15.

Qianjiang Evening News quoted Mr Lin Chong, director of Zhejiang Television, as saying: “We have been immersed in grief and remorse after the incident.

“We are deeply sorry to Gao, to his dad and mum, and to all the people who love him.”

Gao, 35, was given medical help onsite before he was rushed to hospital where he died of cardiac arrest.

He apparently was not confident of being up to the challenges in the show before shooting began.

His hairstylist Kim Huang, in an online post, said he told Gao he could do it because he had thought Gao was physically fit since he lifted weights and played basketball.

Gao’s agency said he had the flu during the filming of Chase Me.

After he died, netizens wondered if Chinese reality shows, which compete to gain ratings with action-packed elements, are subjecting participants to too much risks.

There was also an uproar when screenshots – allegedly tracking communication among Zhejiang Television employees over Gao’s collapse – surfaced online.

Netizens blasted the insensitive comments which questioned his fitness and reports that indicated the contract he signed absolved the broadcaster from any blame.

Netizens also fumed over news that claimed a participant in a previous Chase Me episode was about to abseil down a 70m platform when a crew member found his safety harness was not attached.

Taiwan television host Jacky Wu, 57, has criticised the hyper-competitive nature of reality shows.

Without naming the Chinese programme he was in, he said he was asked to climb thousands of steps.

He later had a discussion with the producers about the excessive demands, reported Taiwan News.

But with the shows proving a valuable platform, especially for newcomers to gain exposure, Wu warned that they must know their physical limits and not be reckless.

The host also pointed fingers at South Korea, where producers have made a splash with reality shows and licensed their concepts to others in Asia.