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Soapy bubble as east meets west in China's Street.

HEARTLESS bosses, spiteful gossips and love triangles abound on the world's biggest TV soap. It can only be The Street.

But it's not Coronation Street we're talking about - it's a Chinese cousin, Joy Luck Street, which is modelled on the UK version.

Joy Luck Street has one key difference to Britain's most successful TV show - it could draw up to 800million viewers.

It does, however, share many similarities, not least in the array of characters who dominate the chat down the local boozer and the social problems they encounter.

Granada TV has sent Eugene Ferguson, a former producer and director of The Street, to Beijing on a consultancy level.

Although he is anxious to stress that no characters are lifted directly from Corrie, it is plain that the British formula for success is being applied to China.

For starters, the local solicitor may not have quite the same job description as the dictator Mike Baldwin, but the tyranny he applies to his staff is identical.

His ranting ways and larger- than-life ego are injected into the character, Gao Cheng, to make him a staple of the new drama, which starts screening next month.

The gossipy Audrey Roberts translates well into Chinese, as tittle-tattle, apparently, is rife in every nation.

Audrey's prime traits are applied to chatterbox Xu Aizhu, who continually puts a spanner in the works by spreading stories and tall tales about her neighbours.

Just like in Britain, the sex factor is a must on any Chinese soap. Top tottie factor is supplied by Ah Lan, a 20-year-old struggling actress who is smitten by the local professional footballer and stud, Xu Xiaoyang.

Ah Lan mirrors hairdresser Maxine Heavey, who calmed down recently when she married butcher Ashley.

In China, the scourge of alcoholism also plays a big part in most working-class environments.

Enter chef and alcoholic Shi Weitian, who gets into similar scrapes to big drinking Irishman Jim McDonald, who was seen this week starting a bonfire in the road.

But some characters and plots simply don't translate from northern England to China.

Eugene said: "We suggested a storyline about teenage pregnancy, which has been a central theme in Coronation Street recently.

"But this just didn't work in China, as they have a policy of one child per couple, so the story was scrapped."

AH LAN - MAXINE

The sex appeal comes from Ah Lan, whose character is remarkably similar to that of dizzy hairdresser Maxine

GAO CHENG - MIKE BALDWIN Cheng might be a lawyer, but his dictatorial ways are a mirror image of those of the ranting factory boss

SHI WEITIAN - JIM McDONALD

Drinking is a big problem in China - and Weatherfield. Shi gets into the same sort of daft scrapes as Irishman Jim

XU AIZHU - AUDREY ROBERTS Every soap needs a gossip and Xu is the Audrey Roberts of Joy Luck Street - no-one is safe from her vicious tongue
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Mcgivern, Mark
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 30, 2000
Words:481
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