Days after the Chinese government banned "The Big Bang Theory" from video streaming sites, it appears to be offering a mangled olive branch to outraged fans: state broadcaster CCTV is reportedly preparing to release a "green edition" of the show with censored content and Chinese voiceovers.
Yet that move has done little to calm the show's livid followers, who have taken to Chinese microblogs to condemn the sanitized version and the banning of three other American TV shows. Monday alone saw more than 300,000 posts discussing the developments on Sina Weibo, the country's most popular micro-blogging platform.
"Is there anything more nauseating than this 'green version'?" one commenter wrote. "You really have to feel bad for Chinese people. Everything is constricted, there's no freedom of speech, our thinking has been kidnapped, and now we can't even relax and watch a little American TV."
Outraged at the micro-management of cultural content, many Chinese netizens began referring to their country as "West North Korea," a phrase that was subsequently blocked for Weibo searches.
"The Good Wife," "The Practice" and "NCIS" also got the axe on Friday from the video streaming sites Youku and Sohu, though none is as popular as "The Big Bang Theory." The show has received 1.3 billion views since launching in 2009 on Sohu, and its 7th season routinely drew more than 1.5 million views per episode in recent months. American television shows garner such large fanbases in China because they're so different from heavily government-controlled programs, which largely remain chained to two well-worn topics: court intrigue in imperial China and the country's fight against Japan during World War II.
Referencing an infamous scene from a TV show in which a Chinese character appears to actually rip a Japanese soldier in half with his bare hands, many Internet users mocked government-sanctioned offerings.
"Pretty much no matter what I won't watch Chinese shows," wrote one distraught Sina Weibo user. "You won't let me watch Sheldon, and you want me to watch Japanese devils being torn in half by hand?"
The Chinese government has not issued any statements explaining its decision. One employee at a video streaming website reportedly said that authorities banned the shows because of "content issues," with no further explanation as to what the issues were.
Opponents of the state-approved version of "The Big Bang Theory" claimed the move was designed to redirect viewers away from commercial websites and back to state-controlled broadcast networks.
"Cleaning up these American shows is all about helping yourselves," a Sina Weibo commenter wrote. "You use administrative powers to attack online media and take back market share. It's completely f***** shameless! Only dumb f**** will watch your castrated version."
Many fans speculated as to why the government took down "The Big Bang Theory," a harmless comedy about physics geeks, but didn't touch the "House of Cards," a show chock full of sex, violence and Chinese political intrigue. One popular theory alluded to the idea that Wang Qishan, one of China's most powerful politicians, reportedly adores the political drama.
"I've got to ask: if Wang Qishan hadn't said he watches House of Cards would you also think about messing with that show?" a Sina Weibo user wrote. "These government departments are worse than dogs."