The cult-hit Chinese dating show If You Are The One, currently airing new episodes on SBS Viceland, is about to undergo a drastic reformat; added mystery, gender-role reversal, and a “thermometer of love” have the potential to push the boundaries of the scandalous dating show. However, if one thing is to remain constant, it is that of the iconic role of the lovable, if somewhat brutally honest host – Meng Fei, who is every bit as beloved as the ratings smash-hit.
If the crowds in Melbourne’s CBD on Sunday evening were anything to go by, If You Are the One fever in Australia is still going strong. Alongside popular Chinese actor and comedian Guo Degang, Meng Fei opened his first Australian restaurant, aptly called Mr Meng. And for what the venue lacks in size it makes up for in flavour and delicious spiciness; the humble chongqing noodle shop was bursting at the seams with sound, colour, and flavour on opening night.
Our Melbourne writer, Anastasia Giggins, sat down with the duo after the wildly successful opening. Together, they talked about on-show accidents, the secrets to dating success, and familiar tastes of home-made noodles.
‘If You Are The One’ is incredibly successful. Indeed, millions of people across China tune in to watch the show, with the contestants becoming local celebrities. Moreover, outside of China, in countries like Australia, the show has obtained cult-status.
Myself, I am a great fan of the show, and my family and I have enjoyed watching it for years. There is something so incredibly likeable and uniquely entertaining about it. I know what I love about the show – however, being part of it, looking from the inside out, what do you think it is about ‘If You Are The One’ that appeals to so many people, in China and across the world?
Meng Fei (MF): I actually want to know why Australian’s love to watch it. I am quite curious, myself.
DeGang (DG): It’s because we have nothing else to watch! (laughs)
MF: (laughs) I think the reason why so many Australian’s love it is partly due to the creative work in translating the show and effectively writing subtitles. It’s very important, to accurately convey the message while maintaining the entertaining factors.
Indeed, it is a very funny show. And there are so many parts that come together to make it truly unique. However, over the past seven years, what would consider to be the most memorable moment for you?
MF: There are so many memorable moments, but if you really want to know one of them, it would be the time that I fell off the stage and broke my arm. It was the only time I’ve broken anything, and the only time I’ve injured myself while at work.
My friend, sitting beside me here, came to see me in the hospital.
DG: Yes, I did!
MF: He’s a good friend! He, like many of my friends brought in pig trotters – the collagen is said to be good at healing bones. Anyway, now, there’s a steel metal rod in my arm, here.
Oh, are you okay now?
MF: Yes, yes! When I die, if i get cremated, this metal rod will still be here. It is a part of me that will live on forever!
I think people will remember you for years and years to come into the future! You’re so well-loved and popular, and your advice is always on-point. Having seen so many people go through the process, what particularly do you think is the perfect formula for success on the show?
MF: There are so many reasons as to why a candidate will either be successful or unsuccessful; of course, it is always hard to determine why a person may choose someone over another individual. Dating and relationships are very complex.
Generally, however, I think it depends on the “heart features” that a person may have, for example your looks, your height, your income; these things will create a spark in your heart, and are the first things that a person may be attracted to. The other side is how you express yourself on the stage, your sense of humour, and how you engage with other people. The combination of these two sides can make the difference as to whether you are successful.
In July, Australian audience will see quite a different format on the show. A ‘boys special’, will see the tables turn for the contestants, and is due to air – having been part of that, what did you consider to be the most interesting thing about the change? Were there any startling differences?
MF: (laughs) Ahh…Honestly, I am not really interested in seeing 24 boys in front of me, I’d much rather see 24 girls. So, I hope the new format ends quickly! (laughs)
Over the years, we have seen a lot of change. Indeed, this year we are going to see quite a lot of new things on the show as the show undergoes a reformat. What can Australian audiences look forward to?
MF: Until the revamp, the changes are quite minor. But when the revamp does occur, it will revolutionise the show. Everything has been changed, except for me. I am still there.
The good part.
MF: Yes, that’s what I would like to think!
About your restaurant, you may know that Melbournians are big foodies – what can we expect?
DG: Neither of us are very ambitious. We didn’t really endeavour to have a five-star hotel or restaurant or any of that. What we are really interested in is what we actually really enjoy. Additionally, a noodle-shop is small enough to manage. We are just middle-aged men who want delicious, simple food.
We chose Melbourne, particularly, as I have been here for just over seven years. I quite like Melbourne. When we teamed up, we knew that Melbourne was a good place to start.
MF: I agree. Australia is one of the most favourable countries. It is one of my favourites.
New episodes of If You Are The One every Saturday and Sunday at 7.20pm on SBS VICELAND. Watch out for the series reboot coming to SBS VICELAND in December, and a Boys Special episode early July.
Mr Meng – Chongqing Gourmet is located in Melbourne at 384 Elizabeth St. Open daily 11am-10pm.
Photos: One (Supplied), Two – Six (Anastasia Giggins).