But the biggest reaction has been to the drama’s critique of filial piety. Even today, the Confucian principle of unswerving loyalty to one’s parents remains hallowed. Many people say the best measure of adherence to this virtue is whether a son takes good care of his parents in old age.
A recent poll by Toutiao, a Chinese news app, found that 54% of elderly people in China get more than half of their expenses covered by their adult children. Partly, no doubt, this is due to a patchy pensions system. But it also reflects a culture of “never saying no to your parents”, says an “All is Well” fan in Beijing.
In the series, however, the widowed father does not attract much sympathy. He throws tantrums and insists that his eldest son buy him a three-bedroom apartment (the son grudgingly does so). Commentators on social media have taken to calling the father a juying (“giant baby”)—a characteristic common among parents in real life, they say. The Su children do their duty, but the audience is supposed to applaud the resentment they express.
There have been mixed reviews in state media. One newspaper said that the “realistic plot and acting” had touched the “pain points” of many viewers. Beijing Daily, however, said the drama was “unrealistic”. It said it caricatured elderly parents by “unreasonably” ascribing “every possible bad quality” of old people to one character. Someone representing every virtue admired by the party would be just fine for television, presumably.