Friday, November 24, 2017

TVB 50th Anniversary Gala – My Thoughts

With this year being TVB’s 50th anniversary, I decided to tune in to their Anniversary Gala celebration that took place on November 19th (this past weekend) just to see if they would do anything “special” to celebrate such a significant milestone.  Most people know that I’ve been following TVB since the 80s era and back then (as well as throughout the 90s), the anniversary gala each year was truly a “grand” event that I always looked forward to watching – it was absolutely a glamorous affair where all the stars would come out and give us audiences a truly entertaining and memorable show.  Nowadays, things are obviously different – the anniversary gala has ceased to be a “grand” affair for at least a decade now and every year, it seems like TVB is merely “going through the motions,” haphazardly throwing something together just because they have to (after all, being HK’s main free-to-air TV station, they can’t “not” celebrate their own birthday, as it would make them look really bad).  I’ve continued to watch the anniversary galas the past couple years, even though most of them have been horrible – I do so mostly out of curiosity to see whether, for once, TVB will make a decent gala show…unfortunately, each year, I am hugely disappointed, as the show gets worse and worse each year, to the point that I wonder why I even bother watching.  Though I knew better than to have any type of expectations for a TVB program, I still went into the 50th anniversary gala hoping that perhaps this time, with it being such a special occasion, TVB won’t let me down.  Looks like this was wishful thinking on my part – while the show overall was heaps better than last year’s gala (which I don’t consider a compliment since last year’s gala was the worst one ever, both in terms of ratings and content), overall, it was still disappointing in that the show was pretty much “same old same old” as previous years in terms of being lackluster, boring, and hugely disorganized.   Writing this post up now, several days after the gala aired, I honestly can’t remember much of the event, which is already a sign that the show was not memorable.  This is especially significant given the fact that I am able to vividly remember almost all of the past galas that took place back in the 80s and 90s even though it has been years since I last watched those shows, yet I can barely remember any of the galas from the past 15 years.  It’s pretty sad and I guess in a way, it shows how little I care about TVB nowadays compared to the past. 

The only 2 things I remember from this year’s anniversary gala were also the 2 best segments of the entire show and in the spirit of giving credit where it’s due, I will give TVB a rare pat on the back for both these segments (don’t get used to it though, lol).  The first segment I thought was done well this year was, surprisingly, the anniversary gala skit – this time around, the skit was actually kind of funny (I have no problems admitting that I got a few laughs out of watching certain artists make fools of themselves):  Wayne actually made me laugh when he resurrected his classic imitation of Roman Tam, I chuckled when Raymond Cho imitated Wayne, and yes, FAMA was hilarious with their imitations of Dodo Cheng and Eric Tsang (and watching Eric “beat them up” afterwards was funny too, lol).  Of course, when I compare this year’s skit to the “classic” ones from the older anniversary galas, it absolutely pales in comparisons – but taken by itself, there was obviously some thought and effort put into the skit this year and for that, I will give TVB some brownie points.

For me though, the biggest highlight of the entire show was the “Hidden Heroes” segment where TVB paid tribute to all the “green leaf” (supporting) artists who have worked for them over the years.  This segment was technically in two parts – the first part consisted of Fook Luk Sau (Wong Cho Lam, Louis Yuen, Johnson Lee) dressing up as comic book super heroes (Batman, Wonder Woman, and I can’t remember who the third one was) to battle 3 “enemy villains” played by veteran green leaf artists Law Lok Lam, Jimmy Au, and Lau Kong.  To be honest, the “fake battle” was kind of cheesy and if it weren’t for the 3 veterans, I probably would’ve stopped watching the segment altogether, but I’m glad I stuck with it because part two was truly AWESOME!  After the corny battle scene, FLS announced that there was actually more and when they turned around, all of the “green leaf” artists were standing on stage (the ones who attended the gala of course).  The first row of artists were specially chosen to represent the various types of “supporting” roles that we see often in TVB series and each of them were formally introduced as well as got the chance to say a few words to the audience.  I loved this segment and actually got a little teary-eyed seeing so many wonderful supporting actors / actresses up there finally getting the “5 minutes of fame” they deserve.  For once, TVB actually did the right thing by giving these unsung heroes (the true pillars of all TVB series) the credit they deserve and even though it still wasn’t enough time in my opinion (take parts one and two together and it was only about 15 minutes max), it’s already a huge improvement considering these artists usually get no recognition at all in past galas.  Again, to give credit where it’s due, kudos to TVB for thinking about the “green leaf” artists this time around and for putting together a segment that was truly memorable as well as fitting of a 50th anniversary celebration (enjoy the praise while it lasts TVB because it’s rare for me to give any nowadays….).

Below I’ve included a link to part two of the “green leaf” artists tribute (on Youtube) as well as a brief “write-up” that HK01 did on the segment.  I hope you enjoy the segment as much as I did! 

One last note -- I’ve also done tributes to green leaf artists on my blog in the past and I honestly hope that other bloggers who follow the HK entertainment industry will do the same.  There is never enough recognition or credit given to supporting artists (mainstream media cares mostly about the lead/popular artists and/or artists who are controversial and constantly put themselves in the line of media fire), so whenever I see tributes of this sort to these “unsung heroes,” I have no problem heaping on the praise.  It’s a small token of my appreciation and gratitude for these artists’ unwavering dedication and efforts at making HK entertainment still worth following!

Video source: HK01 article

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NEWS update: ATV to make a comeback in 2018

It has been more than a year since ATV lost their free-to-air TV license and officially closed up shop.  From the moment they closed, there were already rumors that they would “come back” some day – one rumor was that they were going to submit an application for a license again while another was that they were going to “change format” and return in a different capacity.   Up until this point, there was never much merit to the rumors, especially since majority of what was being told to the public was coming from the mouth of ATV’s former chairman Nick Ip Kar Bo (who already proved himself to be a weak puppy through his constant regurgitation of whatever ridiculous assertions that ATV’s higher ups at the time had him relay).  Even up until last week, when Nick Ip attended an event for Creation TV (the Christian television channel that he has officially joined as chairman), he was still talking about the possibility of ATV returning.  While I still don’t give Nick Ip’s words much merit (since he has a bad reputation in my book), there is actually some truth to the rumors this time in that there is now official confirmation that ATV is returning, albeit Nick Ip isn’t really involved.

I had actually read about ATV possibly making a comeback in a few news articles last week, but at the time, didn’t have the details.  Now I have more info so I wanted to get this blog post out there to share it.   The latest issue of Mingpao Weekly magazine (published this past weekend) had an article that spells out some of the details, including an interview with the person who will be the new ATV chairman.

My two cents:  Personally, I’m not sure how well ATV will fare coming back as a web channel given all the competition in this arena as of late (in addition to TVB, who officially entered the web channel arena last year with myTV Super, there’s also ViuTV, which has their own web streaming platform, and also “outsiders” such as Fox Asia and Netflix, plus the plethora of production companies that have been making web series and putting them on various streaming platforms such as Youtube).  To me, if ATV wants to make a successful comeback, the first thing they need to do is change their name….keeping the same name will conjure up memories of the old ATV and with the horribly damaged reputation that station had, it will be harder for HK audiences to accept them without blemish.  For right now, I’m going to take a “wait and see” approach, as there hasn’t been a whole lot revealed yet in terms of artists and also programming / content – both of which we all know are critical to success.  Since the “launch” is tentatively scheduled for some time in January, I’m pretty sure we will hear more details come out in the next two months.


Below is the article along with a brief summary of the main points from the original article (note that this is NOT a direct translation – it is basically me pulling out the main points from the article and summarizing them here).

Source:  Mingpao Weekly magazine, Issue #2556
(published November 4, 2017)

Main highlights:

-          ATV will be officially returning to TV screens in January 2018.  They will be returning as a web channel that can be accessed via Internet platform as well as mobile devices (via a specially designed app).  TV audiences can access their channel via a set-top box, but with a paid subscription (which is essentially the exact same OTT – Over the Top – method that TVB’s myTV Super utilizes currently). 

-          The new chairman of ATV will be Ng Yu (吳雨), who retired from his executive-level position at EEG last year.  As most people may already know, Ng Yu also used to be one of the top executives at TVB (back in the 80s and 90s) and has many years of experience in media management, so in a way, he’s the perfect candidate for the job.  Though another company will officially be heading up the venture, they recruited Ng Yu for the role of chairman with the promise that he will be the one who calls all the shots.

-          Aside from Ng Yu, the executive team for this new ATV venture consists mostly of former TVB and EEG people, including:  former TVB Assistant Manager Peter Au (歐偉林), former TVB senior producer Fred Lam (林嘉穎), former EEG artists’ department manager Roger, and also Ng Yu’s long-time secretary Pauline.

-          As of right now, there are already over 100 employees working for this new ATV.  Majority of the employees are former ATV staff (i.e. all the behind-the-scenes people such as makeup artists, costume, PAs, etc.) but due to his connections, Ng Yu was also able to recruit artists and behind-the-scenes staff from both TVB and EEG as well. 

-          Ng Yu stated that they are planning to bring ATV back in its entirety in that they are going to produce TV series (and also purchase series from other countries to air on their channel), variety programs, news programs, and also revive the Miss Asia pageant.  However he said that the Miss Asia pageant this time around will be very different from the past, as he didn’t want all the issues that used to plague the pageant to follow them.

-          Supposedly, Ng Yu is already in talks with a few well-known artists to collaborate with him at this new ATV (most of the names are former ATV artists).  Some of the rumored names include:  Jaclyn Chu (朱慧), Eva Lai (黎燕), Margie Tsang (曾華), Kenneth Chan (陳啟).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

News article: Fox Asia series “Trading Floor” (香港華爾街)

Fox Asia recently announced that post-production for their highly anticipated series Hong Kong Wall Street has been completed and season 1 is scheduled to air first quarter 2018. Season 1 will only be 5 episodes and will have a movie-like quality. The way HK audiences can watch is very similar to Netflix – subscription basis via an app.

I'll post up more information once I have more time but for now, those who can read Chinese can check out this article from HK01, which is an interview with the series' star Francis Ng. I'm actually looking forward to this series, as there are so many veterans in it, plus so many big HK movie stars.

Anyway, more to come so stay tuned….

HK01 article

Saturday, October 28, 2017

My Thoughts on ViuTV series “My Very Short Marriage” (短暫的婚姻)

Cast:  Eason Chan (陳奕迅), Cecilia Choi (蔡思韵), Eric Kwok (郭偉亮), Jacky Choi (蔡潔), Prudence Liew (劉美君)

Director:  Steve Chan Chi Fat (陳志)

Screenwriter:  Candace Chong (莊梅

I recently just finished watching ViuTV’s latest in-house produced series My Very Short Marriage (短暫的婚), which was a short, 5 episode series that aired for one week earlier this month.  Each episode was around 30 minutes, with the last episode slightly longer – put together all 5 episodes pretty much equaled the length of a movie.  

Before I go into my thoughts on the series itself, let me first backtrack a little and explain why I decided to watch this series in the first place.  Without going into a long spiel about the HK television war and the licensing fiasco (since I don’t want to detract from the focus on this series), I actually have been paying attention to ViuTV’s offerings in terms of programming content, though I haven’t really been watching many of their series.  The last series I watched of theirs was Margaret and David: Green Bean from last year and while I liked the series overall (the acting was stellar and aesthetics were great), I did feel it went a bit overboard with the ‘slow-burn’ feeling, which I’m pretty sure made it less appealing to most HK audiences who are not used to that style of TV series.  Unfortunately for ViuTV, most of the series they produced after M&D (including that series’ subsequent installment) weren’t tremendously appealing either, though I do applaud them for being willing to explore different themes and taking the risk of producing series that are a huge departure from what mainstream HK television audiences are used to seeing (unlike TVB, whose target audiences continue to be housewives and families, ViuTV’s target audience is the younger generation).  As I said earlier, though I haven’t taken the time to really watch their other series (I basically would just tune in to a few episodes here and there), I still make it a point to stay on top of all the news about their series just in case something happens to appeal to me, which in this case, it did, as I discovered this gem of a series – ViuTV’s latest offering My Very Short Marriage (from here on out, I will be using the acronym MVSM for short, since I’m lazy and don’t want to keep typing out the full name, lol).

I will be the first to admit that normally, I probably wouldn’t bother watching a series like MVSM, since 1) I’m not fond of the cast (ok, technically I didn’t even know most of the cast, as the only names I recognized were Eason, Eric Kwok, and Prudence), 2) the style of the series appeared to be very typical ViuTV, which made me think it would be pretty much the same as their other series, and 3) I knew that this was the series that ViuTV had initially ‘hyped up’ as “the musical starring Eason Chan”, making me think this would likely be a throwback to those extended music documentaries that TVB used to produce in the 80s and 90s, which normally would be a good thing for me given the ‘nostalgia’ aspect that I’m pretty big on (plus it would’ve been interesting to see whether ViuTV would produce these similar to the way TVB used to do it) -- except the problem is, of course, that I’m not a fan of Eason’s music. 

So then why did I decide to give this series a chance?  Simple – because I found out that the scriptwriter for this series is Candace Chong, who is one of my favorite HK playwrights.  Those who don’t follow HK theater probably may not be familiar with Candace Chong – she is a renowned writer of numerous HK stage plays whose works have won numerous awards (I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about Candace’s background – those interested can Google her).  MVSM is actually Candace’s first foray into writing a TV series script, so as a fan, I definitely want to support her effort.  I love all the stage plays that Candace has written, so knowing that she helmed the script for this series, I had utmost confidence going into it that the script would be absolutely top notch.  Production-wise, the director for this series is Steve Chan Chi Fat, whom I’m sure HK audiences recognize from the award-winning movie he directed last year, Weeds on Fire (點五), so in that regard, I knew that this series would be different from the ‘typical ViuTV’ style.   Both of those factors alone already sold me on watching this series and I was very much prepared to just ‘suck it up’ in terms of the cast as well as any possible reservations I may have had regarding the acting.

Now after watching the series, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised and delighted, as MVSM actually turned out to be a gem of a series that I enjoyed immensely!  Of course, a large part of this had to do with Candace Chong’s wonderfully written script (I’ll get back to this in a bit), but I was also surprised to find that the acting was actually quite good in this as well.  I know Eason hasn’t acted in anything in a long time and truth be told, I’ve never watched any of the movies he’s starred in so I can’t really judge how his acting measures up in relation to his previous works, but I will say that his portrayal of widower Galen in this series was very well done.  With that said though, the one to watch in this series is really newbie actress Cecilia Choi, who pulled off an impressive performance as Malena, the conflicted housewife torn between a cheating husband (played by Eric Kwok) and a man who helps her rediscover her true self (Eason’s character Galen).  There were a lot of difficult scenes in this series that required quite a bit of “inner emotion acting” (including scenes with little dialogue that relied mostly on body language and facial expressions), yet Cecilia didn’t have much problem handling these scenes in my opinion – her reactions were ‘just right’ and came across quite natural.  I had never heard of Cecilia prior to this series but now I’m definitely looking her up, as I’m curious to see what other productions – if any – she has been in and what her background is. 

As expected from Candace Chong, the script was awesome!  Tightly written with meaningful dialogue, the script was very much in-line with the high quality of work that Candace usually produces.  Candace is known for raising many social and/or political issues in her works, but in a way that provokes discussion of the topic rather than presenting a solution to the problems encountered by her characters.  This was definitely the case with MVSM’s script, which at its core, was essentially an exploration of the meaning of marriage and love for the central characters in the story, but on a deeper level, it also touched on society’s attitudes toward marriage through Malena’s internal struggle of having to choose between being true to herself or sacrificing who she is deep down for the sake of her family.  One of the biggest traits of Candace Chong’s scripts is its ability to invoke deep thought on societal issues and the brilliance of her writing lies in the fact that each person may have a different interpretation of it based on their own life experiences.  I loved the script for this series and even now, long after having finished watching it, some of the dialogue is still in my head and I find myself still debating some of the questions raised in the series.

After a long dry spell with me practically abandoning TVB’s series due in part to the atrocious acting from their current crop of artists (including worse than past year newbies) as well as the horribly-written nonsense scripts, it’s absolutely refreshing to be able to watch an all-around high caliber series with good performances and a script / story that makes me think and reflect rather than insult my intelligence at every turn (which, annoyingly, is what TVB series have done, especially recent ones).

For those who are considering whether to watch this series or not, all I’m going to say is that this series’ style is VERY DIFFERENT from what you might be used to seeing from TVB.  You definitely won’t find the “formulaic” soap opera format where everything is clearly explained and the story is tied up nice and neat in a package with a fluffy bow on top.  If you’re expecting a “no brainer” type series that you can watch while doing other things and not pay much attention to, then no, this series is not for you.  This one requires careful attention to the dialogue and quite a bit of thought and self-reflection afterwards. 

This series was not flawless by any means (wanted to make sure that was clear, just in case…) and yes, in a sense, the series did kind of end up being a pseudo-promo tool for Eason, since he released 2 new songs that were specifically written for the series in conjunction with its airing, but to be honest, the music actually took a backseat to the story in this instance.  I definitely would not call this series a “musical” (whoever marketed the series that way should be fired, lol) because the music component was really quite minimal. I may not be a fan of Eason’s, but I really couldn’t find much fault with the way the music and songs were incorporated into the series – it actually helped to enhance the series in my opinion. 

Some last thoughts…I’m hoping that ViuTV continues to go down this path in the future and continue collaborating with people who really can bring quality and elevate their series to a higher level (like Candace Chong was able to do with her awesome script for this series and also Steve’s Chan excellent direction).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

OCTB Finale Dinner video clips

I seem to be on a roll with blog posts recently, lol.  Anyway, just dropping by to share this video clip from the OCTB finale dinner that took place 2 days ago.  The production team had actually announced on their Facebook last week that they were going to do a little "surprise" for the finale and also to celebrate the series good viewership ratings -- the "surprise" ended up being the production team treating cast and crew to dinner so that they could all watch the final episode together.

This first clip is hosted by Benji Chiang (who plays 細華 in the series) and he pretty much goes around chatting with people while giving us some insight as to behind-the-scenes stuff from the series.  He also introduces some of the newbie artists who did significantly well in the series, so those who are wondering who those artists are in real life should watch this.  There is also a segment where the series' producers Jones Soong and Sam Lee talk about what to expect for season 2 and also things about season 1 that they are going to improve upon (the second video clip).

Note that both Danny Chan and Jordan Chan had work obligations so of course they did not attend.  Regardless though, this is a great clip that all fans of the series definitely need to watch!

Also, one thing I wanted to clarify from an earlier post -- according to the actual dinner finale clips, looks like the issue of the series being taken down was a hot topic at the dinner and ultimately, once the series is put back up, it will very likely require some type of subscription or payment in order to watch.  The news source that I took some of the info from in my earlier post was not as detailed as the clips so it looks like the info was mis-reported.

Anyway, enjoy the clips!! :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

News Article: Hong Kong’s top TV channels ranked – Media Report 2017

I came across the below article that recaps the top TV channels in Hong Kong based on a Marketing survey..  Details of the survey (including criteria, how it was conducted, number of responses, etc.) are all recapped at the beginning of the article.

I'm actually super-surprised to see ViuTV in the number one spot!  Since they launched last year, I always felt that they had a niche audience, since their programs and the station itself is not covered much in traditional / mainstream media outlets…but I guess advertisers think differently.  In a way, this is a good thing because it means that advertisers are not being biased toward TVB like almost everyone else in HK is and they are willing to put their support behind underdogs that have potential.  Actually, on second thought, I really shouldn't be surprised, since advertisers had already said previously (back when HKTV was still in the picture) that many in their field are tired of TVB's "same old same old" approach and are willing to put their money into other stations that show potential.  This is partly why Ricky Wong was never worried about whether he would get advertising support if HKTV were to get a license and officially launch...I vaguely remember (would need to pull my notes to confirm) that the advertising association in HK (of which almost all advertising firms were a part of) had released a statement back then that they would commit advertising to HKTV if they were to launch (since that was a huge concern back then due to TVB constantly crying a river over advertising revenue dropping).  [Sidenote – I've actually been keeping an eye on ViuTV the past year and while they got off to a rocky start due to their initially upside down policy of only doing infotainment programs rather than series, they've definitely turned things around in recent months with the focus on producing series rather than only infotainment programs.  While I doubt that they will be the next HKTV, it's good to see that ViuTV is finally coming into its own…though of course, it has a LONG ways to go to catch up to TVB…]

The other shocker for me was seeing TVMost on this list (they came in at #8) – for a non-official TV station whose sole purpose is to parody other stations / programs / people, etc., that's actually quite an achievement!  [Shout out to sport3888:  I'm sure you must be grinning from ear to ear right now!  LOL!]

The other interesting part is that ViuTV made the list, but their parent company, cable channel NowTV, didn't make the cut at all, which in a way I'm not too surprised about since there have been complaints galore about NowTV over the past few years (I can't remember whether it was Alan Tam or Hacken Lee who always used to complain on Weibo about NowTV because they carry a lot of sports events and the reception was always super poor quality….I've heard that people were actually happy to cancel their subscriptions at one point).  

Anyway…check out who else made the top 10.  Did any of these rankings shock you?  Feel free to comment down below. 

**Note:  My apologies for not putting the pictures from the article up – I'm posting this from my phone and the process to post pictures is super cumbersome.  If I remember, I'll fix the post when I'm able to access from a computer…otherwise, if you want to see the pictures, you can read the article from its original source via the link below.


Hong Kong's top TV channels ranked – Media Report 2017

Source:  Marketing Interactive

Each year Marketing undertakes one of its most significant research projects to discover the media preferences of Hong Kong's top marketers.
The aim of the Media Benchmarking Survey is pretty simple; to understand which media platforms marketers look to for advertising solutions across digital, outdoor, TV, radio and print platforms.
We ask respondents to name the magazine, TV station, digital platform or OOH groups they would use to target consumers across key industry verticals from luxury, local business and finance, news and current affairs, property, travel and consumer electronics.
This article we highlight the top 10 in TV broadcasters.
How did we achieve this?
The media rankings were derived from questions in Marketing Research's annual Media Spend Benchmarking Survey. Marketing Research employed an online questionnaire and surveyed its database of client advertisers and marketing services agency professionals. All answers given by respondents were considered by Marketing when finalising the rankings.
Quality recipients and respondents
A total of 587 respondents participated in the Media Spend Benchmarking Survey. Genuine advertising decision-makers and influencers across key agency-using industries were well represented as were agency professionals from various marketing services.
Over 80% of client advertiser-side respondents were manager-level decision-makers and above, with 10% from the most senior ranks of client advertisers – CEOs, MDs or GMs – and another 31% were VPs or director-level marketers.
Twenty percent of the respondents from the agency side were CEOs, MDs or GMs, 30% were marketing personnel, while 25% were sales personnel. The remaining 25% were operations, creative and media personnel.
Advertisers from major and local international banks, FMCG companies, property and construction, IT and telecommunication firms, as well as those from travel and tourism companies participated in the survey. Agency professionals across the marketing services spectrum were also well represented.
Television Broadcasters of the Year
1 ViuTV
Currently in its second year of operation, ViuTV has taken the TV world by storm as it now leads the category for local marketers. The channel operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and its English arm ViuTVsix offers 17 hours of programming per day, including three to four hours of news and public affairs, lifestyle, overseas dramas and documentaries, such as HBO originals True Blood and Boardwalk Empire.
The channel's rapid rise to fame did not go unnoticed, as it swiped up numerous at Marketing's The Spark Awards 2017, including gold awards for Fast Growth, Best Launch/Relaunch and Best Engagement Strategy, as well as silver awards in Best Entertainment Platform and Best Use of Content.
While TVB slipped to second place this year – in no small part due to the entry of a new local challenger – it still managed to keep a spot in the top three on the year of its 50th anniversary. To better compete with the rise of streaming services, TVB launched its own social live streaming app dubbed 'Big big channel' in a bid to engage younger, internet-savvy viewers and generate more ad revenue – a move that has clearly paid off, especially considering the modern TV landscape.
3 Bloomberg
After a slide to sixth spot last year, Bloomberg is back in the top three. Headquartered in New York, USA, and a division of Bloomberg LP, the news agency covers international news, disseminated through television, terminals, radio, markets, the Bloomberg website, Bloomberg's mobile platforms and Businessweek.
While their digital offering is comprehensive, they haven't forgotten about traditional formats and recently opened a new TV studio in Hong Kong to enhance the brand's media technology assets, which will produce programmes covering all of Asia.
Down one spot since last year, the UK-headquartered public service broadcaster British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has strengthened its mobile and online offerings to facilitate changing tastes. While its World Service radio broadcast was recently replaced on RTHK, the TV side is still going strong.
CNN likewise slid down one spot in the rankings this year. Staffed 24 hours, seven days a week by a staff both in CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and in global bureaus, the broadcaster boasts a global team of almost 4,000 news professionals, and has recently expanded its presence in Hong Kong, when it appointed Karen Vera as creative lead for in-house brand studio Create, Asia Pacific.
6 Cable TV
Cable TV has been on a gradual descent over the past few years, and 2017 was no exception as it dropped from fifth place into sixth.
With the uncertain future of i-CABLE Communications Limited' TV offerings earlier this year, i-CABLE announced that Forever Top (Asia) Limited had become a controlling shareholder and injected new funds into the business last month. Additionally, the board underwent a number of changes as the company enters its next phase of development. New offerings include over 200 live games from German soccer league Bundesliga.
CNBC enters the list this year, with a strong financial backbone to support it. CNBC is one of the world's largest business and financial networks. With international headquarters in Singapore in London, CNBC provides comprehensive 24-hour coverage from Asia to America, and beyond. In addition to the television services, CNBC is also available on tablet, mobile and desktop via and its apps.
8 TVMost
Satirical magazine 100most's TV service, while wholly offline, has grabbed enough marketshare for marketers to list it among the region's top TV channels. The channel provides satirical news services, often parodising existing programmes and channels to present the latest news in an entertaining and humourous way, presented by a slew of local celebrities.
Its Chinese slogan is: "Do our best instead of not having a TV licence issued by the government" – roughly translated to "Doing our best, despite the lack of a TV licence".
Hong Kong's public broadcasting service Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) keeps its spot in ninth place this year. The service operates seven radio channels, and three TV channels, and produces educational, entertainment and public affairs programmes that are also broadcast on commercial channels. RTHK, like many public broadcasters, is directly funded by annual government allocation and operates as a department of the Communications Authority, but maintains a strong reputation for impartial coverage and editorial independence.
10 Fox
CBS Corporation earlier this year announced a content licensing and trademark agreement for SHOWTIME in South East Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The agreement brought the SHOWTIME brand to these markets for the first time, including international hits like Twin PeaksCalifornication and Dexter.

Monday, October 23, 2017

OCTB - Latest News!!

Source: HK01

So now that OCTB has officially aired its finale, here are some "final numbers" in terms of internet viewership ratings as well as some info about the series and its sequel(s) straight from the mouths of the series' producers (Jones Soong and Danny Chan) and screenwriter.

As anticipated, viewership ratings in Mainland China (via streaming platform Youku) reached 1.3 billion for the finale (quite impressive if you ask me!).  In HK, viewership ratings via Youtube clocked in at 28 million (also impressive considering the production company is relatively unknown and there were duplicate versions of the series uploaded to other channels on Youtube).  During the celebratory dinner, Jones Soong announced that they there will definitely be season 2 (which starts filming early 2018), but to many people's surprise, he also said that they are planning season 3 as well (I actually wasn't surprised, as I had read an interview that Danny Chan did earlier where he said that the script for seasons 1 through 3 had already been written awhile back ago).

As I'm sure those who've been following this series know, there has been much speculation amongst fans on who will be participating in OCTB's sequel(s).  One of the strengths of the series was in its veteran cast and their top-notch acting, which garnered a lot of praise from netizens and general audiences who were tired of the overall crappy performances from TVB's younger generation.  [***SPOILER ALERT***] Those who watched OCTB from beginning to end know that almost all of the veterans in the series either died or went to jail (except for Michael Chan, who remains the head of triad group Wo Hing Sing…for now)….so it makes sense that they will need to recruit another group of veterans for the sequel(s).

On the day the finale aired, the production team held a celebratory banquet attended by the series' cast and crew.  At the dinner, reporters asked the series director / executive producer Jones Soong what the plans were for seasons 2 and 3 as well as whether the rumors about certain artists participating in the sequels have any merit (for the record, the rumored "names" so far that fans are most concerned about are:  Ekin Cheng, Michael Tse, Anthony Wong, Roy Cheung – all from Young and Dangerous franchise).  Here is Jones Soong's response (excerpted and translated directly from the above HK01 article): "All I can say is that for season 2, there will definitely be a few 'heavyweights' participating…who those artists are though, I cannot reveal right now.  We actually have plans to do season 3 as well, so we can't use up all the artists in one shot – we need to add them in slowly.  One thing I can tell you is that the list of rumored artists currently circulating on the internet, majority of them you will likely see [in upcoming seasons].  The purpose of our series is actually to pay tribute to the triad films of the 1990s, so it's natural to incorporate classic characters from the Y&D franchise.  Audiences will need to wait and see!"

Screenwriter Paul Chung (鍾盛遠) revealed that in season 2, 'Dai Sir's' room will be occupied by a "heavyweight" character. [**SPOILER** Remember that in the first season, Dai Sir was played by Philip Chan, who was killed in a bomb blast after being kidnapped by Justin Cheung's character].  He also revealed that in Season 2, one member of the B1-1 police team will "defect to the other side" – who that person is and why, of course we will have to wait until season 2 to find out.

A few other tidbits (some of these are spoilers for those who didn't watch the finale, so read at your own risk)….

-          OCTB's production team gave us a few "Easter eggs" at the end of the series.  One of them was the revelation by Wo Hing Sing's leader Sun Ye (Michael Chan) that he has a son named 'Michael' who will be returning to HK to take over the group.  This is obviously significant given a lot of the stuff that happened in the series was the direct result of the various triad guys fighting over the top leadership spot.   There has been speculation on who 'Michael' will be.  Based on the scene where Sun Ye 'calls' Michael and tells him it's time to come back and we see the back of a guy sitting at a desk picking up the phone, there is much speculation that 'Michael' will be Danny Chan's character turned bad (the backside of the person in the scene actually does look like Danny)….this speculation was further strengthened through the second "Easter egg" where Danny's character meets up with Jordan's character to say goodbye and tells him that, after everything that's happened, he is not sure about his plans for the future and for now just wants a break from everything.  So is Danny actually going to be 'Michael'?  I guess we will have to wait until season 2 to find out.

-          Regarding the speculation about Michael Tse possibly participating in the sequel….supposedly, reporters had asked Michael whether he will be joining the cast and he had said no he won't.  The reporters asked Jones Soong at the celebration dinner, telling him that Michael said he won't be participating in the series.  Jones replied:  "He will be in it.  Actually, from the beginning [season 1], we had invited him to participate, but it wasn't able to happen.  You will see it happen in season 2.." The reporter then asked further whether that means Michael Tse will for sure be part of the season 2 cast, to which Jones then said:  "Let's wait for the official announcement, since I'm not supposed to say anything right now.  We are planning to start filming season 2 in January 2018 and the entire cast will be announced prior to that, so keep an eye out for that.  Since it will be in December, consider it our Christmas present to you!"

-          It's pretty obvious from the finale (the third "Easter Egg") that Justin Cheung will continue to be in season 2 and his villain character Jiu Jik (I probably butchered the spelling) will return to wreak havoc on Wo Hing Sing.  He was essentially the ultimate villain in season 1, but what will his role be in season 2?  From what has come out so far, it sounds like there will be another battle for the Wo Hing Sing top spot in season 2, though to what capacity we don't know. 

-          Rumor has it that Jordan Chan might not return as a lead in season 2..  The production team said that they are working with him, but it depends on his schedule next year.  If they are able to work out his schedule, then he will reprise his role in the same capacity.  If not, then he will still participate in the series, but in a smaller role where he will only show up every once in a while – as often as his schedule allows (in the reduced role, his character will get promoted to Superintendent of Police and will be in scenes as necessary, similar to Gregory Rivers in the first season).  If Jordan won't be able to participate, then that leaves Danny as the main lead going into season 2 – if the rumors of Danny's character defecting are true, then they are going to need another lead to take Jordan's place on the police side…makes it more likely that the person might be Michael Tse or Ekin Cheng (or someone else altogether of course, but it would need to be someone around same level / age).  As I said earlier, I'm pretty sure Anthony Wong will be in season 2 (no confirmation, just a gut feeling on my part), but highly doubt he will take Jordan's spot, as he is too old for that role – most likely he will either be Dai Sir (if he is on the police side) or one of the big shot gangster guys (if he is on the triad side).  Could also be someone else entirely who has not been mentioned yet of course….I guess we will find out in December.

-          Within 24 hours of the final episode's broadcast, the entire series was removed from Youtube.  There was actually warning of this on the production team's Facebook page, but they didn't make the announcement until the day of – obviously they got some heat from audiences on this, since it wasn't enough notice for people who hadn't caught up yet to finish watching the series (there was speculation that the production team took down the series because of marketing concerns and they would have to start charging to watch the series or repackage as DVD).  For  those of you who haven't finished watching the series yet and are freaking out right now – DON'T WORRY….at the dinner, Jones Soong explained the reason for removing the series (to enhance the series and correct any mistakes that were in there) and confirmed that they will be putting back up a 2.0 version that will also be free for audiences to watch.  He said they are not sure when the date will be but to watch for the official announcement on their website.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

HK web series OCTB (反黑) - A reunion of HK film industry veteran actors

As promised, here is the article I came across awhile back ago about the veteran artists who essentially stole the show due to their top notch acting in OCTB.  Note that this article came out several weeks ago, back when the first few episodes of OCTB were airing, so of course, many of the veterans who appeared later on in the series – such as Ng Man Tat, Dominic Lam, Carrie Ng, Gregory Rivers, etc. – weren’t mentioned in this particular article.  I am hoping that HK01 does an updated article later on that covers the other veterans as well so that current audiences can know who these veterans are and give them the accolades that they very much deserve!

I have decided that for this particular article, I am going to depart from my regular style – instead of directly translating the entire article pretty much word for word as I normally would, I will be paraphrasing portions of it and adding some of my own commentary.  The reason for this is because I’m actually familiar with all but one of the veteran artists mentioned in this article (I grew up watching most of them on TV) and have some additional knowledge of their backgrounds not mentioned in this article that I feel is necessary to add.  The parts in BLUE lettering are the “tidbits” that I added (not in the article) based on my knowledge of the artists.

**NOTE – there aren’t any spoilers for OCTB in the below article, however for those who never watched the Young and Dangerous movie franchise, some of the “collective memories” that are brought up below may be akin to spoilers for you, so just a heads-up….

Source: HK01

Article originally published 10/3/17

Hong Kong web series OCTB (反黑) has been taking the Chinese television industry by storm!   With only the first 10 episodes aired so far, the series’ viewership ratings in the Mainland has already exceeded 300 million and its popularity in HK has already reached new heights.   [TN: as of today, 10/14/17, with 22 episodes aired, viewership ratings in Mainland is close to 800 million already!]  In addition to praise for former category III actor Justin Cheung’s (張建聲) convincing portrayal of villain character ‘Chiu Jik’, audiences have also given high praise to the group of veteran actors – most of whom older HK audiences grew up watching on screen --  in the series who play the ‘bad guys’ (triad members) as well as the ‘good guys’ (cops).

From the moment all of these ‘uncles’ made their appearances in episode 1, audiences were already excited to see so many familiar actors back together on the screen -- as “icing on the cake” though, some of the characters that these actors portrayed were also ‘familiar names’ – for example, Frankie Ng Chi Hung’s (吳志雄) ‘Uncle Bee’ [his iconic role from the Young and Dangerous movie franchise].  With the resurgence in HK audiences’ penchant for “nostalgia” and “collective memories” in recent years, OCTB hit a sweet spot that has helped propel the series to almost instant popularity.

In this article, we will be taking a look back at these veteran actors and the ‘famous’ characters they portray.

Frankie Ng Chi Hung (吳志雄)Uncle Bee from first installment of Young and Dangerous (古惑)

In the series OCTB, Frankie Ng’s character is also called Uncle Bee, except that this Uncle Bee is a triad boss already in his last days, with little to no power and essentially no say in anything.  In the Young and Dangerous movie franchise, Uncle Bee was a character who only appeared in the first installment, but the righteousness of his character and the way he took care of his juniors endeared him at the time to many audiences….so in the movie, when Uncle Bee and his family were tragically killed -- ‘buried alive’ by Francis Ng’s (吳鎮) character Ugly Kwan, it evoked a strong reaction from audiences.  Perhaps because of this, Y&D’s director Andrew Lau (劉偉) decided to ‘resurrect’ Uncle Bee in the form of a different character played by Frankie in the third installment of the franchise – unfortunately, the effect wasn’t that great, as not too many people were able to recognize ‘Uncle Bee’…even his beloved ‘brothers’ from Hung Hing (Y&D’s triad society) didn’t recognize him!

My commentary:  I never got around to watching the entire Y&D franchise, but I did watch the first installment and I absolutely remember Uncle Bee and family’s death scene – it was pretty dramatic and intense…definitely not for the faint-hearted.  In fact, the entire franchise was actually quite violent with many intense scenes, though I’m not surprised that the franchise became so popular given HK audiences’ love of cop and triad-themed productions.  I can’t remember which installment of Y&D I stopped at, since it was so long ago (I think it was 3rd or 4th installment?), but whatever the case, I have no intention of finishing it up anytime soon, especially since I’m already getting my fill of Y&D nostalgia currently with OCTB (which is way less violent in comparisons).

Michael Chan Wai Man (陳惠) – “Camel” Lok from third installment of Young and Dangerous

Michael (or Brother Wai Man as he is more commonly referred to) plays the ‘godfather’ crime boss of the Wo Hing Sing triad group in OCTB.  Everyone already knows Brother Wai Man’s ‘strong’ background in real life, so it is no surprise that in pretty much every movie / series he has been in, he almost always plays ‘big boss’ characters.   In the third installment of Young and Dangerous, he played the leader of the Tung Sing triad society, Camel Lok – a crime boss who valued friendship and doing things honorably and therefore encouraged co-existing peacefully with the rival Hung Hing gang rather than fighting them.  Unfortunately, Camel’s “underlings” were not of the same mindset as him --  feeling that he was ‘outdated’ and no longer fit to lead their group, he is killed by one of his “boys” Crow (Roy Cheung), who ends up framing the Hung Hing gang for the murder.

My commentary:  The article didn’t mention much about Brother Wai Man’s background so I will attempt to fill in the gaps for those who are interested.  Brother Wai Man can best be described as a veteran actor who has experience being on ‘both sides of the law’.  In his early days (before joining the entertainment industry), he had served as a correctional officer as well as a cop and was once a boxing champion (a hobby and passion that he still practices today).  It is well-known that Brother Wai Man used to be part of a few triad gangs and even though he is no longer “officially” part of those gangs anymore, he is rumored to still have “close ties” to some of them.  Due to his background, he obviously knows people from ‘both sides.’  In terms of acting career, Brother Wai Man is actually not really active in the industry anymore, as he has a wine business and a production company that keeps him busy, however he will still participate in some movies and/or TV series if he has time.  In a recent interview, Brother Wai Man confirmed that, regardless of his busy schedule and a few health issues he is dealing with, he has already ‘signed up’ to film OCTB season 2 (which is scheduled to commence filming early 2018).

Hugo Ng (吳岱) – Big Mouth Lin from Jiang Hu – The Triad Zone (江湖告急)

With his oft-praised portrayal as the villain character in TVB series Brother’s Keeper 2 (巨輪2) last year, Hugo Ng not only made a successful comeback to the HK small screen, he has also successfully imprinted his name in the memories of a new generation of television-viewing audiences.  It’s no secret that Hugo participated in a few category III films in the 1990s -- because he often played ‘crazy, psychopathic’ characters in those films, there was a certain ‘villain air’ to him that also led to roles in a series of triad-themed films back then.  One of his most famous movie roles was in the Dante Lam directed Jiang Hu-The Triad Zone where he played a gangster character named Big Mouth Lin who lit up the opening scene by going against the main character played by the film’s star Tony Leung Ka Fai and eventually getting a bottle broken over his head.  Despite only having a brief appearance in the film and a few lines of dialogue, Hugo was able to leave an impression on audiences with his performance – definitely no easy feat!

My commentary:  Most of you may already know this, since Hugo has been active in HK again ever since re-joining TVB again in 2015, but I will give my spiel anyway, lol.  Hugo is originally from Singapore and before joining TVB back in 1987, he was actually already a popular leading actor in the Singaporean television circle.  He filmed quite a few series for TVB in the late 80s and was considered one of TVB’s most popular ‘wuxia’ siu sangs.  His most famous role at TVB was of course as Fa Mo Kuet in 1988’s Two Most Honorable Knights (TVB’s adaptation of Gu Long’s famous wuxia epic Jue Dai Shuang Jiao 絕代雙驕).  His wife is former actress (and beauty pageant winner) Lily Chung (鍾淑慧), whom he had met on the set of TVB series The Man, The Ghost, and The Fox (人·鬼·狐) back in 1992 – they married in 1995 and have a son who is currently serving in the military in Singapore.  Hugo was actually one of my favorite actors back in the 80s (believe me, my ‘favorites’ list was LONG back then, lol) – even back then, his acting was top notch and he was quite versatile, as he was able to handle the wide range of characters thrown at him – good guy, bad guy, and everything in between – with ease.  I know most people probably only remember Hugo’s Fa Mo Kuet role (not surprising, since he was so good in the role) and he was largely typecast in wuxia dramas back then, but he also did a few non-costume dramas as well that are worth watching.  I actually stopped following his career after he left TVB (similar to many other 80s artists, he didn’t part on good terms with TVB), but I did know that both he and his wife did some category III films during the 90s before he shifted his career to Mainland.  I’m glad Hugo is back on HK television screens, as he is a great actor who can definitely carry his weight in the acting realm (oh and I recently discovered that he is a talented singer too!).

Ben Ng (吳毅) – psychopathic rapist in Red to Kill (弱殺)

As the fiery-tempered For Shi () in OCTB, Ben’s character seems to be right up his alley!  But actually, his character here can be considered ‘mild’ when compared to the ‘psychopath’ roles he usually played in movies.  His first foray into the ‘psychopath’ role was 1994’s Red to Kill where his chilling portrayal of a psychopathic rapist left a huge impression on audiences, though it also resulted in him being typecast in similar roles later in his career.  In that movie, Ben had actually taken his performance to extremes, not only shedding his clothes for some of the scenes, but also shaving his head in efforts to make the character more realistic.  With that type of ‘extreme’ experience, asking Ben to play an impulsive gangster in OCTB is ‘a piece of cake’ in comparisons!

My commentary:  Not sure how familiar audiences are with Ben now but those who followed ATV and TVB back in the 80s/90s will definitely know who he is.  Ben was a graduate of ATV’s acting class and filmed various series for them up through the 80s, jumping ship to TVB in the mid-90s.  He started filming movies in the 90s and actually has had a simultaneous film and television career ever since.  Ben moved his career to Mainland a long time ago, which is why it’s not surprising if current HK audiences aren’t too familiar with him.  He’s actually a decent actor, though a bit too ‘crazy’ for my tastes, lol.  I remember many of the ATV and TVB series he was in, though I don’t recall any of his roles back then being memorable.  To be honest, I’m actually more familiar with his wife – former actress and Miss HK 2nd runner up (1984) Joan Tong (唐麗球), even though she was active in the industry for less time than him (probably because she was in series/movies that I actually watched and am familiar with, lol).

Jones Soong (宋本) – ‘Big Wong’ Ah Chun in 1999 film Street Kids Violence (三五成群)

The name Jones Soong probably won’t sound familiar to most people, but those who did watch the 1999 cult film Street Kids Violence will probably remember Jones playing the character Ah Chun in the film.  If you don’t though, it’s not surprising, as that movie was pretty much Jones’ only ‘memorable’ acting performance – after that film, he played mostly ‘kelefe’ roles in subsequent movies.  With a never-ending passion for film, Jones decided to take his love for the art behind-the-scenes and after much learning as well as hard work, he later became a director and producer.  Jones is co-owner of the production company Visual Brothers (alongside Danny Chan Kwok Kwan), which is the creative team behind OCTB – Jones is credited as executive producer / producer / director for the series and also has a cameo role in the series.  If you didn’t know who Jones was before, you probably know him now after the OCTB’s huge success!

My commentary:  I actually had never heard of Jones Soong until OCTB, lol.  Because of this series, I’ve been reading up on Jones a bit the last couple weeks (there isn’t much information out there unfortunately) and was a little surprised to learn that he’s actually quite well connected in the industry.  I guess it does make sense, since he’s been a producer and director a long time now and has undoubtedly worked with enough people in the industry to be able to establish a good amount of connections.  There were also a few things I learned about Jones and Danny’s company Visual Brothers that I feel are very interesting and also promising in terms of this company’s future endeavors in the area of film and television series production.  I won’t go into too much detail here but will do a separate post later on when I have time.

Philip Chan (陳欣) – the entertainment industry’s real life ‘Dai Sir’!

In OCTB, there is definitely no shortage of police officers!  The main leads Jordan Chan (陳小) and Danny Chan (陳國) both portray police officers in the series, but let’s not forget that there was another significant police figure above both of them – ‘Dai Sir’ Cheung Kwok Jim, portrayed by veteran actor Philip Chan (陳欣健).  Younger audiences who don’t know Philip Chan’s background might be wondering – what’s so special about this ‘uncle’?  Well, let’s start with the fact that he has been in the entertainment industry for more than 40 years already and has had one of the most prolific careers in the industry – in addition to being an actor, he was also a screenwriter, director, producer, singer, TV program host, record company executive, etc. – the list goes on.  In the 80s and 90s, Philip served as MC for numerous shows and events (both on screen and off) and at one point, was also a high level executive at record label Capital Artists.  It can be said that Philip is truly one of the first generation of HK artists to find success in the industry in various capacities across multiple media platforms.  But Philip’s biggest legacy involved his career prior to entering show business  – in 1965, Philip officially joined the HK Royal Police force and within 9 years, was promoted to Superintendent of Police.  One of the most famous cases he was involved in during his tenure was the Shanghai Street bank robbery hostage case back in 1974 – Philip was the top level officer in charge of the case and was personally at the scene directing police operations…at the time, TVB had sent reporters out to cover the case and even interviewed Philip on site! 

My commentary:  I wouldn’t be surprised if the current generation of audiences don’t have a clue who Philip Chan is, since he was most active in the industry back in the 80s and 90s.  While he is still involved in the industry even now, he mostly does behind-the-scenes work and also hosting for major business and charity events, plus he also has his own companies that do entertainment consulting and event arrangement type stuff.  For those who are wondering how Philip ended up joining the entertainment industry, he’s actually told the story many times over the past 4 decades – in 1975, Philip was offered the opportunity to write a script (in his spare time of course) for a movie about cops that one of the production companies at the time planned on making.  Due to his experience in the HK police force, Philip was able to write a script that was true to life in its portrayal of police officers and the film went down in history as being the HK film industry’s first realistic cop film -- the name of the movie was Jumping Ash (跳灰), which was officially released in theaters in 1976.  [Side note: For all you OCTB fans out there, here’s a fun fact – the theme song to Philip’s movie (in Chinese, the name of the song is 大丈夫, which is loosely translated as “Masculinity”) is the same song that OCTB’s production team decided to have re-produced and used as OCTB’s theme song currently!]  This brief foray into film sparked Philip’s interest in film-making and in 1976, when he was invited by the head of his film’s production company to join their team, he accepted the offer, deciding to give up his high-paying job as police superintendent to enter showbiz.