Saturday, June 19, 2010

My 'TVB Rant' #3: TVB's Unfair Treatment of Veterans

I was discussing the topic of TVB not treasuring its veterans in one of the AF forums and figured it would be a good idea to blog about the topic here as well, since I have alot to say about it.

Most likely, there will be more to come on this topic as well, since it's very hard to cover everything I have to say about this topic in one post.

The in-depth discussion sort of started when a few of the AF posters mentioned that TVB may not be entirely to blame for promoting younger generation artists over veterans because the reality is that there isn't really a market for the veterans anymore because of their age. Then the issue came up about how TVB focuses on promoting new generation artists who can't to save their lives purely on the fact that they are "good-looking" -- and in some cases, TVB tailors lead roles in series to these artists who don't have the skill or talent to do justice to the roles.

Looking at the newer generation of artists, there are very few who can really "take the baton" from the veterans because they lack the experience and skill that the veterans (primarily late 70s and early 80s/90s generations) had to make them successful.

My response to the above is as follows:

There are 2 main reasons for the above (why TVB treats the veterans unfairly and why there is no one who can 'take the baton':

1) TVB got rid of the Acting Classes that they were so famous for (which MANY great stars graduated from). Those who went through Acting Class got proper training -- they were the ones who had to play "extras" or "bit parts" in series after they graduate, then once they gained enough experience, then they were "promoted" to supporting and lead. Basically, these artists started from the bottom and climbed their way to the top through constant refining of their acting skills, accumulating experience, and pure hard work / dedication / perseverance. This is where majority of the most famous actors and actresses from the 80s and early 90s came from.

2) TVB changed direction of their company to promote based on favoritism and looks rather than skill or talent. Much of the promotion of the "newer" artists took place around 2003 when Virginia Lok was promoted to "artists' manager" and basically got to control all of the artists – she loves to promote the supposed "eye-candy" artists solely because they "look good", even though their acting sucks (i.e.: her "god-son" and favorite Kevin Cheng). The "favoritism" aspect is one of the main reasons why we continue to see the same artists over and over again in the series from the past 7-8 years -- "promoting artists" became a political game of whoever can "kiss up" to the most powerful higher-ups can be given more opportunities over others. And with Virginia Lok's "power" in upper management, she has been able to put all her favorites (Kevin Cheng, Moses Chan, Charmaine Sheh, Linda Chung, etc.) in almost every single series being made nowadays.

To support the above reasoning, there are two examples that I would like to bring up:

--- Sunny Chan: his acting skills are absolutely great -- he's good at every role he does and convincing (of course, he's from the HK Acting Academy, so his acting will definitely be good). He was very active in the 90s and was considered one of TVB's "siu sangs" -- but then he left in 2000 for ATV and since he returned several years ago, he has not been given many good, quality roles. Granted, he is still the male lead oftentimes, but many of the roles that he gets are really crappy and second-rate (i.e. Wintermelon Tale, Legend of Demigods, etc.) -- not to mention TVB has warehoused the majority of the series he made since he returned (hence, he is known as "Warehouse King" in the circles).

--- Roger Kwok: we all know about Roger – one of the most famous veterans at TVB, been with them over 20 years, truly talented acting, 2 time TV King, etc etc….he’s definitely one of TVB’s own and contracted too….yet, the management (namely Virginia Lok) “used” him to build Kevin Cheng’s career up after “The Seventh Day” and a few other series failed miserably. Kevin is a far inferior actor (he’s promoted because of his looks), yet because he is favored by management, he gets preferential treatment at the expense of Roger. In fact, Roger was actually quite upset and refused to renew his contract with TVB – Mona Fong (the head of TVB) had to step in to “soothe things over” and he eventually renewed.

Basically, I can understand the idea of “promoting one’s own”, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of other artists (whether contracted or non-contracted). Unfortunately, though, the reality is that this is never going to change because it is a core part of TVB’s politics….

Another argument that was brought up was the fact that TVB is a business and so of course they are going to look out for their own best interests, which is to promote artists who are contracted to them (the younger generation artists mostly) rather than those who are non-contracted (mostly the veterans) -- especially since many of the viewers nowadays are young and want to see "pretty faces" rather than good acting. This led to the discussion of how many of the scripts that TVB writers come up with nowadays suck and how they would give bad scripts to the veteran artists (since they aren't contracted and so TVB doesn't have a vested interest) -- the argument here is why the veterans still choose to accept the role if the script is so bad (and consequently that TVB is not to be blamed for the veterans accepting the script).

My response to the above (veterans accepting bad scripts):

In terms of the veterans being at fault for "agreeing to" bad scripts -- well, to some extent, perhaps so, but one thing to understand is that a lot of times, they may not really have much of a choice. Most of the non-contracted veterans that TVB invites back pretty much have established careers elsewhere and whether they go back to TVB to do a series because they still "owe" them episodes or purely as a "favor", some of these veterans are busy and don't necessarily have time to "wait" forever. So if they are handed 2 scripts -- both of which are crap because TVB does not have very many good writers anymore, they will most likely choose the "better" of the 2 (though it's still a crappy script) so they can get it done and move on...So in a sense, yes, maybe they are at fault for agreeing to go back and do a series for them in the first place...but if they still "owe" TVB episodes or "show" time, then they would have to fulfill their obligation regardless....

Drawing this back to the original discussion, I can certainly understand the argument that a good script is hard to come by and so TVB would want to promote the younger generation artists since they are the "future" of the industry and as artists get older, there may be less of a "market" for them (realistically speaking). But then, knowing that, shouldn't there be even more motivation to develop the up and coming young generation artists so that they CAN take over for the veterans? This is where I don't understand TVB's way of thinking and why I brought up the issue of them 1) getting rid of the acting classes and 2) promoting based on looks rather than talent. To be honest, one of the main reasons why TVB was so successful in the 80s/90s (other than the caliber of the artists themselves and the quality scripts) is that the management at the time truly did have an eye for talent and really focused on developing actors and actresses -- which is why there were so many great artists who came out of those generations and who are still popular even today (for example: Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung, Sean Lau, Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, etc. etc. -- just to name a few). With the change in management going into the late 90s/early 00s, the direction of the company changed and "promoting people" became a political game of favoritism rather than recognizing true talent and developing acting skills.

With the focus on promoting based on looks rather than talent, it's no surprise that TVB is starting to feel the effects of it now, since it's pretty much common sense that if you rely solely on looks, success is only going to be short term -- yes, the person may "look good" and so have a lot of opportunities because of that, but what happens once the person reaches their 40s, 50s, 60s when their looks will no longer cut it for them? If they had no talent to begin with and the company they work for doesn't even bother to help them develop the acting skills, then their careers are pretty much going to be over.

Just to take one of my all time favorite actors for example -- Chow Yun Fat. He is certainly good-looking and that's probably how he got "noticed" and entered the industry. However, he did not just rely on his looks to get him where he is today -- if he hadn't gone through TVB's acting classes and learned valuable skills, then gained valuable experience by starting off at the bottom playing bit parts and eventually becoming lead, today he would be just another "pretty boy" with no career. But look at how long his career has lasted -- over 30 years (and still going) -- and he is one of the greatest actors HK has ever had. And yes, TVB is certainly credited with having a hand in his development (which they are quite proud of even though this generation's management pretty much didn't have anything to do with it) and rightly so because the truth is that they did do a good job of that in the 70s/80s and early 90s.

Same with Tony Leung -- one of the greatest actors of the 80s generation (since Chow Yun Fat was technically the 70s). He is another good-looking guy who started in TVB's Acting Class and worked his way up. I remember watching the very first series he was in back in the early 80s (not as a lead, but as part of the cast) and even the "test videos" that he did before graduating from Acting class -- the huge differences in his acting skills then and now are quite obvious. Again, if he hadn't gained the skills and experience he needed going through the acting class, he would not have the success he has today (and yes, TVB still "boasts" about being part of his development as well).

The sad thing is that this is a thing of the past -- since TVB's priorities have changed, which is definitely a shame since now, there is no one who can take over -- so basically in another 20-30 years when the "veterans" retire, the HK industry will really be in big trouble....


  1. Thanks for writing this article, not just because it's another TVB rant (LOL), but it's because I never knew that they got rid of the 'Acting Class' already! No wonder those people take like forever to improve. Okay, was exaggerating but from my scale, it was like 5+ years before there's any sign of differences - or so. I honestly encourage young talent and wouldn't want to a bully since I can be patient. Yet I think it got so bad that I have to wait for 5 years (the typical pattern as I pointed out above) before daring to watch any of their series (unless of course my favorites are in there). BUT that's not it at all! 'Cause once they improve (finally), they are pushed aside by a new group of people who can't act. And then the cycle repeats itself.


    Regarding Tony - I remember reading somewhere with someone commenting that Tony Leung's the laziest actor who is able to bring out the tiniest detail within his character. He is that impressive! He doesn't need to exaggerate with his facial expression to get the feeling across. His eyes can talk for him. AND he uses the right amount of expressions too. In short, he just brings the right touches of feelings to his characters.I could go on forever BUT I'll stop for now! (LOL)

  2. No problem! It’s actually something I’ve been ranting about for quite some time, but just didn’t really ‘put it into words’ until now.
    It’s definitely sad that the artists nowadays don’t have the benefit of being properly trained on acting like the artists from the 80s and early 90s did. In the 90s, the Acting Class was already slowly dissolving, as the classes went from 1 year to 3 months (6 months max) – so it became more like a “crash course” in acting…I guess that’s better than nothing, but to be honest, what good is 3 months going to do when it normally took 1 year? I guess TVB “lucked out” then because in the 90s, it just so happened that many of those who started during that generation (i.e.: Anita Yuen, Kenix Kwok, Flora Chan, etc. etc.) were actually talented in terms of acting, so even if they only got a little bit of training, they were able to excel. And of course, they were lucky enough to get those artists who actually went through formal acting training at Hong Kong’s only acting conservatory (HK Academy of Performing Arts) – for example, Sunny Chan and Power Chan. Unlike the artists nowadays who go straight into a series after participating in a beauty pageant or some other reason and are expected to just ‘make it work.’
    Tony Leung: I wouldn’t exactly call him a lazy actor (LOL!), but I agree that he is definitely able to bring out the tiniest detail within his character. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always admired him – he can play silly, serious, naïve, evil, etc. – all types of characters, each one extremely different from the other, yet it’s all done naturally and convincingly. That’s why most people remember the characters he played over others – not all actors are able to play the ENTIRE spectrum of characters and make it look so natural! Oh, and his eyes – absolutely agree!!!! He is one of the rare few who can ‘act’ with his eyes alone!! He’s actually the biggest reason why I love the 1986 version of “The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre” (though I loved the rest of the cast as well) and to this day, have not been able to accept any other TV versions of the story.

  3. Tony - I think I didn't clarify it exactly. What I think that person who made the comment meant was how he made it look so easy! LOL!

    Oh yeah, didn't you mention once (on MSN) that Tony's first leading role was 'The Clones'? If that was it, he blew me away. (And my mom thought so too, lol.) That was 'WHOA'...'cause if I didn't know it was just him, I thought both characters were portrayed by a pair of twins or something. I guess that was why he was able to capture me with 'Hap Hak Hang' as well - with two characters again.
    Now that you mention Power Chan, I feel he was robbed too! And so many others. He had leading roles before. OR at least I remember watching it and could vouch for like 1 that I could definitely remember. BUT when he came to TVB, he was like playing 'some guy'. YES, sometimes his characters contribute to the major plot, but I feel like he was robbed. But you know what? I think most of the people who were considered 'robbed' aka playing supporting or minor roles gets more versatile parts, like I was never bored with Power Chan, Evergreen Mak, or some others.
    Sunny Chan - Definitely, I think I can count on the tip of my fingers all the 'good' roles he got. I meant the ones that were worth it AKA he's not getting enough of those. It's often repetitive that makes it hard for him to work with. AND it makes people think he can't act since the roles are similar, BUT he definitely can.
    Oh yeah, did Ben Wong got demoted to supporting 'cause he went venturing around for a while too? (Just wondering 'cause I remember seeing him in as main lead before though was NOT impressed with him until later BUT then he got demoted - I was sore.)

  4. Hi again!

    Yay, more discussion about artists I like!
    Tony: LOL…yea, that’s what I figured you meant….and it’s absolutely true! He definitely does make it look easy.

    Actually, his first leading role wasn’t in “The Clones” (that was actually his wife Carina’s first leading role and the first series that they both starred in together). If I remember correctly, his first leading role was in “The Super Power” with Chow Yun Fat (1983). But his VERY first role – not as a lead, but as a support – was in “Solider of Fortune” in 1982, which starred Felix Wong, Kent Tong, and Patricia Chong…he actually played Kent Tong’s little brother (Kent was obviously the villain in the series). If you ever get a chance to watch the series, I think you would enjoy it – Tony is excellent in the series, even though he only has a supporting role and does not have much screen time either. But I agree that his performance in “The Clones” was sooo good – that was like only his 5th series or something and you could already see his potential. Same with “Hap Hak Hang” – ironically though, that was Tony’s last series at TVB…
    Oh, definitely agree regarding Power Chan! I was actually quite impressed with his performance back when I saw him for the first time in “The Breaking Point”. He actually left TVB for a bit as well and did a few series in China – I remember a Hong Kong / Taiwan /China collaboration that he was in with Kathy Chow, Canti Lau, Ruby Lin, Chen Xiao Xuan, and a couple others. Yes, after he returned to TVB, he hasn’t really had many major roles – but he’s still one of my favorites because his acting is excellent…I was especially impressed with his performance in “Golden Faith” because I realized truly the range of his acting. One more thing about Power that impresses me -- which interestingly enough, is very similar to Tony – he’s actually very quiet in real life and doesn’t like to talk much…he’s the type who doesn’t like to go out and party or socialize – basically, he’s a ‘homebody’ who has very refined tastes (Tony is actually the same way – he would rather relax at home than go out, which is why a lot of people didn’t think that he and Carina would last so long because she is the opposite – she loves the night life and is a social butterfly).

    I agree with the versatility thing as well…Power Chan and Evergreen Mak are definitely my favorites in the supporting category – I sort of feel like they are similar to Wayne and Michael Tse in that they are very talented actors, but because TVB doesn’t want to promote them, they sort of get pushed by the wayside until they get lucky enough to have a breakthrough role and get ‘recognized’….I’m hoping that they will eventually follow in Wayne’s path and be able to make it to lead one day…but to be honest, I don’t think either of them care anymore….
    Sunny – thank you…you said it exactly! Basically, after he left TVB for ATV, then returned years later, he was never given very many ‘good’ opportunities – in my opinion, all of his roles from pre-2000 were way better than anything he got since he returned. He’s one of those actors whom I definitely feel sorry for and sort of wonder why he still stays with TVB – maybe because he loves acting so much…but I just feel it’s such a waste for him to stay with TVB because they are never going to treat him right…such a waste of talent!
    Ben Wong – well, I guess you could say that Ben got ‘demoted’ if you consider his role in “Kindred Spirit” as sort of ‘lead’ (which I sort of did). Like Sunny and Power, he also left TVB at one point….if I remember correctly, I think he left around the same time Sunny did and he also went to ATV. Since his return, he hasn’t been given too many impressive roles, which is sort of a shame because his acting is not bad. Also, I think after he returned was when TVB started giving him the ‘villain’ type roles to play.

  5. Thanks for straightening me out! Geez, I couldn't believe I mixed it up again! Eek... Yea, Carina's, not Tony. Oh well, Tony's always the best to me! (In fact, I almost wanted to pull out all the DVDs and re-watched everything of his.) But nvm... need to finish the current ones first.

    Power - I remember Power was in 'Food Glorious Food' with Kent and Ruby. I think they shared the lead equally? Well, that was what I thought. But I remember liking him right away for his portrayal. I didn't remember him in 'The Breaking Point' though BUT maybe that was because I was too young to remember much of the details, except for how I felt Deric was robbed (LOL). Anyway, back to Power, I think his performance in 'Golden Faith' was really good too. I swear they were using him to promote Myolie! (And interestingly, that was the only role of Myolie I could ever tolerate.)

    Like I said on MSN, my first series of Ben was actually 'Triumph Over Evil' and I wasn't impressed. BUT now that I think of it, it wasn't the cast's fault BUT it was the lame script. Too bad they DO NOT appreciate Ben enough - along with some of the others. Though Ben was convincing in several villain roles, BUT I want to see him in other types of roles. I should consider that he has a bit of luck recently? Since I like most of the recent ones. Though he was still rob, BUT I guess that's something.

    Maybe I'll come back later, I sort of forgot, lol...

  6. Tony: Haha! I don't blame you! He's definitely one of the best!
    Power: Totally agree! In fact, other than Gallen, Deric, and Paul Chun, Power's character was the other one I liked best (I absolutely preferred him over Raymond). Interestingly enough, just like you, that was also the only series where I was able to 'tolerate' Myolie as well...
    Regarding Ben -- like we discussed, I agree about 'Triumph over Evil'...don't even know why they bothered making that series because it sucked (not the fault of the cast though)...the storyline didn't make any sense at all and it was boring....

    I definitely feel Ben has potential -- and I think he may have some opportunities coming up, since it sounds like he's going to be in a few of the upcoming 2010 releases...let's see what happens...

  7. Golden Faith - Yea. I had that feeling. The majority of the characters in Golden Faith were like whatever, but I think on the female cast side, I thought Jessica was robbed since though she was the main lead, BUT they made her character too whatever for me at times, like how she was falling for Gallen so fast after finding out her ex was gay AND then she was with Deric (which I sort of don't blame but find it uneasy to swallow). Somehow I liked Anne's character more. And then Tavia was mixed in there. Michelle was all right IMO. I was sort of annoyed with Deric for using Michelle to get to Jessica. BUT didn't really hate him either since he was so cool as Richard, lol. (I didn't watched Vengeance BUT I definitely did enjoy Gallen and Deric as brothers.) Gallen blew me away with his performance in here - not that he didn't before in some of the other ones. Okay, I'll stop since I have too many frustration regarding the series. IF it wasn't for the ones you listed, I wouldn't even finish the series.

    Ben - Let's hope Ben will get something awesome. I'm waiting like forever. (Yea, I know I'm exaggerating but it takes TVB forever.)

    One more thing since I forgot last time. Does TVB still brags about Simon Yam? Considering how he just won the 'Best Actor' award recently. (OR were they not responsible for his start of career so they can't?)

  8. LOL...yup, of course they brag about Simon...basically, TVB brags about all of the 80s stars who went through their acting class and are huge stars now (i.e.: Chow Yun Fat, Tony, Andy, Simon, Sean, Maggie, Carina, etc.). The ironic thing is that the year before, when Nick Cheung and Paw Hee Ching won, ATV had the bragging rights instead (for once)...

  9. Thanks for answering my question (once again). I guess it's no surprise that TVB brags about the previous stars (which they - the current management - have no right to).