Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Thoughts on “Beyond the Realm of Conscience 宮心計”

I finally got around to watching this series, but only because it happened to come on TV -- for the longest time, I refused to watch this series because I hated how TVB overpromoted it (it totally turns me off when they do stupid stuff like that), plus I had also said that I would not watch this series until after I watched "Rosy Business" and "Born Rich" (and I've finally watched both series, so I guess the timing was perfect).

Anyway, I must say that I totally do not understand the hype over BTROC at all -- it's way overrated and is pretty much all stuff that I've seen before (goes to show that this is yet another example of TVB running out of ideas and overhyping this series solely because all of their favorite sons and daughters are in it).

Since this series has probably been analyzed to death already (by netizens and audiences alike, no doubt), I don't see the point of wasting my team with an in-depth review -- so I am just going to state my opinion on certain parts (mostly the dislikes) and then move on....

Ok, so back when this series aired in 2009, the biggest 'hype' with the series was the supposed 'stellar' ensemble cast and also Tavia's 'breakthrough' performance as a villain. I'll talk about Tavia's performance later....but first, the cast -- the biggest selling point of the series was supposedly the story surrounding the main leads Charmaine, Moses, Kevin, and Tavia (and of course TVB had no qualms about sticking this point in our -- the audience -- faces...or should I say, ramming it down our throats?). Anyway, I personally was not impressed by any of the main leads' performances because to me, it was the same old stuff: Moses in his Emperor role again trying to outsmart the evil generals who are constantly trying to usurp his power; Charmaine in her 'goody-two-shoes' role again who is unrealistically nice to everyone and everything and let's people walk all over her without a word of complaint; Kevin in another typical 'nice guy' role that honestly, put me to sleep; and Tavia in her first evil villain role that really was not convincing at all (to put it less midly, she came across very fake to me).

So first, let's look at Moses and Charmaine's characters in the series. To be honest, I found it really weird watching this series and seeing Charmaine as Moses' love interest (though it's mostly one-sided, since Charmaine is paired with Kevin) because I had just finished re-watching "Perish in the Name of Love" not too long ago and the 2 of them were father and daughter in that series (true, that series was made like 7 years ago, but still....). Luckily, Moses and Charmaine weren't really a couple in this series because that would have just totally grossed me out (sorry, but I'm a bit slow when it comes to switching relationships like that). But actually, there's another reason why I bring up the series PITNOL -- because I really felt that both Moses and Charmaine's characters in BTROC (Charmaine's especially) reminded me of their characters in PITNOL, a series that I absolutely HATED with a passion because almost all the characters (except Steven's) were so utterly stupid (I mean, come on now, how many times does someone have to "hurt" you before you 'wake up' and stop continuing to 'believe in' that person??). I think this is why I absolutely hated Charmaine's character in this series because just like in PITNOL, she kept forgiving her friend/sister for doing bad things and kept believing her when she said she would change, but actually don't (though I have to say that Charmaine's character in PITNOL was 10x worse). I mean, come on, no normal person is like THAT DENSE in real life (even in the imperial days)! Personally, I think that the writers didn't develop Charmaine's character on purpose because remember that TVB's whole point for this series was to push Tavia for TV Queen, so of course the focus should be on her rather than Charmaine (plus Charmaine had another popular series in contention that year anyway, so it didn't really matter -- she would make it in either way). For Charmaine, playing the role of Lau Sam Ho was probably a piece of cake, since she's constantly playing those types of roles anyway....As for Moses, well I don't have much else to say about his character except that it's another 'typical' role, one that he's done before, so it totally lacked creativity....

On to Kevin's my opinion, Kevin was really boring in this series -- I honestly was wondering what the point of his character was except as a love interest for Charmaine. Yes, his job was supposed to be protecting the emperor, but hey, there weren't very many action/fighting scenes in the series anyway (why would there be when the focus is supposed to be on the evil schemes of the women in the inner palace?). His character (and to some extent, his performance) was so boring that it pretty much put me to sleep. And I'm sorry, but I did not sense any chemistry at all between Kevin and Charmaine in this series (in constrast, as much as I hated PITNOL, I was really able to feel the chemistry between Steven and Charmaine there) -- I'm actually starting to think whether it's Kevin's problem because I noticed that in most of the series that I've watched with Kevin in it, I always feel like there is zero chemistry between him and his female co-stars (at least on screen).

And finally, Tavia -- who is supposed to be the central figure in this series. My personal opinon is that Tavia does not do 'evil' or 'villainess' very well at all -- she came across as very fake and forced to me...pretty much, I think she tried too hard (especially with her supposed 'evil' stare and laugh). I've heard arguments from people (Tavia fans no doubt) that we should cut her some slack because it's her first time as a villain so there are bound to be flaws -- well, my response to that argument is that 1) I never said she had to be perfect in her role, but she has to be at least CONVINCING and 2) there are many artists in the past who did convincingly awesome jobs in their first villain roles, to the point where they were able to completely turn their 'good boy/girl' image around (Michelle Yim and Susanna Kwan come to mind on the female side and Gallen Lo as well as Deric Wan for the males -- though there are undoubtedly many more). I think this just goes to show that Tavia doesn't have enough depth as an actress yet to be able to pull off these types of difficult villain characters with success -- she definitely needs more work in this area....

Ok, now that I've vented my frustrations with the main leads, was there anything that I actually liked about this series? Yes, of course -- I really liked the supporting cast in this series and totally feel like they stole the show. Lee Kwok Lun was downright evil as General Ma (I've watched his series since the 80s and he is an absolutely awesome actor -- and terribly underrated), Michelle Yim and Susanna Kwan were great in their roles as heads of their respective departments, and I absolutely loved Ram Tseung in his eunuch role (another one of my favorite supporting actors who is so totally underrated). Oh, and of course, I have to mention Susan Tse and Mary Hon in the Empress Dowager roles, which were very fitting for them and the acting was superb. Even KK Cheung was great, even though he only had a small role in the series. For some odd reason, I actually felt that the storyline surrounding these supporting characters had way more depth and was alot more interesting than the main one involving the 4 leads. The supporting cast and the storyline surrounding them was definitely the primary motivating factor that made me continue to watch -- otherwise, I probably would have given up on the series a long time ago.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Finally someone who thinks Tavia is doing a bad job. I don't get the massive recognition that she gets from netizens. She tried too hard for the role - and fails.

  4. @zzxyz: Yup -- it was way too obvious that Tavia did not fit that role...and she won Favorite Character for that role? So obvious that was a consolation prize, since TVB failed in getting her the TV Queen award with that role due to the overwhelming audience support for Sheren.

  5. Yep. I can tolerate her more if she actually didn't get overrated for this kind of performance, but she's getting awards and super hike in popularity that I can't really take it; with all due respect to some who may love her performance.

    If she had graciously realized that she has more room to improve and that she had overacted, I may feel more compassionate with her since this is her first villain role and it's not easy for youngsters to get it right in this declining script era of TVB. It's more comforting and easier to emphatise when artistes admitted their shortcomings and learn from it. but what turns me off is Ms Yeung seems proud of her achievement in exaggerated acting, and it doesn't help that she exaggerate AGAIN in Mysteries of Love. Oh boy.

  6. I watched this when it was aired in Hong Kong at the end of 2009. Can't say I was very passionate about it as I didn't understand it very much. I did like Lee Kwok Lun as the villain but not sure that I liked Tavia Yeung doing such an evil role. Have never been a fan of Charmaine Sheh. All in all, I think I can forget about this series very quickly.

    From Peaches