Over the years, as I've gotten older, watching TV has become a secondary pasttime for me -- meaning that the TV is still on all the time in the house (as it had been throughout my childhood), but instead of it consuming most of my time, it has now been reduced down to 'background noise' pretty much, taking a back seat to the other more important things / tasks that I have to do. Therefore, most of the time, even though the TV is on, I'm not truly 'watching' TV, but rather 'listening' to the TV, and I only look up occasionally from what I'm doing if there is a scene that happens to interest me, then after that scene passes, I quickly look back down and continue with the task at hand. So I guess you could say that I'm not really ‘paying attention’ to what is on TV, but rather focusing more on the task I am working on at the moment.
The above has pretty much become a way of life for me, but looking at it from a different perspective, it also helps me to gauge whether a particular TV series or show is 'good' or not.
In my book, in order for a series to be considered 'good', it has to meet 4 criteria.
First, a ‘good’ series must be able to "distract" me from what I am doing at the moment and cause me to ‘pay attention’ to the series for a long period of time. For a series to be considered 'really good', it has to do more than just "distract" me -- it has to cause me to set aside what I am doing at the moment and concentrate fully on what I am watching -- in other words, it has to pull me in to the point that what I am doing at the moment becomes secondary rather than primary. (Another way to look at is: ‘good’ is equivalent to ‘like’ and ‘really good’ is equivalent to ‘love’).
In addition to the above, the other way I can tell if a series is 'good' and/or 'really good' is whether it has the the 'chasability' factor. What is the 'chasability' factor, you may ask? Well, in Chinese, the word that we use is 追 (zui), which means 'to chase after' -- if you put 'zui' in front of the character for TV series, you get 'chase after TV series' -- which to me, has 2 meanings: 1) if the series airs at a certain time every day, then 'chasing the series' means that you don't want to miss a moment of it, so no matter what you are doing or where you are at, you always manage to get home in time to settle down in front of the TV and watch the next episode; or 2) if you are fortunate enough to own the entire series on DVD (my preferred method, since I like to be in control of my time and hate waiting day after day to watch 1 measly episode), then 'chasing the series' means that you can't stop watching the series and keep putting disc after disc into the DVD player and in the end, you finish watching the entire series in like 2 days (ok, 2 days might be an exaggeration -- though I've done it before -- but the point is that you finish the entire series in pretty much one sitting, however many days that may be).
Another criteria for me is that the series must be memorable in some way – now I don’t mean just being able to remember a character’s name or certain events that happen (though that’s certainly part of it)….when I say ‘memorable’, I mean that it had some type of impact on me to the point that even after I finish watching the entire series, I’m still thinking about the series (or certain parts of it) and perhaps wishing that it wasn’t over so quickly.
The last criteria is the “rewatchability” factor, which is basically – how likely am I to re-watch the series again? This is actually an important criteria for me because to be honest, if I am barely able to sit through the series the first time around (meaning I watch the first few episodes and am already bored out of my wits or I miss a few episodes and don’t even bother to rewatch what I missed), then that’s a sure-fire sign that I am most likely NOT going to waste my time rewatching the series again.
So in a nutshell, for me, there are 4 criteria for determining a 'good' (or 'really good') series -- it must 1) distract me from what I’m doing to the point that I really pay attention, 2) give me that 'chasable' feeling, 3) be memorable in some way (whether it’s character, storyline, or both), and last but not least, 4) be re-watchable.
You may be asking how all of this relates to TVB? Simple -- in the last decade or so, there have been very few TVB series that have met all 4 of my criteria for being a 'good' series (and even fewerhave made it into the 'really good' category)....in fact, in the last 7 years or so, it's gotten progressively worse, to the point that nowadays, I struggle to find even 1 or 2 series that are able to meet my criteria. In comparisons, back in the 80s and even part of the 90s, I could rattle off to you series after series that could EASILY fall into either category (‘good’ or ‘really good’). Also, just as a point of reference: I have watched most of the series from the 80s and early/mid 90s more than 1 time (and of course there are a select few that I have watched upwards of 20 times – and I’m not kidding!).
To illustrate my point, let’s takes the series from the past 3 years or so as examples….
Starting with 2010’s series -- out of all the series that TVB produced last year, the only two series that met all of my criteria were “Gun Metal Grey” (primarily because of Felix and Michael, though I ended up liking the series as a whole) and “No Regrets” (the acting was superb, even if parts of the storyline were a bit draggy -- well, when you’ve got Wayne and Sheren as the leads, it’s hard not to have awesome acting). Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that ALL the rest of the series that year ‘sucked’ (though a few of them did truly suck) – all I’m saying is that the other ones just didn’t quite cut it for me.
Looking at 2009’s series, the stats are even worse -- the only series that I liked out of the bunch (that met my 4 criteria) was “Rosy Business”. Even the series “Born Rich” – with it’s ‘dream’ cast consisting of many of my favorite actors and actresses from the 80s/90s – failed to make the cut because of its awful script and just plain boring storyline (I feel so sorry for the artists in that series – and yes, I’m still pissed at TVB for ‘ruining’ their careers).
2008’s series didn’t fare any better -- I liked “A Journey Called Life” and “Catch Me Now”, but to be honest, it was really a stretch – I had to think hard in order to get both series to fit all 4 criteria. Oh and don’t even get me started on the BIGGEST disappointment of 2008 – “Forensic Heroes 2” (basically, I went from loving the original FH in 2006 to absolutely hating the sequel…but I’ll save that rant for another post).
Going back one more year, to 2007 – “Fathers and Sons” was good and so was “Dicey Business” (both happen to be Bobby AuYeung series – love that guy!), but that was about it (though technically, “Dicey Business” started airing in 2006, so I guess you could say that it is really a 2006 series) – so in 2006, there were only 2 series I liked: DB and also the original “Forensic Heroes”.
And the list goes on…..(but I’m sure you get the picture by now, so I’ll stop the list here)….
So yes, I will reiterate the sentiment that I’ve carried for the past decade regarding TVB’s series nowadays – THEY SURE DON’T MAKE THEM LIKE THEY USED TO!!!