Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My ‘TVB Rant’ #8: Lamenting the lack of ‘good’ TVB series nowadays....

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!!!


  1. Hi,

    Yes, they sure don't make them like they used to. Its a real shame, a real pity. The actors and actresses are also not as good as they used to be. I noticed that there isn't a review on one of my all time favourites by Felix Wong Yat Wah called "Soldier of Fortune" - in Cantonese its called "Heung Sing Long Chi" and starring Kent Tong also with Patricia Chong Ching Yu. It was excellent and I loved all three characters although Kent played the evil guy. I am sure you must have seen it as it was so popular in its day. What did you think?

    From Peaches

  2. @Peaches: Hi there!
    Yes, I have seen Soldier of Fortune many times -- but I haven't re-watched it again recently, so that's pretty much why there isn't a review on it.

    Basically, I've seen pretty much every series from the 80s and most of the ones from the 90s (the popular ones at least).....I probably won't write reviews on alot of them though because of time constraints....I pretty much only started this blog last year and so with the 20+ years that I've been watching TVB series and 'following' TVB / HK entertainment in general, it would be way too much info to write about.

    BUT, stay tuned though because as I re-watch stuff (or pretty much when I have time or feel like it...LOL), I will continue to add more series reviews...

    Btw, Solider of Fortune is definitely a classic -- not only because it was Tony Leung's first official series, but also because Felix's role was a breakthrough one for him (not to mention having 3 of the 5 Tigers in one series was definitely a treat!).

  3. You know, I feel exactly the same way as you do. This whole background noise thing is also what's become of my TV watching. I don't really bother to actually look at the TV screen as much as I used to and just listen to the dialogue. And yes, I only look up when I'm interested in something that's happening (which is equivalent to something like a shooting people down scene or something dramatic). Usually I'm reading something else rather than the Chinese subtitles on screen, even though my Chinese definitely needs to improving. I guess the dialogue isn't even that interesting anyway, since that usually use the same sort of scripts.

    And yes, according to your criteria, very few series' these days would make the cut - maybe only like 1 or 2 each year? But I agree with all of them. A good drama should make you stop whatever you're doing (reading, studying, eating, whatever) in order to not miss anything.

    For 2010, I can say I only remember "Gun Metal Grey" and "No Regrets" as the only exciting series' that whole year. Everything else was either filler dramas or shows pushed out using the TVB artist promotion bandwagon (thinking of "Can't Buy Me Love" - weak script, silly clapping sequence and just bad, really). I didn't like some parts of GMG but I did like Felix and Michael, who both did very well in their roles, respectively. And although I liked NG, I agree that at times it was a bit slow, with some unnecessary fluff. Still, I would recommend it.

    As for 2009, I totally know what you mean when you were talking about "Born Rich". It's like that had this excellent cast but wasted their talents on some crappy script - I mean, some of the stuff was so out of reality, it was just ridiculous. It's like TVB's scared to kill off their characters these days. And the whole happy ending is not only cliche, but unrealistic. Now, Lee Tim Sing knew what to do with "Rosy Business". At least he wasn't afraid to kill his characters for the sake of pleasing dumb audiences. And yes, those poor, poor artists - Gallen Lo, Anita Yuen, Kenix Kwok, Ray Lui, Jaime Chik…(this is one of those moments where I think "Damn you TVB!"). Like I said before, this also crosses over with Ada Choi being cast in "Fly With Me", I mean, what the heck?! TVB doesn't know how to appreciate and use talent these days.

    As for 2008, I remember those dramas' names but I honestly don't have an inkling of what they were about in mind.

    2007: I only remember DB, which also had Jessica Hsuan (that might also be why - Bobby and Jessica pairing) and Michael Miu.

    So it all comes back to what you said - "they sure don't make them like they used to!"

  4. Regarding "A Journey Called Life" - I think this is one of the very few newer series that I quite liked. If I remember rightly it had Steven Ma, Fala Chen, Kent Cheng, Chung Ka Yan. Kent Cheng owned a business making headstones or something and had a son who fell in love with Fala Chen. Steven Ma and Chung Ka Yan ended up together in the end. She was a bit of a tearaway but changed towards the middle bit and became a really nice person. I think it was quite light hearted but still worth watching. I don't like a lot of the newer actors but do like Chung Ka Yan and Steven Ma and definitely Kent Cheng.

  5. I totally agree wit this rant and thank goodness for internet, nowadays with fan english sub so easily available I don't want to be forced watching TVB series only. I've switched to Japanese series since last year and plan on stay that way. Not only do TVB don't recognize good acting, their script are just down right horrible! Always the same thing over again. The feeling of a good series ended in the 90s. I remember rewatching ATV series the most, even lost count how many times I rewatched The Good Old Days. I didn't watch No Regret but I bet it can't in anyway compare to it! Maggie Siu's best acting was definitely as Ting Man and her chemistry with Wong Chong Kwan was so genuine and real in TGOD.