Friday, May 13, 2011

POLL RESULTS: Barbara Yung and the 5 Tigers

On the eve of the 26th anniversary of Barbara Yung's death, I'm sure that there are many fans out there (like me) who would like to pay tribute to her memory. So together, let's take a trip down memory lane to the 1980s and look at a few of Barbara's most significant performances.

In answer to the poll question "From 1983 to 1985, Barbara Yung collaborated with 4 out of the 5 Tigers in all but 1 of the series she had participated in during her short career. Which of these collaborations is (was) your favorite?", here are the results (out of a total of 24 people who voted):

1) The Legend of the Unknowns 十三妹 (1983) – Barbara + Kent = 0 votes

2) Legend of the Condor Heroes trilogy 射鵰英雄傳 (1983) – Barbara + Felix + Michael = 20 votes

3) The Foundation 決戰玄武門 (1984) – Barbara + Felix + Michael = 0 votes

4) The Fearless Duo 天師執位 (1984) – Barbara + Michael = 0 votes

5) United We Stand 生鏽橋王 (1984) – Barbara + Michael = 0 votes

6) The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung 楚留香之蝙蝠傳奇 (1984) – Barbara + Michael = 2 votes

7) The Rough Ride 挑戰 (1985) – Barbara + Tony = 2 votes

Obviously (and not surprisingly), "Legend of the Condor Heroes" is the winner (yay!!).


So who did I vote for? Just like with the previous poll, it was a VERY DIFFICULT DECISION. Except for "The Legend of the Unknowns", I pretty much liked all the series listed, so for me to have to pick ONE only -- well, let's just say that it was agonizing! At the end, it basically came down to a choice between "Legend of the Condor Heroes", "The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung", and "The Rough Ride". Even though I loved Condor Heroes, I purposefully didn't vote for it because I knew already that most likely, that would be the series to come out on top due to its immense popularity -- so that left me with 2 choices (still an agonizing decision nonetheless)...

In the end, I voted for "The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung", primarily because I loved the interaction between Barbara and Michael in the series (and because in "The Rough Ride", Tony and Barbara weren't the only leads and with the talented cast and the way the storyline was written, she actually had less screen time in that series than she did in Chor Lau Heung).

For those who participated in the poll, if you would like to share who you voted for and why, feel free to comment!

In case some of you are not familiar with the series in the poll, below is a quick recap that I put together as well as a description of Barbara's and the Tigers' roles in each:

1) The Legend of the Unknowns: 20 episodes (1983)

.> This was Barbara Yung’s first series after she joined TVB in 1982 (she was a finalist in the 1982 Miss HK pageant). Actually, Barbara only had a supporting role in this series, as the main female leads were Cecilia Wong Hang Shou and Sharon Yeung Pan Pan. The series is set in the Qing Dynasty era and Barbara played the role of Emperor KangXi’s little sister Princess Shuang.

.> The greatest significance of this series (other than it being Barbara’s first series and her performance really standing out) was that Barbara and Kent’s romantic relationship started because of their collaboration in this series. Ironically though, neither of them were paired together in this series: Barbara was paired with Simon Yam and Kent (as the male lead) was paired with Sharon and Cecilia (in a ‘love triangle’ of sorts).

.> To be honest, I don’t remember this series much, as I watched it once a few years ago when it was released on VCD. I just remember that Barbara was very cute in the series and even though this was her first ‘stab’ at acting, you could already tell from the way her performance stood out that she was a natural actress. Other than that, I’m not going to comment much on the series, since I don’t remember anything else about it.

2) Legend of the Condor Heroes: 59 episodes (1983)

.> Judging from the overwhelming number of votes for this series, looks like I don’t need to elaborate much about this series, since it’s obvious that everyone has seen it and love it!

.> This ‘classic’ version of Jin Yong’s will always be THE BEST version of Condor Heroes in the history of HK television. Barbara Yung’s portrayal of Wong Yung was absolutely perfect and to this day, her performance in this series has been unmatched and undisputed. I know that I certainly can’t imagine anyone else in the role now, which is one reason why I prefer not to watch any other versions / remakes of it.

.> Of course, the rest of the cast was awesome as well – both the leads as well as the supporting cast! Felix Wong as Kwok Jing, Michael Miu as Yeung Hong, Sharon Yeung as Muk Lim Chi, Kenneth Tsang as Wong Yeuk Si, Lau Dan as Hung Chuk Gong, Chun Wong as Chow Bak Tong, Lau Siu Ming as Yat Dang…..the list goes on and on!

.> This is definitely one of my all time favorite series – one that I can watch over and over again without ever getting bored of it! In fact, this is one of the few series that I actually own on video tape, VCD and DVD (talk about obsessed….hahahaha)!

3) The Foundation: 20 episodes (1984)

.> In theory, this should be another awesome and memorable series, as it reunites Barbara with her Condor Heroes partners Felix Wong and Michael Miu as well as her real life lover Kent Tong. This time around, Barbara is technically paired with Michael, though in the beginning she is paired with Felix and there is that infamous TVB love triangle thing that goes on. Kent isn’t associated with Barbara in this series at all (in fact, they don’t even have much screen time together) – I honestly think that they did that on purpose, because I don’t think Kent and Barbara’s romantic relationship was completely out in the open yet when this series was made (which had to have been in 1983, since it aired in February 1984 and it wasn’t until some time in 1984 that their relationship was revealed).

.> For those of you who may not have seen this series, the story is supposed to be loosely based on some true events that occurred in Chinese history – namely, how one of the most famous Emperors of the Tang Dynasty, Lee Sai Mun, came to power (Chinese history buffs will probably know the story). Note that the key word here is LOOSELY – because as is the case with most history-themed series, a lot of the events are changed around and characters are added / removed to fit in with the message that the scriptwriters / producer want to get across.

.> Barbara portrays a woman named Chun Sik Sik in this series and the character is the complete opposite of her famous Wong Yung role in Condor Heroes. Chun Sik Sik is an ordinary woman who just wants to live a simple life taking care of the man she loves. Her personality is very ‘womanly’, even to the point of being ‘fragile’, but definitely NOT weak. Felix plays a fictional character named Gong Fung, a ‘village boy’ whose goal in life is to be the best martial artist in the world and so becomes obsessed with perfecting the craft at all costs, even if it means sacrificing the love of his life (Barbara’s character). Michael plays the future Emperor Lee Sai Mun, who is portrayed as young, handsome, talented, and extremely intelligent. Kent plays Lee Sai Mun’s younger brother Lee Yun Kut (a villain of sorts, since historically, he was one of those good-for-nothing rich kid type people).

.> I don’t want to go too in depth about this series because I intend to re-watch it one of these days (since it has been years since I last saw it), so I want to save the detail for the review.

4) The Fearless Duo: 20 episodes (1984)

.> Another Barbara / Michael collaboration (the 3rd one in less than a year) – the difference here is that the other Tigers are not involved (no more Felix…awww) and Barbara and Michael are truly a couple in this series. Barbara’s character Lam Chor Yan is sort of loud-mouthed and obnoxious in this series, but definitely not to the point of annoying – in fact, her character is very well-written and very three-dimensional, which actually makes her a very likable character (or I could be biased too because I just love Barbara Yung’s acting). Michael’s character isn’t bad either (though he also gets obnoxious at times as well – I guess that’s why he matches so well with Barbara’s character…LOL!).

.> This is another classic series that I like a lot! The chemistry between Barbara and Michael in this series is absolutely awesome – whether it’s their constant bickering in the first half of the series (when their characters supposedly hate each other and don’t want anything to do with the other) or their moving declarations of love for each other in the 2nd half of the series (to the point that they are willing to sacrifice their own lives for the other).

.> Again, I don’t want to go into too much detail because I also intend on rewatching this one sometime soon and want to save the details for the review. But I will say this much: this series has one of the best and most memorable endings I’ve seen (and for those of you who follow TVB series, you know this is a huge compliment) – one of the few endings that I actually feel closes the loop perfectly, but at the same time, incorporates both tragic and comedic elements (when I rewatched the series a couple years ago, I almost cried during the ending).

.> Bonus: this series has the largest number of ‘recognizable extras’ I’ve seen to date (what I mean is that alot of today’s most popular film and TV stars were ‘ke le fes’ / extras in this series – names that you would probably instantly recognize: Sandra Ng, Lawrence Ng, Sean Lau, Francis Ng, Michael Tao, etc.)

5) United We Stand: 20 episodes (1984)

.> Ok, I will admit that I don’t remember much about this series at all because the last time I watched it was almost 20 years ago. All I remember is that Barbara plays 2 different characters in this series – twin sisters who are completely opposite in terms of personalities. I actually don’t remember Michael Miu’s character at all, though I do recall that Michael Tao was also part of the cast, along with a bunch of veterans (many of whom are still active today).

.> I’m not surprised that no one voted for this series because I actually don’t think that too many people have seen it (which also isn’t surprising because this isn’t a very well known series – and it’s a very hard to find series nowadays, whether on VCD, DVD, or even videotape).

.> Fortunately, I have this series on DVD, so I am definitely going to be re-watching it, since I remember close to nothing about it. So if you’re interested in this series, stay tuned….

6) The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung: 40 episodes (1984)

.> Aside from Legend of the Condor Heroes, this is probably the other Barbara Yung series that people are most familiar with. By this time, Barbara and Michael had already collaborated on 4 series, plus in real life, they were really close friends, so establishing the chemistry in the series was a piece of cake, in a sense. I loved how Michael and Barbara interacted in this series – so natural and so cute!

.> Barbara's role as Princess Wing Jing in this series is a perfect role for her, as she plays the part with such ease and naturalness. And Michael's portrayal as the charming, chivalrous, dashing Chor Lau Heung is absolutely brilliant -- I admit that I fell in love with him after watching this series! TVB surely knew how to utilize their artists' strengths back in those days, as both Barbara and Michael absolutely had that 'ancient / wuxia era' look and feel, so they were absolutely perfect for ancient series roles.

.> Similar to Condor Heroes, this series also featured a stellar cast with artists who were perfect for their roles (makes me lament the abundance of talented artists that we had back then in the 80s and makes the lack of talent at TVB nowadays even more apparent).

.> Again, I'm not going to go into too much detail on this series because it just recently came out on DVD (finally!) and I have every intention of re-watching it (for like the gazillionth time), so I'll save most of my comments for the review.

7) The Rough Ride: 40 episodes (1985)

.> What do you get when you take a gorgeous, talented leading actor (Tony Leung), a beautiful, talented leading actress (Barbara Yung), and a talented supporting cast (Ray Lui, Money Chan, Ha Yu, Lau Dan, Susanna Au Yeung, Kwan Hoi San, etc.) and put them together in a series? AN ABSOLUTELY AWESOME SERIES!!

Seriously though, this series may not necessarily be 'the best' and it definitely cannot compare to Legend of the Condor Heroes in terms of popularity, but it is definitely a great series that is worthy of watching over and over again. I mean, with the 2 main leads alone (Tony and Barbara), that's already enough to get me hooked on this series.

.> I've always felt that in this series, Tony's character is actually a modern life version of Cheung Mo Kei (the role he played in ancient series The New Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, another one of my favorites) – all the character traits are very similar when you think about it. Even the 'indecisive' nature of the character is the same! On the other hand, Barbara's character is quite unique in that the role she plays is a pretty huge departure from the roles she's had in the past -- she plays a tomboyish police woman in this series who is very assertive and has a bit of a stubborn temper. To be honest, even though Tony and Barbara's characters in this series were pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum, they were actually a very compatible couple (not to mention a cute, lovable one!).

.> This series will always be a special one for me because of several reasons:

First, it's one of the few 'modern' series that Barbara filmed (if I remember correctly, I think this was only the 2nd modern series of her career -- all the rest of the series she did were ancient / wuxia series). This is significant because her immensely popular role as Wong Yung in Legend of the Condor Heroes was so classic and so ingrained in audience's hearts that it's pretty much how most people probably remember her. But there is actually way more to Barbara than just Wong Yung -- and her role in this particular series definitely shows her depth as an actress.

Second, this was Barbara's last COMPLETE series that she filmed before she died in 1985. (She was working on another series at the time, but it never got completed because of her sudden passing). The significance of this series was that it aired from April to June 1985 -- before the series had finished airing, Barbara had committed suicide on May 14, 1985. I don't live in HK, so I wouldn't have been able to watch the series on TV like HK audiences and experience that moment for myself, but I can absolutely imagine how fans and audiences must have felt when the female lead to the series that you are currently watching dies so suddenly and tragically – it makes the series all the more poignant and memorable. I remember when I watched the series for the first time a few years later, I instantly felt an emotional connection to it -- a connection that has stayed with me each time I re-watch this series. Also, each time I re-watch this series, the thought that always comes into my mind is how great an actress Barbara was and if she hadn't died, how big her career would have been....

Third, this was Barbara's one and only collaboration with (one of) my favorite actors of all time, Tony Leung. Up until this point, Barbara had collaborated the most with Michael Miu (5 series) and Felix Wong (2 series, though technically 4 if you count Condor Heroes as 3 separate series), so it was refreshing to see her with Tony, who has a markedly different acting style than the other 2 Tigers. I will admit that at first, I wasn't sure if Barbara would be able to achieve the same on screen chemistry that she had with Michael and Felix (since they had collaborated so many times in the past), but it turns out that I had nothing to worry about, as the chemistry was absolutely perfect!


  1. The Legend of the Unknowns - Have not watched this one yet.

    Legend of the Condor Heroes - Felix and Barbara make a great team! This was her tour de force performance and it can't be beat. I have to credit Barbara's portrayal of Wong Yung as the reason for getting me hooked on to TVB.

    The Foundation – I haven't seen this in a long time but I remember it being a tragic series. Kind of downer to watch after LOTCH because the tone was much different. Of course, everytime Felix and Barbara shared any scenes I was like crazy-happy. Except for when he left her. What a heartbreaker.

    The Fearless Duo – It's also been awhile since I watched this. Don't remember much.

    United We Stand – Have not watched this one yet.

  2. The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung – Another one of my favorites. This is actually the only Chor Lau Heung that I know (besides Richie Ren's version but I never made it through that). I adored Barbara and Michael together. Their real life friendship translated so well on-screen. Funnily enough, I always wanted So Yung Yung and CLH to have a little somethin-somethin on the side. Then years later, I came to find out that she does have a bigger role in Gu Long's novels and other tv adaptions. Hmm.

    The Rough Ride – I could not agree with you more on those 3 reasons. I LOVED seeing Barbara and Tony pair up. Tony brings a whole different dynamic to the table. And it was so nice to see her in a modern drama and break out of those ancient costumes. This series really leaves you with a lot of WHAT IF'S... imagine all the different roles she could have tried and who knows where her career could have taken her...

  3. The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung - I meant to add that it was interesting that Barbara's princess character almost seemed tailor-made for her and did not exist in the novels (correct me if I'm wrong there). While So Yung Yung was a more prominent character in other adaptions, yet only had a minor role here and was played by a 3rd-4th(??) line actress.

  4. @retrotvb: Thanks for your comments!

    Legend of the Unknowns -- if you haven't seen it yet, I wouldn't really worry about it, as Barbara really doesn't have too significant of a part in the series anyways. But if you like series from that genre and still want to see her performance in it (or you're like me and just want to watch all of Barbara's series, since she only did 9 of them), then this one is not too bad of a choice.

    LOTCH -- absolutely! I can't agree with you more! Truly legendary!

    The Foundation -- Agreed...very depressing series! And to think, Barbara broke up with Felix (or rather, Felix broke up with her) and went with Michael, but then what does he do to her in the end? He sacrifices her for the throne! Tragic (and makes you ask why??). I have to go back and look at my notes, but if I remember correctly, I don't think that event actually happened in it's probably another one of those 'added stories' the writers did to make the series more interesting...

    The Fearless Duo -- no worries...when I re-watch it, I'll definitely post a review. But if you get a chance to re-watch it before I do, definitely pay attention to the ending (it's one of my favorite of the 'rare' times that TVB actually 'got it right').

    United We Stand -- Yup...gotta re-watch as well...been way too long...

  5. @retrotvb:

    Chor Lau Heung -- this is the only version that I know as well. I sort of saw bits and pieces of Adam Cheng's version from the 70s, but since I can't stand the guy, I of course didn't really bother watching the whole thing.

    Actually, to tell you the truth, I haven't read the novel....despite the many times that I've watched the TV series, I never read the novel even once. I've actually been debating whether I should or not because I have a feeling I might be disappointed with the novel if I were to read it, only because this particular version of CLH is so ingrained in my brain already (not sure if I will like the novel)....

    The Rough Ride -- Between your comments and mine, enough said...this series will always be a classic with special meaning for both of us!

    1. I watched "The Rough Ride." Barbara and Tony looked so romantic together and they made a very loveable pair. Their romance was great. Tony's character as the 'soft - spoken and yet aggressive at times' character was great. Tony and Barbara really had a good chemistry. I wish they made more modern series together as a couple. The ending was great too as I was afraid they would not end up being with each other.

      Does anyone have the link to "United We Stand" and "The Foundation?" Please share with me.

  6. Every time I watch a Barbara Yung series, I can't believe she is no more. I watched "The Legend of the Condor Heroes" when I was a kid. When I re-watched it again after more than 20 years, it seems Barbara is still around. She could create a romantic chemistry with any guy she was paired with. In fact, Tony and Barbara made a cute pair as well. She had a certain cuteness in her. She could play the roles from a childish girl to a role as a strong woman. I miss her.

    1. @mysterym2m:  Totally agree with you!  Barbara is definitely ‘one-of-a-kind’ and will always have a special place in all our hearts!  I miss her a lot as well, especially when I re-watch some of her older series. 
      Oh, I love “The Rough Ride” as well – Barbara and Tony had great chemistry and I loved them as a couple in there.  As much as I enjoyed Barbara and Felix in LOTCH as well as Barbara and Michael in all of their series together, the Barbara/Tony pairing in Rough Ride will always be special to me, especially since it was the one and only time they collaborated (makes me want to cry just thinking about it).  Yea, I’m also glad that the 2 of them ended up together in the series because they were such a perfect match -- Chan Man Yee is a great actress as well, but she has the mature look and so came across as way too old for Tony in the series…definitely preferred her with Ray Lui.
      Unfortunately, I don’t have the link to United We Stand or The Foundation – I have both series on VHS and VCD, but no on-line version (I’m more old-school, so I only started watching series on-line in the past decade or so).  Sorry to say that it might be difficult to find both series nowadays, since they’re so old and weren’t necessarily ‘popular’ series.  Do you live overseas or in HK?  If you live in HK, you can watch those series via TVB’s GOTV service (though it’s subscription based, plus not all the series have been uploaded yet)….otherwise, the other option (if can’t find online) is to wait for GOTV to be rolled out to overseas audiences (which TVB claims will happen in the near future).