Sunday, September 9, 2012

News Article: Yuen Wah misses the days when Run Run Shaw oversaw TVB; saddened at TVB’s lack of progress, ends 16 year relationship

Here's a very interesting article that I read yesterday and wanted to share -- it's an 'interview' of sorts that veteran actor Yuen Wah () did recently with a Hong Kong newspaper. 

Before he joined TVB, I always used to think of Yuen Wah as a martial arts guy, since I knew his background growing up in the Beijing Opera troupe with other renown martial artists (his apprentice brothers at the Opera school) such as Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, etc.  After he joined TVB and I got the chance to see how his acting was through the many series that he participated in, I started to develop a certain respect for him over the years as a skilled, versatile actor.  I've enjoyed many of his performances in TVB series, especially his comedic roles (though he also does the serious as well as villain roles quite well too) and he absolutely brought a certain 'charm' to most of his roles, no matter how big or small they were.  This is why when I found out last year that Yuen Wah decided to leave TVB and join CTI because TVB pretty much 'neglected' him by not even bothering to renew his contract, I got pretty ticked off initially (though of course, I wasn't the least bit surprised since I already knew full well how TVB operates).  But now that I think about it, no need for me to get ticked off, since it's TVB's loss, not mine....sure, I won't get to see Yuen Wah in any more TVB series, but hey, if they are going to treat him like that (plus with their restrictive policies and notorious politics), I would rather he leave than continue to stay at a company that doesn't give a crap about him. 

Yuen Wah actually gave an interview to a HK newspaper recently (I'm assuming he was sought out for an interview because CTI has been announcing series more frequently in the past few months and he most likely will be in one of the upcoming series that will be announced soon).  In the interview, he talks very candidly about his decision to leave TVB and in the process, also reveals some of the 'politics' that went on behind closed doors (though to be very honest, for people like me who have been 'following' TVB for decades, none of this stuff is surprising in the least).   

The article is actually quite interesting to read, especially for those who may not be familiar with TVB's politics or, for some reason or another, refuse to believe how messed up TVB really is internally (in terms of politics and management conflicts).  I've actually had someone tell me in the past that they think all the stuff about TVB having such lame policies and all the other 'politics' that I always complain about is actually false and was 'made up' by so-called 'conspiracy theorists' like me (yea, whatever, call me what you want, doesn't matter to me...) -- well, for those 'naysayers', here's yet ANOTHER example of a former TVB artist revealing what 'really' goes on internally at TVB....personally, for me -- well, all I'm going to say is that it's kind of hard to continue denying the existence of TVB's pervasive politics when pretty much we keep hearing the same kind of stuff revealed by former artists over and over again....butof course, as I always say, it's up to each individual whether they choose to believe this stuff or not....

Anyway, happy reading!


Yuen Wah misses the days when Run Run Shaw oversaw TVB;  saddened at TVB’s lack of progress, ends 16
year relationship

Source:  HKChannel (iHKtv)

Translation:  llwy12

“I’m not fond of you because you’re not my cup of tea!”  These words are generally used to describe a romantic relationship between a man and woman, however it can also be used to describe the relationship between employer and employee.   Earlier, veteran actor Yuen Wah () ended his 16 year ‘relationship’ with TVB and decided to join Ricky Wong’s (王維) newly established company CTI.  In addition to admiring his new boss Ricky Wong’s sincerity and resolute, Yuen Wah explains that one of the reasons he decided to leave TVB [for CTI] is because in the past few years, he felt there was no longer a sense of belonging or loyalty with the company anymore – he candidly states:  “I really miss the days when Uncle Six [Run Run Shaw] ran things!”

Last year, telecommunications giant Ricky Wong decided to try his hand in the television industry – in preparation for his company City Telecom (CTI)’s entrance into the free-to-air television market, he started a massive recruitment mission last September that involved the ‘poaching’ of a large group of TVB’s artists.  As a result, many veteran ‘green leaf’ artists ended up joining  CTI, including experienced artists such as Yu Mo Lian (余慕), John Chiang (姜大), Felix Lok (駱應), Sin Ho Ying (冼灝), etc.  Yuen Wah was also part of this group.

Asked what attracted him to join Ricky Wong’s company, Yuen Wah (Wah Gor) explained:  “Mr. Wong was very sincere when he sought me out to talk about joining his company.  He invited me to have tea at the Peninsula Hotel  and told me that his television station was starting and he wanted me to join – I told him that I would have to think about it, as I was still waiting for the other company (TVB) to contact me to discuss contract renewal.  In the end, I waited a long period of time and no one from TVB approached me, so I decided to go with CTI.  With my career being an actor, it’s impossible for me to just stop and do nothing  -- if I’m offered job opportunities, of course I’m going to do it!”  In the 16 years that he had worked for TVB, Wah Gor always had a ‘per series’ contract with them – his contract would get renewed every 2 years and usually TVB would seek him out 3 to 6 months prior to his contract expiration date to discuss renewal.  But this time around, things were different -- Wah Gor’s contract expired, yet no one seemed to even notice. 

Wah Gor admits that he felt disappointed:  “Was I unhappy about it?  I actually never really thought about it, as I felt that these type of work relationships will come to an end eventually.   In reality, they [TVB] are not obligated to seek you out – unless they feel there’s a need and you’re able to help them – otherwise, they do not have to sign you, since, after all, the company has tons of artists….in terms of whether ‘value’ or not -- if they feel it’s worth it, then they’ll value you.  The company’s attitude has always been one of ‘indifference’ – whether you’re worth ‘valuing’ or not depends on who you are:  if you’re of monetary benefit, then of course you’ll be ‘valued’, but if you’re the ‘dispensable’ type, then there’s no need to value.”

Due to the government possibly issuing 3 additional free-to-air television licenses in the near future, an impending TV ‘war’ has been looming on the horizon -- with ATV’s drastic decline over the years, TVB has pretty much been the ‘sole’ TV station in HK for a number of years already.    Wah Gor agrees that with 3 new stations coming into the picture, the outlook for the industry will very likely change.

He states:  “Every country or dynasty is bound to experience periods of prosperity and decline – this year might decline but next year things might be well again.  With the government issuing 3 licenses, this will bring competition to the television industry, which isn’t a bad thing – in addition to artists, there were also singers who decided to join NowTV and in the variety show department, some behind-the-scenes crew also left.  Here at CTI, there’s a lot more freedom, as we are allowed to appear on other stations if we want to…TVB never allowed that – even artists who went to film series in the Mainland were not allowed to use their original voices – there was nothing you could do, since TVB was pretty much the only game in town due to the lack of competition.   As for whether the era of ‘one station ruling the TV industry’ is over – well, that’s too harsh too say, as ups and downs are inevitable with any company – it happens everywhere.  Remember in ancient times there was the kingdom of Babylon that was very powerful and prosperous, but later it became a huge mess.”

Beautiful memories of the ‘Uncle Six era’

Thinking back to the old days, Wah Gor expressed that it was actually [TVB’s head of production] Catherine Tsang (曾勵) who brought him into TVB by inviting him to film series for them – just like that, his collaboration with them lasted 16 years.  Towards his days at TVB, Wah Gor admits:  “During the Uncle Six era was when I felt the biggest sense of belonging – in recent times, it was definitely lacking.”  This ‘lack of belonging’ was one of the factors that caused him to leave.

Wah Gor provided some insight into some of the ‘changes’ that occurred within TVB over the past decade:  “In the beginning, there was definitely a sense of belonging, but later on, not anymore because of the constant change in personnel [TN: specifically in management ranks] – under the new ‘team’, the company’s framework actually changed entirely.   Who oversaw things in the past is very different from who oversees things now and the environment is different – as the saying goes, ‘when a dynasty changes, so does its subjects’.  When I first entered TVB, the management hadn’t changed yet – it was still the ‘Uncle Six era’ and everything was good – everyone was very happy working there and we didn’t have to worry about personnel [management] conflicts.”

Wah Gor continued:  “Within a company, each executive’s policies and direction when it comes to handling matters are bound to be different – if you can’t agree or accept it, then it’s best to find a company that better suits you.  Uncle Six’s way of doing things is different from Ms. Fong’s [TN: Run Run Shaw’s wife Mona Fong] – if they decide to change direction and policy, whether the results are good or bad, they need to take responsibility for it.”  So with the recent trend of artists and behind-the-scenes crew leaving TVB, then should the person at the top [Mona Fong] be held mostly accountable?   Wah Gor replied:  “It shouldn’t be that person alone, as he/she has people reporting to them – just like the different departments in government, they function as a team.”

Asked to describe TVB’s current situation, Yuen Wah states: “Stuck in the same place, not moving forward.”  Towards the company’s non-proactive attitude, he states that its employees are helpless to do anything:  “The only thing we can do is sigh helplessly – after all, with the company getting to this point, what else can be done?   The ‘helpless’ part is because the company itself doesn’t care enough to make things better – take the Big 5 record company dispute for example, look at how long that situation dragged out?  Same with the Ricky Wong situation as well [the poaching of artists and crew] – add to that the ‘attitude’ that the company takes towards certain employees….that’s why nowadays whenever TVB is mentioned, most of us just sigh and don’t want to talk about it.  As for what type of ‘attitude’ the company takes towards its employees, well, you’ll have to go ask them – for me, it doesn’t really matter as much because I’ve always had only a ‘per series’ contract.  Some employees are ‘long-term’ workers who signed long contracts with the company – if their contract terms are based on ‘shows’ and they don’t meet those terms by the time the contract ends [TN: meaning they don’t have enough ‘shows’ to fulfill the terms of their contract], they not only don’t get paid, they also have to pay a fine to the company.  Can’t really say if it’s a ‘miserable’ plight or not – after all, it comes with the territory and the terms are agreed upon by both parties.”

Return to TVB some day?

As people always say, ‘the world is round’ – this is true in the entertainment industry especially, where the chance of coming full circle is especially high.  Wah Gor himself expressed that he will not rule out the possibility of collaborating with TVB again in the future:  “It’s definitely possible, but it depends on who is calling the shots – those people who don’t like you, why would they seek you out again?  If new people [management] enter TVB and they feel ‘hey, Yuen Wah is pretty good, why don’t we invite him back?’, I don’t have a problem with it at all.  The name ‘TVB’ may not change, but the interior [personnel] generally will – if they invite you back to film series for them, it’s usually based on personal relationship.”   Asked if there were people  in the company who didn’t like him and so didn’t ‘value’ him, Wah Gor replied:  “There will be people like that in every company – people who will feel: ‘I don’t like you because you are not my cup of tea, so I’m not going to bother discussing contract renewal with you’.  It’s inevitable in any organization – even our current government is not exempt from such issues, let alone  a company such as TVB!”

Retire to go till land

Even though he is approaching 60 years old, Yuen Wah has not only signed with Ricky Wong’s CTI, he also continues to go up North [Mainland] to film series when he has time.  Asked if he has considered retiring, Wah Gor expressed:  “I guess you could consider me ‘retired’ now – retired but not resting.  Working right now is pretty much a pastime for me – it keeps me alert and vigorous -- if I don’t work, I’ll get bored.  I rented a plot of land in the New Territories area recently where I actually grow vegetables and such – it’s almost like going back to the countryside to till land.  With all the talk about the environment and eating organic nowadays, growing my own vegetables to eat is a pretty good thing.  My children are all grown now, so I don’t have any more burdens.  If in the past, when my children were still young and TVB didn’t seek me out to discuss contract renewal, the situation would have definitely been disastrous!”

Yuen Wah used to be one of the ‘Seven Little Fortunes’ (七小). [TN:  The Seven Little Fortunes were a Beijing Opera School troupe under Master Yu Jim Yuen who were trained in martial arts and various other disciplines at a young age.  Other ‘famous’ members of the Seven Little Fortunes include Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and Yuen Biao…].   Back during those days of training, Wah Gor was one of the more mischievous ones, constantly ‘fighting’ with his fellow apprentice brothers and when things went wrong, all of them would point at each other.  Wah Gor states:  “Thinking back now, those days were actually the happiest – we had no burdens and could be as carefree as we wanted.  Now as grownups, we have to worry about so many things – paying rent, buying a car, our children’s educations, etc."


  1. Thanks for translating! A very insightful interview with a veteren. Another great loss and a kick in TVB's face. Pretty soon, TVB will start to lose more and more experienced people and they'll have to be begging or asking their artists with connections to 'invite' people back.

    I don't really get what their purpose was with not letting them appear in other TV stations. It's stupid, really. And what about that thing about them not using their original voices when they film in mainland? I always thought everyone got dubbed so everyone had the same 'accent'.

    I keep seeing Catherine Tsang's name come up a lot when other artists say who they want to thank. Is she the only 'good' person in TVB now?

    again ,thanks for translating!!!

    1. @huama: Well, TVB has pretty much already lost majority of their 'experienced' veteran artists -- that's why in many of the current series (meaning the ones from this year), you pretty much see either the same veteran artists in every single series and/or the cast consists mostly of newbies with little experience. That's probably why TVB is trying to 'pull out all the stops' now by trying to get popular artists from the past (80s and 90s) back to film series and possibly 'save' them....but to be honest, that 'strategy' is not going to work long-term....

      TVB doesn't let their artists appear on other stations because they are lame, stupid, petty, greedy, and arrogant -- they feel that if artists appear on other stations, it's a slap in the face to them (TVB) that means the other station will possibly 'benefit' from the artists' appearance, which they don't want because they are greedy. Of course, a lot of it has to do with power as well, since they ARE the only TV station in HK pretty much and so they enjoy the feeling of being able to "control" majority of the territory's artists....

      The not using original voice thing doesn't come as a surprise to me -- it's sort of the same concept as TVB not allowing their artists to interview with other stations in Cantonese (they must use Mandarin)....TVB's explanation is that if the artist is signed to them, that means their image and likeness are theirs as well -- and that includes their 'original' voices (meaning the voices the artists use in TVB series, which of course is their Cantonese voice) in a sense, if the other stations air anything that the artists say in their original Cantonese voice (most specifically in HK), it would be akin to 'infringing' on copyright so to speak (maybe not in the legal sense, but you get the picture...)

      Yes, pretty much Catherine Tsang is one of the more 'respectable' people in TVB's management currently....part of the reason for that though is because she's the type of person who is a consummate producer -- she cares only about producing series and ensuring that the department she oversees fulfills their duty in this area....she's not interested in the 'political' stuff within TVB and tries not to get herself involved if she can help it. Most of the artists thank Catherine because she truly is a mentor to many of them, as she is the one who normally seeks out an artist to participate in her series -- she's been at TVB close to 30 years and has established connections with many many artists.

      Talking about Catherine Tsang though, TVB is so stupid because even though that witch Virginia Lok is the head of the artists department (which means she holds the fate of all the artists in her hands), every time there is a dispute with one of the veteran artists or an artist who is talented but not treated well, TVB always pushes Catherine out there to be the 'peace maker' and the one to 'convince' the artists to stay....that piece ticks me off because why should Catherine Tsang have to clean up Virginia Lok's messes? I definitely with that sometimes Catherine would just grow a backbone and say 'no' to TVB when they ask her to do things like that, especially if she knows that the particular artists left because TVB treated them badly....

    2. It turns out from news today that Catherine Tsang herself is no angel. I'm disappointed to hear her response about the case of the minor actress pushed like a bean bag by a TVB director who's alledgely her relative, although she tried to deny it.

    3. @Anonymous: Yup -- after watching that press conference, any ounce of respect that I previously had for Catherine Tsang just went right down the toilet!! With that kind of 'nonchalant' attitude, especially in such a sensitive situation where it's obvious the director was the one at fault, she makes Virginia Lok look like an angel!

    4. Yes any ounce of respect Catherine Tsang had just went down the toilet! Even if it's true that the director isn't her relative, the way he defend him even though the video clip clearly shows he was being abusive is ridiculous! Does she think the audience who watched that clip are dumb? And who was he trying to teach the guy who was acting the gangster or the girl? If he's teaching that girl, shouldn't he act as the victim and not the one abusing her?! That girl was obviously caught off guard. He didn't say anything just went up to her put a bag over her head and pushed her against the one and went away? Teaching is just his and TVB's lame ass excuse, the truth is he was abusing her! I'm surprised the police didn't do anything even after the clip leaked! If I was that girl I'd take it to court and teach this guy a lesson with other past victims to back her up!

    5. With the way Catherine Tsang handled this ordeal! She really made Virgina Lok seems like an angel. Though it's a wonder what VLok would've done if she was in the same situation.

    6. @sport3888: Unfortunately, since Jenny Lau is a newbie and pretty much a 'nobody', she will be "forced" to allow the company (TVB) to handle the situation in any way that they wish -- there's no way in hell that she is going to take the issue to court because, well, frankly she can't afford to -- she probably doesn't have the money for one and two, it would pretty much be just her taking on colossal TVB (I highly doubt other artists are going to 'support' her in terms of suing TVB and such if it were really to come down to that point....the general attitude in the HK entertainment industry when it comes to handling sensitive situations like this is trying not to "make mountains out of molehills" --therefore, everyone will choose to take the 'peacemaker' route of resolving issues whenever possible). Yea, it sucks, but unfortunately, that's reality....

      Yup, with the way she [mis]handled the situation, Catherine Tsang definitely made Virginia Lok look like an angel in this case. I'm sure VL was secretly laughing her head off that CT made such a huge 'mis-step' and is being slammed by everyone and their mothers, since it takes the negative spotlight off of her (at least for now). I found it funny (though not surprising in the least) that VL had such an opposite reaction to the situation (VL's reaction of "I felt uneasy after watching the video clip!" versus CT's reaction of "Come on now, it's not a big's not like the girl suffered pain or anything!") -- VL pretty much just added salt to the wound so that the public would hate CT even more. Ah, dont' you just love TVB's politics? *sarcasm*

  2. also want to say, yuen wah's mustache is like his 'signature look' hahah....

    1. @huama: LOL! Definitely agree! It's hard to imagine Yuen Wah without his 'signature' mustache -- though I will admit that I've seen a few series / shows where he didn't have the mustache and it definitely had to take some getting used to....

  3. lol yes I agree Yuen Wah's mustache is his signature look! Thank You so much for translating this article! From all the veterans who were interview, Yuen Wah described TVB's main problems perfectly. And the "lack of progress" for TVB is exactly the same problem ATV had and it didn't help with TVB's monopoly tactics.

    The reason why TVB contracted artistes including per series ones couldn't use their real Cantonese voice in series aired in HK was so people wouldn't watch those series aired by ATV. Even if they did speak in their real voice, ATV was forced to dub them over. As regular audience of HK dramas audience wouldn't want to watch their favorite artiste's voice being dubbed over. That way those artistes who filmed in mainland wouldn't benefit other stations in HK (mainly ATV). It's really appalling how the government would allow such a contract rule. That's a complete infringement of one's freedom of speech! The same thing was said for signed singers to TVB who couldn't speak Cantonese when interviewed by other stations and couldn't even go to other stations for interviews or shows. Why do singers need to sign to TVB or another other tv stations int he first place? It's another one of TVB's dumb monopoly tactics! All these made life extremely difficult for ATV who didn't have anyone to use!

    That's why the Big 5 dispute and their stance over the whole right to work for other new tv stations is a fight over this monopoly and for more exposure opportunities! CTI, NowTV, etc are lucky to have the Big 5 top singers on their side! Filming dramas, variety shows, etc This time TVB definitely won't come off unscathed in the TV War! Inviting 80s/90s actors back is only a temporary tactic, if they don't change their ways.

    Yuen Way's description was spot-on TVB is indifferent to pretty much all their artistes. If you can make money for them great but if not they can careless whether you stay with them. In their "arrogant mind" no one is irreplaceable! Their arrogance is the same thing that caused ATV's demise.

    Lets just hope CTI and NowTV will learn from "history" and work become arrogant/pety when they do well and get good ratings.

  4. @sport3888: Totally agree with you! Yuen Wah's criticisms of the company were 'right on' and really brought to light how TVB operates behind the scenes.

    The other major problem with TVB is that they got too big too quickly and got involved in too many things (i.e. movies and music), to the point that they aren't really a TV station anymore, but really a multi-media company. Plus Mona Fong was notorious for being stingy when it came to money (which is why she hired Mr. "Tightwad" Mark Lee Po On to be GM), so it's not surpising that they would cut back on alot of stuff (i.e. props, on location filming, costumes, artists' salaries, etc.)...with so many things to handle and not enough admin staff to take care of things, of course something is going to fall through the cracks -- unfortunately, that 'something' was the veteran and supporting artists, most of whom the artists department pretty much just neglected and ignored because they were too busy with other things (how else do you explain the complaints about so many artists' contracts expiring without anyone even noticing it?).

    Also, when you have the head of the artists department (Virginia Lok) too busy attending the various events / functions of her most 'beloved' favorites (or trying to secure some lucrative Mainland filming deal for them) and leaving most of the 'dirty work' involved with managing the 'regular' artists to her 'already stretched thin' staff, it's no surprise that things would turn out this way....

  5. thank you for another great article LL, Yuen Wah is definitely one of my favorite "comedic" veterans lol.
    btw, what happen to Yuen Qiu? she paired up w/ him in Kung Fu Hustle. i also enjoy Yuen Qiu acting too, that lady is another great comedian, i could laugh just by looking at her face onscreen lol. i also like Chu MiMi and kingdom yuen. now if cti can get those ladies, w/ a great script and i'm sure they will win tvb over the "comedy series battle" lol.

    btw LL, do you happen to remember Lau Dan? haven't seen him in tvb series for a while. if i'm not mistaken, wasn't he play this evil guy in Duke of Mountain Deer 80's version? then turned 180 degree to play such a fun and loving sifu in Legend of Condor Heroes 80's version also?
    i think he's a great actor, but too bad tvb treated him kinda badly lately judging from the series and the amount of time he appeared onscreen recently.

    and of course how can i forget Paul Chun, another great great great veteran actor lol, if i remember correctly, he isn't appear that much in tvb series in recent years right? what is w/ tvb seriously, the man is like a legend...sigh....

    oh i just realize that i keep talking about "old folks" too much lately at your blog lol, i can't help it since we just talked about veteran artists in other topic and now this article about Yuen Wah. if it annoys u, i'll stop talking about the veterans lol, it just that so tired of those "kids" lately that i can't help but keep thinking about those great veterans lol.

    1. @kk: Yup....Yuen Wah is definitely a great actor. Looking forward to seeing more great things from him!

      I'm actually not sure what happened to Yuen Qiu, since I don't follow her news much. I'm assuming she's still doing work in the movie industry? It's been awhile since I've seen her on screen, so not really sure.

      Mimi Chu is very multi-talented and I like her too, as she can be both funny and serious depending on what the role calls for -- I like the versatility of her acting. Kingdom Yuen as well -- also very versatile and talented (though to be honest I prefer her comedic roles over her 'dramatic' /serious ones). As for joining CTI -- I doubt that Mimi will cuz she's always had a good relationship with TVB and she has been participating in more TVB related programs recently, so that tells me she will most likely stay at TVB. As for Kingdom, well she's a free artist and even though she filmed King Maker for TVB, that was a long time ago --I know she's currently in Mainland filming series, but there's a huge possibility she may join one of the other HK stations....however I don't want to say for sure yet, since I haven't seen any confirmation of it so far.... must not be watching TVB series lately cuz Lau Dan is still around and has been filming series for TVB -- in fact, his latest series is the sitcom Come Home Love, which is currently airing on TVB (and more episodes are being filmed in coming weeks). He's another great veteran actor whom I grew up watching....I actually don't think that TVB has been treating him that badly, as he has been in quite a few series recently, it's just that the roles weren't hugely significant -- plus I think he's at the point where he's getting ready to retire, so I think him being onscreen less is probably his own choice (he technically doesn't have to continue working anymore if he doesn't want to --with his son Hawick's success in recent years, he can surely take good care of him...haha).

      Haha....yes, love Paul Chun! The last TVB series he was in is Witness Insecurity, which aired a few weeks (months?) ago. He's a free artist now and has mostly been filming series and movies in the Mainland. Even though he hasn't officially signed with CTI yet (he confirmed himself that hasn't), I have a feeling that if he does come back to the HK television industry, he will most likely work for CTI instead of TVB (won't get into the reasons why here, since I already talked about it in previous blog posts)., no, no.....please continue to talk about the veterans and 'old folks', as I talk about them alot as well --if not, I wouldn't have anything to talk about anymore (haha)....ok, just kidding, but in all seriousness, you know how I feel about the current TVB and such, so I actually PREFER to talk about the veteran artists (70s/80s/90s artists) rather than the current fact, you'll probably notice that I write more about veteran artists and such on my blog than I do of current yea, feel free to post about the older generation....I don't mind one bit! :-)