First off, my apologies to those who have been actively following my blog, as I recognize that I’ve been doing a poor job keeping it updated lately – some things came up and I just haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to it as I would like. Though I’ve continued to stay on top of the latest ‘happenings’ in the HK entertainment world, I unfortunately haven’t found the chance to ‘blog’ about stuff or do too many translations lately, so I’ve actually got a long list of stuff that I would like to post about still – hopefully I’ll get a chance to do so more consistently in the coming months.
Anyway, back to the post at hand….
I know I haven’t ‘ranted’ about TVB in a long time – of course there has been plenty of stuff to rant about the past few months (probably enough for several posts actually…LOL), but as I said earlier, I’ve had a lot going on, so haven’t had time to gather all my thoughts into a coherent post until now.
Amongst the many TVB-related ‘happenings’ worth ranting about lately, one piece of news from the past few days got me worked up enough to rant about at the moment: recently, TVB outlined in more detail their ‘plans’ for expanding into the Mainland China market (they already started doing so a little while back with the creation of TVBC – the Mainland China arm of TVB – but didn’t really talk too much in detail about their plans until now).
Before I go into my actual rant, let me set the background for this post by briefly summarizing what TVB’s plans are in the Mainland (based on an interview that Virginia Lok did with ND Daily, which was published yesterday – link to original article here).
In summary, the plans are as follows:
.—The goal this year is to elevate the status of TVB artists in the Mainland. Therefore, any programs that TVBC invests in, TVB will recommend its own ‘contracted’ artists (primarily their own ‘biological’ children who are under management contract) for the programs.
.—More ‘collaborative’ series (series where HK artists will collaborate with Mainland artists – similar to what they did in the series Drive of Life, Growing Through Life, etc.) will be filmed. TVB will provide the scripts and the artists while SMG (the production company that TVB is collaborating with in Mainland) will provide the filming locations and equipment.
.—TVB siu sangs and fadans will formulate ‘teams’ that will travel to Mainland and collaborate with various ‘teams’ of artists over there. Also, TVB will continue to seek out other Mainland TV stations and film/TV production companies to collaborate with as well. Artists who rarely ever film in Mainland (those mentioned in the interview include Moses Chan, Fala Chen, Wayne Lai, Kate Tsui, etc.) will eventually be heading up North one after another…
.—One of the goals that Virginia Lok (as head of the Artists Management Department) has been actively pursuing is to push the current ‘second tier’ TVB artists (VL mentions artists such as Eliza Sam, Christine Kuo, Rebecca Zhu, Oscar Leung, etc. in the interview) up to ‘first tier’ fadan / siu sang level. With many of the ‘first tier’ artists heading to Mainland, this will open up the door for TVB to further push this goal in the upcoming year.
.—As for the question of where their scripts will come from (since TVB will be providing the scripts and most of their long-time scriptwriters already left the company), Virginia Lok stated that they are ‘encouraging’ more variety in scripts by having them come from different sources – for example: Eric Tsang will be writing some scripts specifically tailored for TVB; artists such as Wong Cho Lam will continue to provide ideas and outlines of scripts for TVB’s scriptwriters to work with.
.—This year, TVB will be sending 10 of its singers to participate in the popular Mainland singing contest “Voice of China”. [Note: VL didn’t elaborate on this so not sure if she means TVB-groomed singers such as those who came out of their own singing contest “The Voice” or their so-called ‘actors/actresses turned singers’ – my guess is that she means their “The Voice” singers, as I’m assuming that TVB isn’t going to be foolish enough to send their actors and actresses (most of whom can’t sing to save their lives) to a Mainland singing contest where everyone is levels above them…it would be way too embarrassing….]
.—Lastly, according to Virginia Lok, they are hoping to reach a wider audience in HK – meaning break the tradition of catering to ‘housewife’ audiences only and instead try to appeal to more younger audiences. [TN: Hmmm…not sure how true this part is because VL’s boss – TVB’s Assistant General Manager Au Wai Lam – stated in an interview for TVB Magazine last year that they will continue to cater to housewife audiences in the future because that’s the majority of the audience pool in HK].
In a nutshell – towards TVB’s ‘lofty’ goal of establishing TVBC and expanding into the Mainland market, TVB’s director of external affairs Tsang Sing Ming had this to say: “We believe that with this method [creation of TVBC], it will encourage some of the siu sangs and fadans who were previously interested in leaving to stay behind now. At the same time, it will also attract those ‘heavyweight’ artists who already left – such as Charmaine Sheh, Sheren Tang, etc. – to return. The ‘worth’ (aka salaries) of TVBC artists will be calculated according to Mainland market rates.” [TN: I guess this means TVBC artists won’t have to work for ‘dirt cheap’ measly salaries like their HK counterparts do: good news for those who get ‘chosen’ to be TVBC artists, but definitely bad news for those who remain behind in HK and must continue to ‘slave’ for peanuts (unfortunately, this is majority of the artists currently at TVB – especially the veteran third/fourth line ones….)]
Now that the background is laid out, here goes the rant…..
To be very honest, I actually don’t really give a damn about TVB expanding into the Mainland market, as I don’t watch Mainland series anyway and I’m not planning to watch in the future either (doesn’t matter if some of my favorite artists film in the Mainland – the series just don’t interest me). So basically, what they decide to do over there is not my problem – that’s for the Mainland entertainment world to ‘worry’ about.
The piece that I’m most concerned about is how this expansion into the Mainland thing is going to affect TVB in HK – both the quality of series overall as well as the artists who will be ‘left behind’ so to speak.
In terms of artists, I’m referring specifically to those third/fourth/fifth tier ‘green leaf’/’gam cho’ artists who are not ‘popular enough’ (meaning they are not on the ‘most favored’ list) to be given the time of day by TVB. What’s going to happen to these talented green leaf artists who, under the current ‘system’, are already largely ignored and neglected by TVB? What are the options? Continue to work slave hours for cheap TVB at below market salaries that are barely enough to make ends meet in the hopes that 20 years down the road (if they make it that far) they will finally be able to climb to ‘recognizable’ status? Or get out now while there’s still a chance and find something better to do than to work for a company that doesn’t give a damn about them (and never will as long as there are other more ‘popular’ artists to tend to)?
Of course, the ideal situation would be for these artists to ‘have a way out’ in the form of being able to continue doing what they love best (acting) in their own home territory (Hong Kong) -- namely, having the option to work for a different TV station in HK that better suits their needs. Unfortunately, with this whole free TV license thing still in limbo (and no clear end in sight), the options are very limited – artists who still want to film TV series in HK must either work for slave-driving TVB or the ‘most likely soon to fold’ ATV (newsbrief: ATV’s top exec James Shing recently announced at FILMART that they will go back to producing series again – hmmm…given ATV’s current situation, let’s see if that actually pans out or not). HKTV is probably the best option out there for most of these artists, but until they get their license (which could take a LONG time), it’s still a bit of a risky choice.
Oh and how about the quality of future series that TVB produces? I mean, you’d think that TVB learned its lesson from the drastic decline in the quality of their series the past decade or so – just when you think that the quality couldn’t get any worse, now they’re planning on mixing in more ‘collaborative’ series in the years to come, despite the fact that those types of series were never well-received by HK audiences (understandably so).
And even with the collaborative series thing aside, the quality will still continue to suffer because the fact of the matter is, many of the ‘second tier’ artists that TVB is planning to promote JUST DON’T CUT IT – majority of the them need to go through acting training big time (oh and while they’re at it, some of them should go through ‘Cantonese as a Second Language’ courses as well…).
Hmmm….all this makes me think whether TVB’s move to expand into the Mainland market is really because they want their artists to be ‘more known’ in Mainland (as they claim) or they’re actually motivated by something else (like greed and the hunger for power, for example). I mean, honestly, TVB already has a huge problem with lack of capable artists at home (HK) -- instead of trying to ‘expand’ their empire further, shouldn’t they be more concerned with ‘fixing’ the issues they have at home first (by investing in acting training and changing some of their antiquated policies for example)?
The piece that gets me really worked up about this whole thing is the fact that TVB is so adamantly opposed to opening up the market in HK to allow more free TV stations in (and are doing everything in their power to prevent new licenses from being issued). Sure, I understand the ‘argument’ about trying to protect business interests and profits, etc. but fact of the matter is, those are just excuses because anyone with common sense knows that TVB is not going to go bankrupt just because more TV stations are added to the mix. I mean, let’s be real – we’re talking about a company that makes billions of dollars every year and while most companies are struggling to even survive, they are still turning over a hefty profit year after year (and now with the full-fledged expansion into the Mainland market, they will be raking in even more profit due to the lucrative market over there). Given the great prospective and outlook in their favor, why does TVB need to continue selfishly holding on to their monopoly in HK when they know full well that they are stifling the growth of the industry (and threatening people’s livelihoods in the process)?
Bottom line – I don’t have the answer to whether TVB’s expansion into the Mainland is a good thing or bad one, as it really depends on the way you look at it. But I do know that for me at least, I’m not too thrilled about it (for the reasons stated above). Whatever the case, let’s see where this decision of TVB’s ends up leading...