Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mingpao Weekly’s Special Tribute to So Hang Suen: Felix Wong and Michael Tao recount working with their ‘benevolent mother’

MP Weekly recently published a 2 part series (of articles) dedicated to veteran actress So Hang Suen (who passed away on June  ).  Suen Jeh (Sister Suen) was a great actress and definitely a favorite veteran of mine whom I grew up watching in the 80s and early 90s.   She was most famous for her ‘benevolent mother’ roles and rightfully so, as she portrayed the character so well that I would dare to say it was near perfection.  I, for one, remember majority of her motherly characters from many of TVB’s most classic series and to this day, I don’t feel that any other actress could have portrayed those roles as ‘perfectly’ as she did.  Even though Suen Jeh was known for her ‘benevolent mother’ roles, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t good at other roles – in reality, she excelled at every role she played and her superb acting always left a deep impression on audiences (even audiences like me who watched many of her series when I was only a child and probably didn’t even understand completely everything that went on) – the affinity that audiences felt with her were akin to that of a relative or close family member (yes, she was THAT GOOD in her acting).  Throughout the years, Suen Jeh always had a special place in my heart (as a lot of the veterans I grew up watching in the 80s did), so of course when I heard about her passing last month, I was absolutely devastated, especially since she was relatively ‘young’ too by today’s standards (she was 64 when she passed). 

Of course, in my opinion, each of Suen Jeh’s performances were superb and memorable, to the point that I feel listing out only a few of those roles here really doesn’t do justice to her illustrious career.  Therefore, I will let the article do the talking and through that, recount the memories I have of Suen Jeh’s great performances.

The below is part 2 of the tribute article that MP did – I decided to translate this part only because part 1 delves more into Suen Jeh’s early career, which audiences might be less familiar with.  Part 2 of the article is the one that actually starts with Suen Jeh’s career in the 80s and going into the 90s, which was truly the era where Suen Jeh had most of her representative works.

Of course, being a ‘fan’ of TVB’s older series from the 80s and 90s, I definitely enjoyed reading the below article – not only is it a fitting tribute to Suen Jeh told from the perspective of those who had the opportunity to work with her most (in terms of her onscreen ‘children’, Felix Wong and Michael Tao were definitely the ones who collaborated with her the most as far as I can remember), it also brings back many fond memories of some of TVB’s most classic series (i.e. Police Cadet, Looking Back in Anger, Files of Justice, Detective Investigation Files, etc.).  Just to show how ‘classic’ these series were -- I actually remember every scene from the above series that were described in the article as well as captioned in the pictures… the point that I actually had those particular scenes in my head as I was reading (I guess when you watch and re-watch those series as many times as I have, certain scenes start to become etched into memory….).

Anyway….once again, great ‘special feature’ article from Mingpao!  Hope that reading the article brings back the same fond memories of Suen Jeh and the mentioned series for you as it did for me!


Mingpao Weekly’s Special Tribute to So Hang Suen:  Felix Wong and Michael Tao recount working with their ‘benevolent mother’

Translation:  llwy12

Entering the 1980s era, So Hang Suen (蘇杏璇) started taking on ‘motherly’ roles and almost every character she played was more than 10 years older than her real age.  Being the professional actress that she was, Suen Jeh took her work seriously and shined in each of her roles – however, she also made it part of her job to guide and support the younger artists she worked with.

Having played Suen Jeh’s son in 1983’s Legend of the Condor Heroes (射鵰英雄傳) as well as 1989’s Looking Back in Anger (義不容情), Felix Wong (黃日華) expressed:  “Suen Jeh would constantly ‘put money in my pocket’!   When people say that I acted well in those series, the credit should really be given to Suen Jeh and the rest of the senior actors I worked with!”

Looking Back in Anger has been hailed as one of the most outstanding series to come out of the 1980s era.  The series’ famous ‘open ending’-style final scene where a ‘mystery woman’ leaves a note for Felix’s character Ting Yau Kin in a chapel and wipes tears from his face has been a subject of ‘debate’ for more than 2 decades:  so was the ‘mystery woman’ truly Felix’s wife in the series Carina Lau (劉嘉玲), or was it his sister in the series, Carrie Ho (何嘉麗)?   Felix personally reveals the truth behind that much-talked about ending scene…

Helena Law doesn’t feel being ‘fierce’ is exhaustive; Felix Wong gladly endures being scolded

Most of us who grew up watching So Hang Suen in TV series during the 1980s era most likely share the same general misconception:  the thought that Suen Jeh must already be at least 50 years old – this was ‘reasonable’ given the motherly figures [with grown children] that she constantly portrayed onscreen.  With this ‘misconception’ in mind, in August 1988, [Mingpao’s reporter] was shocked to read a headline in the entertainment section of the local paper:  ‘So Hang Suen gives birth to a Dragon boy’.  With her mature, ‘benevolent mother with grown children’ image so deeply ingrained in our hearts, how is it possible that in real life, she had ‘just given birth’ for the first time?

When she was alive, Suen Jeh always used to laugh about the ‘misconception’ towards her age.  She would fondly recount how actress Maggie Cheung (張曼玉) once questioned her ‘early maturity’ while they were filming 1984’s Police Cadet (新紮師兄) together:  “Age-wise, I’m actually not that old -- at the time [while filming Police Cadet], I was only 32 years old.  Maggie and I were in the restroom together one day when she told me: ‘Suen Jeh, with your age, having you play Tony’s [Tony Leung (梁朝偉)] older sister is already a stretch!  How is it possible to play his mother?’  I told her: ‘As long as the end result that comes out is believable, then it’s fine.’”

For us audiences to have such a ‘misconception’ about Suen Jeh’s age and maturity is of course a testament to her superb acting skills – at the same time though, collaborating with other remarkable and talented artists is also a huge bonus.  In Police Cadet, Suen Jeh’s ability to establish her character Hui Chau Ping’s ‘status’ as the ultimate ‘benevolent mother’ can partly be attributed to being contrasted with her ‘love rival’ in the series, the ‘fierce second wife’ character Lee Lai Kuen played by Helena Law (羅蘭).  It’s actually a bit ironic because in real life, Helena is one of the nicest, most affable senior actresses you’ll ever meet – for her to play such a fierce character who does nothing but scold people all day, was it exhaustive?  “No, not exhaustive at all!  Actually, back then, practically all my roles were ‘noisy’ characters – like in Return of the Condor Heroes (神鵰俠侶) with the character of Kau Chin Chak, I also had to scream alot.” 

Suen Jeh and Helena had many opportunities to work together and so on a personal level, they became close friends, despite their opposite religious backgrounds (Helena is a devout Catholic while Suen Jeh is very dedicated to Buddhism).  Helena expressed that the difference in religions did not affect their friendship in any way:  “Actually, all religions guide people to be charitable, emphasize tolerance and forgiveness, love one another, don’t be stubborn and yell at people for no reason, etc.  Suen Jeh and I are very close – I remember one time when I visited her vegetarian restaurant, we even chatted until closing time!”

As the saying goes:  ‘A peony flower may be good in and of itself, but still requires its green leaves to support it.’  The ‘green leaf’ veteran artists in the past were very willing to mentor their juniors and did so happily in the hopes that these young ‘flowers’ would one day blossom and flourish.  A young Felix Wong – merely a ‘newbie’ at the time – had the privilege of receiving ‘mentorship’ from Suen Jeh as well as other senior artists back in the day:  “The seniors back then were very willing to guide and support newcomers!  To be honest, back when I filmed Legend of the Condor Heroes [TN: abbreviated LOTCH going forward], I basically didn’t have to do much – just listen to the seniors and I was all set!   Barbara Yung (翁美玲) actually excelled in this area [listening to the senior artists] – she was very smart and had high comprehension skills, so she was able to learn a lot from the seniors;  I was a lot slower in comparisons.”  But isn’t that exactly the type of ‘not very smart’ temperament that [his character in LOTCH] Kwok Jing should have?  In response, Felix laughed and expressed:  “Perhaps Uncle Tin Lam [the series’ producer Wong Tin Lam (王天)] had seen me before and felt that I had the same ‘simplistic’ and ‘honest’ personality that Kwok Jing had, so he felt that it would be easier for me to grasp my character.”

In LOTCH, Suen Jeh played another character named ‘Ah Ping’ – this time, she played the role of Kwok Jing’s mother Lee Ping, which meant that she had a lot of scenes together with Felix:  “Our scenes together were more focused in the earlier half of the series when the story was about our lives in the desert.”  (Real filming in the desert?  That’s so expensive!)  “No, it was actually Lantau Island [in HK] – we filmed there for about 2 to 3 weeks.”   Since all the artists were usually very busy during filming and also outside of work, Felix would take advantage of rehearsal time to ‘do his homework’ [TN: get mentorship from the seniors]:  “Suen Jeh would always study the script diligently in advance, so she always had a very thorough understanding of the storyline, characters, relationship lines, etc.  Therefore, during rehearsals, she always asked us if there was anything we didn’t understand or needed help with.  The advice she usually gave me was to try not to be too ‘deliberate’ with my acting and also to work on my facial expressions.”  For artists who are slow learners and therefore might have a lot of NGs [aka outtakes], did they often get scolded by the seniors?  “Back then, being scolded was actually a good thing because when the senior artists scold you, they are actually ‘putting money in your pocket’.  Whenever a mistake was made, it would be addressed and rectified right away – it helped us to learn and improve quicker.  When filming LOTCH, I was actually scolded the most by Kenneth Tsang (曾江) – his standards were very high and if you weren’t able to meet them, he had no problem scolding: ‘Hey kid, can’t you do it any better?’  If the seniors are willing to scold you, that means they are willing to teach you!”

Felix recalls that back during his ‘newbie’ days, the hardest thing was restraining himself from bursting out in laughter, especially in front of such fun and playful seniors as Lau Dan (劉丹) and Chun Wong (秦煌) for example:  “During rehearsals, the seniors often don’t show their skills completely, instead, they wait until the cameras officially roll to come at you with full force, so for newbies like us, it was easy to get nervous and have a lot of outtakes.”  Back in 1981 when he filmed the series Come Rain, Come Shine (風雨晴), Felix set a new ‘personal record’ when he NG’ed 50 times straight in one scene – luckily, he hasn’t broken that record since:  “I remember that was a night scene that we were filming on location and I had to argue heatedly with someone in the scene.  At the time, I didn’t understand a thing about acting and also couldn’t articulate myself clearly, so I got really nervous – the more nervous I got, the more NGs I had.  The other artists present at the time were Kam Jeh [Lee Heung Kam (李香琴)], Uncle Sun [late veteran actor Wong Sun (黃新)], brother Shek Sau (石修), and Shirley Yim (雪梨)…they kept trying to calm me and encouraged me to slow down and not push myself so hard – unfortunately, I was a huge mess at the time.”

Almost did not get the part of ‘Ting Yau Kin’; the truth about Looking Back in Anger’s ‘mystery’ ending

8 years after LOTCH, Suen Jeh and Felix got the chance to continue their mother/son relationship in the series Looking Back in Anger [TN: abbreviated LBIA going forward] – however, truth be told, this ‘affinity’ almost didn’t happen.  Suen Jeh once revealed that she had thought about turning down the series:  “I definitely have to thank Felix and [producer] Wai Ka Fai!  At the time, I had just given birth to my eldest son and was already back at work filming another series when I was invited to film LBIA– I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle both series, so I thought about turning it down.  Then one day, Felix came to the makeup room and told me ‘Suen Jeh, if you’re not going to film it, then I won’t either!’” 

Asked about this, Felix’s memory of the situation started to come back:  “Now that you mention it, the memory is coming back….yes, when I first heard Wai Ka Fai read me the plot summary, I had felt that Suen Jeh was perfect for the role of ‘Auntie Wan’.  To tell you the truth though, I actually almost didn’t get to play the role of ‘Ting Yau Kin’ either.  At the time, TVB’s higher ups didn’t want to use me because earlier in 1987, I had already expressed to them that I wouldn’t be renewing my contract once it expired in 1990.  It was Wai Ka Fai who insisted on using me – he told the bosses that if he can’t cast Felix Wong in the series, then he’s not going to produce the series…the higher ups had no choice but to give in.”

Unlike the later trend of ‘flying paper’ scripts, LBIA actually had a 100% complete script ready prior to filming – as soon as Felix read through the script, he already knew that this would be a great series:  “Receiving such an awesome script in your hands, of course you will naturally want to pour in all your effort to do a great job!  There were a lot of intense scenes that we had to film and it definitely took its toll both physically and mentally – I would get headaches every day from the lack of sleep due to the intensity of filming.”  Felix had already taken up the habit of smoking back then and with the hectic filming schedules and lack of sleep, he admits that smoking helped keep him more awake and alert:  “Whenever I felt exhausted, I would go have a cigarette or two with Carina and immediately would feel better!”  Back then, Suen Jeh would often encourage Felix to quit smoking and adopt healthier eating habits:  “Aiye…I wanted to [quit smoking], but it was easier said than done!  Suen Jeh also constantly reminded me that not everyone is as lucky as I am with the opportunities I had gotten and so I should value them and work even harder – this advice has been engraved in my heart!”

With such a highly acclaimed series, there are bound to be many memorable scenes.  One particular segment that touched Felix the most was the scene that talked about how Ting Yau Kin (Felix), Ngai Chor Kwan (Carina Lau), and Yeung Pak Cho (Gilbert Lam) were asked to film a special program for a TV station because the 3 of them happened to be born on exactly the same date – in that scene, Ting Yau Kin ends up crying because he had just lost 2 jobs and was under a lot of stress:  “That segment was filmed halfway through the series – by that time, I was already very familiar with the character of ‘Ting Yau Kin’, so even though the scene involved several pages of dialogue, it didn’t take too much time to film.  After we successfully finished filming that segment, everyone in the studio clapped.”  Looking out into the crowd after filming that scene, Felix noticed someone standing there who wasn’t part of the LBIA production team:  “That night, Paul Chun (秦沛) was filming next door and when he heard that I would be filming this particular scene, he especially came over to watch – I didn’t know he was there until after I had finished that scene.  When he saw me, he gave me a thumbs up – for me, getting praise from seniors is especially gratifying.”

For LBIA’s ending, producer Wai Ka Fai chose to utilize an ‘open-ending’ style – in the final scene, Ting Yau Kin waits for his beloved wife Chor Kwan to return to the chapel to fulfill their 10 year reunion promise; after he falls asleep, a ‘mystery woman’ walks in, wipes tears from his face, and leaves a note with the simple words ‘Kwan is [already] dead, please forget [her]’.  Over the years, there has been much ‘debate’ over the identity of the ‘mystery woman’ in the ending scene – it has been said that the woman is Ting Yau Kin’s sister Chan Siu Ling (played by Carrie Ho), however the woman’s legs in the scene closely resembled Carina’s.  Towards this, Felix laughed and revealed that the script itself actually did not specify who the ‘mystery woman’ was:  “The script did not state who the woman was – perhaps they wanted to maintain a sense of mystery.  However, I did ask the producer (Wai Ka Fai) later on about the identity of the ‘mystery’ woman – was she my wife Chor Kwan (Carina) or my sister Siu Ling (Carrie)?  He very clearly responded:  ‘She [the mystery woman] was truly your sister (Siu Ling), as Ah Kwan had already died.’”  But a ‘question’ still remained – Carrie Ho has a petite, smaller stature and judging by the size and shape of the woman’s legs in that scene, it didn’t look like her at all….Felix goes on to reveal ‘the truth’ behind that scene:  “Carina was actually the one who filmed that scene – those legs are hers!  At the time, both the director and producer felt that Carina’s legs were prettier, so they had her film it, since the face isn’t shown anyway -- besides, the ‘illusionary’ feeling of that scene would give audiences something to talk about.”  [TN:  Haha…smart move!  The ending scene to LBIA has been a topic of discussion for the past 25 years!]

A ‘serious’ actress with ‘zero’ outtakes

A similar ‘benevolent mother’ character can have a different ‘feel’ to it.  In 1992, So Hang Suen participated in the lawyer-themed series Files of Justice (壹號皇庭) [which later went on to became a popular 5 installment franchise].  In the series, Suen Jeh plays a famed barrister who also happened to be a benevolent single mother with 2 grown children played by Michael Tao (陶大宇) and Eugenia Lau (劉美娟).  “[The series producer] Gary Tang (鄧特希) took a less ‘deliberate’ approach when it came to describing the family relationships – for example, it’s known that we didn’t have a father, but doesn’t go into detail on our background and such.”   Michael Tao’s memory of Suen Jeh is that of a very serious, strict, and highly revered senior actress – when she was present, no one dared to fool around:  “We were a fun-loving bunch who liked to play and joke around a lot, but whenever Suen Jeh was present, we didn’t dare mess around – it wasn’t until Suen Jeh took the initiative to joke with us that we dared to joke back.  Later on though, I think the chemistry of the team started to rub off on her, as she started joking with us more.  Suen Jeh isn’t one of those rigid, inflexible artists who wants things done only one way – she’s very flexible and willing to adjust her acting style based on the environment she is in and the atmosphere.  She’s a serious actress, but not inflexible.”  After thinking some more, Michael added:  “I’m not exaggerating – as far as I remember, Suen Jeh rarely has feeling is that she has zero outtakes!”

When he heard the news of Suen Jeh’s passing, Michael expressed that the memories of their experience filming together immediately came back into his mind – the various scenes that they had together all started to reappear:  “There was a scene where I had just gotten into an argument with my girlfriend in the series [played by Iwanbeo Leung (梁婉靜)] and so she ran off to Singapore to avoid me, leaving me behind in HK debating whether I should go find her.  Gary Tang wrote a lot of dialogue between Suen Jeh and myself in that scene and even though it was obvious that the scene focused on my character and Suen Jeh’s character wouldn’t have much development, she still put more than her best effort into that scene and helped me finish that scene comfortably.  It also gave audiences a good feel toward our mother/son relationship in the series.  Suen Jeh was truly a great actress!”

After Files of Justice, the next series  that Suen Jeh and Michael collaborated in was Detective Investigation Files (刑事偵緝檔案) – except in that series, they no longer played mother and son:  “She played Kenix Kwok’s (郭可盈) mother in the series and because the background of her character is that her husband used to be a cop who died in the line of duty, she was very opposed to my character (a cop) dating her daughter.  As a professional actress, Suen Jeh was very much into her character at the time and ‘hated’ my character to the point that even after the cameras stopped rolling, she would still react coldly towards me as though she was mad at me.”  In one particular scene, Michael, Kenix, and Suen Jeh had to work together on a case that involved pulling back a metal screen and breaking open the door to get inside a house – Michael was so much into the scene that he accidentally hurt his finger when pulling open the screen.  When Suen Jeh saw what happened, she immediately scolded him for not being careful and injuring himself – towards this, Michael didn’t get angry at all:  “To others, it might seem like I got hurt and she’s still scolding me, but I know that she did it out of concern for me, she just expresses it in a different way.”

One time, Michael and Bobby AuYeung (歐陽震華) visited Suen Jeh at her vegetarian restaurant and her reaction left a deep impression on them:  “Bobby and I went there to eat as a way to silently support Suen Jeh – we weren’t expecting any special treatment or anything.  Without mentioning it, Suen Jeh seemed to already understand us -- when she saw us, she greeted us and showed us to our table, then continued to go about her business.”  This special relationship that they had will always remain in Michael’s heart:  “Suen Jeh was truly a great teacher and senior – in her presence, I will forever be a little kid.”


  1. Thanks a lots for your very detail article, it makes me really miss those era. Looking Back In Anger is one of my all time faves, this drama has great cast, perfect plot and elegant ending, no wonder since it's coming from an idealist & high calibre producer Wai Ka Fai.

    I notice Suen Jeh often appeared in TVB oldies, beside Police Cadet installment/LOCH 1982/LBIA she also played Canti Lau's and Kitty Lai's mother in Drifters and Withered In The Wind respectively.

    So Hang Suen, R.I.P.

    1. @Anonymous: Totally agreed regarding LBIA. You know, it's interesting that so many of Wai Ka Fai's series were so well-made and well-received -- goes to show how great of a scriptwriter/producer he was. That's why I've said from the beginning -- the ONLY person I would be 'excited' about if he were to return to TVB is Wai Ka Fai...anyone else -- forget it!

      Suen Jeh appeared in alot of series -- she was the 'mother of choice' in most of the 80s and early 90s series, so it's not surprising that she had so many 'sons and daughers' in the industry. The other major performance I remember of hers from the 90s era series was in Intangible Truth where she played Roger Kwok and Sheren Tang's mother....that was such a heartwrenching role, yet she was so perfect in it!

      I definitely will miss Suen Jeh!!

    2. Too bad, slim chance that Mr.Wai KF will return to TVB :( I also watched 2 TVB dramas that produced by Wai KF, War of The Dragon and The Greed of Man. It seems he produced few series when he worked in TVB. Another TVB old producers that I can remember are Lee Kwok Lap, Yau Ka Hung, Lee Ting Lun, Chiu Chun Keung. Two wuxia specialists, Wong Tin Lam and Siu Sang had passed away. llwy, who's TVB current producer that has similar quality with those oldies? Lee Tim Shing, Amy Wong? Honestly, I don't like too good to be true drama ala "Moonlight Resonance", rush ending and exaggerating, hard to believe that I watch a TVB drama...

    3. @Anonymous: Sorry for the late response….

      I totally agree with you about the lack of good producers nowadays. It’s such a pity that majority of TVB’s best producers either already left the company or already passed away. Since you asked my opinion, I will very honestly tell you that I feel TVB doesn’t have any producers with the same qualities as some of their previous most famous / popular producers – sure, Lee Tim Sing and Amy Wong are pretty good producers, but it’s still not the same. Originally, I would have considered Lee Tim Sing as at that ‘legendary’ level (and to be fair, perhaps in some way he is), but I’m actually not tremendously found of majority of his series (there are a few exceptions of course) – in terms of wuxia dramas, Lee Tim Sing is pretty much the only producer capable of doing them, since he has the experience from participating in majority of the big productions in the 80s and was also responsible for all those Jin Yong remakes in the 90s (though of course, we all know that those 90s remakes don’t come anywhere near to living up to the original remakes from the 70s and 80s, especially with all the ‘liberties’ that Lee Tim Sing took with the stories). I’m actually not too fond of Amy Wong’s series either, as I find her series tend to be draggy and boring (though of course there are a few exceptions) – not saying she’s not a good producer, it’s just that her series are not my cup of tea. Basically, I prefer the 80s producers more…

    4. Never mind for your late response ;) I'm glad to know that you're one of few TVB oldies fans :) I notice most of forums contain young gens who admire very much about current TVB series, it's understandable because big possible they never watch those oldies :D I guess Lee Tim Shing has same era with late Wong Tin Lam as he produced The Duke of Mount Deer 1984 & Book and Sword 1987. Agree, all the 90's Jin Yong adaptation by TVB are totally crap, so frustating particularly Flying Fox 1999 & Heaven Sword Dragon Sabre 2000 :(
      One producer had left TVB, Jonathan Chik who produced Cold Blood Warm Heart, Secret At The Heart, At The Threshold of An Era, The Gem of Life. All four dramas have similarity :big cast member, multiple plot, long eps. Do you like this type of drama? Also Lau Ka Ho & Mui Siu Ching, I read your previous article about this husband-wife producer ;)

    5. @Anonymous: Thanks. Glad to meet another TVB oldies fan as well (there definitely aren’t that many of us around anymore it seems)! I totally get what you mean about the younger generation admiring the current series – though it’s frustrating, I can’t blame them either because they unfortunately don’t know any better since most of them weren’t exposed to the older series and even if they wanted to watch those older series now, a lot of them are hard to find nowadays. That’s why I always ‘count my blessings’ that I grew up during the ‘golden era’ of TVB and therefore got the chance to watch a lot of truly great series.

      Yes, Lee Tim Sing is of the same era as Wong Tin Lam – in fact, there was a period of time in the late 80s/early 90s where LTS was actually the head of production at TVB (one of the ‘top brass’ at TVB. There’s actually an article I translated last year about Lee Tim Sing and some of the series he was involved with back then (including Yang’s Saga, Duke of Mount Deer, etc.) – it’s another great read for oldies era TVB fans, as it reveals a lot of behind the scenes stuff involved in the making of those series (as well as other stuff). Here’s the link to it in case you haven’t come across it on my blog yet:

      After producer Siu Sung died and Wong Tin Lam retired, Lee Tim Sing pretty much took over the ‘wuxia drama’ production responsibilities (though there were a few other producers in between who also did wuxia dramas – one of them that comes to mind is Siu Hin Fai for example) – that’s why he was involved in all those grand production 90s JY remakes. Unfortunately (well, to me at least), this also left a blemish on his track record because majority of those 90s adaptations were truly crap like you said (the only 90s JY adaptation that I liked was State of Divinity – but part of that was because the casting in that series was perfect) – and the other thing too is that Lee Tim Sing has the tendency to utilize newbies in important roles with his series (he likes to give newcomers a chance)….nothing wrong with that in theory, but it does detract from the quality of his series because a lot of times the newbies don’t hold up and end up ruining the series to some extent. And I actually question LTS’ casting abilities too because the people he had in lead roles in many of his series were really questionable (to this day, still can’t bring myself to watch HSDS 2000 cuz I can’t get over the huge miscast of Lawrence Ng as Cheung Mo Kei….)…oh and how about the 2000 version of Crimson Sabre – that new girl he cast as the female lead, plus completely changing the story….yikes (I actually did watch that series from beginning to end and although there were parts I enjoyed, overall as an adaptation, I felt it was crap cuz it wasn’t true to the story at all)!

    6. Anyway…in terms of Jonathan Chik….I’m actually not a fan of his series either. His older series from the 90s were really good (i.e. the ones you named as well as Criminal Investigator), however the ones he’s done in recent years really weren’t that great in comparisons (hey, I’m ok with deep, thought-provoking dramas, but honestly, the ones that Chik had produced recently were too overboard deep). Also, Chik’s dramas tend to be draggy, which is one part of his production style that I don’t like (as much as I like SOTH, CBWH, ATTOAE, etc., there were actually a lot of draggy parts in those series that made them way longer than they needed to be).

      As for Lau Ka Ho and Mui Siu Ching – to be honest, I prefer Mui Siu Ching’s series more, as she does more of a variety of heartwarming family dramas (i.e. all those ‘Daddy’-themed dramas) as well as the suspenseful/tragic ones (i.e. Breaking Point, Forensic Heroes, etc.)….Lau Ka Ho does more grand productions and ‘big family conflict dramas’ in comparisons….even though HOG and MR were truly ‘epic’ (and there was some great acting in there by the veterans), overall I’m not fond of the younger cast he chooses to utilize in his series (his series also tend to be draggy as well) – just like with Jonathan Chik, I liked the series that LKH produced back in the 80s and 90s better than the recent ones he did.

    7. llwy, thanks once again for Lee TS article :) Yup, we're lucky to grow up in 80's era :D I assume TVB can't repeat the golden era anymore unless they recruit the talented script-writers and artists. Looking at TVB current series, they're using same formula, lite drama with happy ending concept, yawn. That's way I continue to search old series for rewatching (when holiday ;)) It's hard to create perfect combination : flawless storyline + great cast, TVB had did it but unfortunately none for recent era!

      Anyway, I wanna ask you about Blood of Good and Evil (one of my all time fave) producer, Lee Siu Wah. I never find his name in another TVB series, only know he is former ATV producer. His one hit wonder (BOGAE) is truly WONDERful, he3x.

      Jonathan Chik, Lau Ka Ho, Mui Siu Ching => I'm not big fans of their series. Agree, I like Lau KH early 90's drama titled Big Family, The Key Man but no thanks for HOG & MR, cliche. Also Mui SC, I enjoy The Breaking Point, Shade of Darkness, Forensic Heroes (borrowed idea from C.S.I.). And Jonathan Chik : Cold Blood Warm Heart despite little bit boring to watch 62 eps :D The last two, When Heaven Burns & Master of Play, seems Hollywood movie translated into TVB drama, no wonder HKG audience (the housewives :D) didn't like both dramas which contain heavyweight theme.

      Lee TS, one of his miscast is Legend of Book and Sword 1987. This adaptation has good scipt, much better than 1976 version IMO. Too bad, male lead in this wuxia Nelson Pang Man Kin didn't fulfill his job successfully to portray an educated, high-skilled martial arts, charming Chan Ka Lok. Who the hell is he? Nelson Pang, never heard his name before. Jacqueline Law and Fiona Leung aren't bad as debutant ;)

    8. @Anonymous: You’re welcome! :0) Always a pleasure to share with fellow 80s TVB fans! ;0)

      Well, the sad part is that a couple years back, TVB definitely had the ability to ‘recreate’ the golden era, as most of their best scriptwriters, producers, as well as artists were still working for them (many of their scriptwriters and producers have been with them for decades) – unfortunately though, TVB wasn’t managed very well these past 10 years (I fault Run Run Shaw’s wife Mona Fong for that) and as a result, majority of the ‘good’ people started leaving one after another… the point that now, there’s practically no one left (majority of their scriptwriters and directors went to HKTV, their producers either left for Mainland, went into the movie industry, or retired / passed away….same thing with majority of their big name artists….). Sure, Mona Fong is out of the picture now, but what’s the use when she already ran the company into the ground and all that’s left is an empty shell?

      Honestly, the outlook for TVB isn’t that good if you ask me….their most senior producers either already left or will leave soon….Lee Tim Sing probably won’t be filming too many more series, since he is already past retirement age and has been trying to ‘retire’ for the past 3 years already; Poon Ka Tak is retiring soon too, which is why ‘golden’ scriptwriter Ka Wai Nam is returning to TVB this one time for a last collaboration with him; once those 2 are gone, I guess TVB will have to put all their hopes on Chong Wai Kin, Amy Wong, and Nelson Cheung, since they will be the most senior ones left (if I recall correctly) outside of Catherine Tsang and Tommy Leung. Add to this the fact that TVB promoted a record number of new producers last year (well, technically those producers aren’t ‘new’ to the company, as they were either former directors or scriptwriters – they just got promoted to producer level because TVB was short on producers). Those producers still have to prove themselves and so far, their works haven’t really been too well-received from what I can see….

      To be honest, I’m not even looking for TVB to create that ‘perfect combination’ anymore because I already know it’s not possible, especially in this day and age….if they are at least able to give me either ‘ great cast + excellent albeit flawed script’ or ‘ok cast + flawless script’, I would be satisfied – unfortunately though, they aren’t even able to achieve that!

    9. @Anonymous (continued from my previous response): LOL…funny you mention Lee Siu Wah. He actually did produce other series at TVB (literally a handful only, as you can pretty much count all of them on one hand), but unfortunately, all of them were low budget, forgettable dramas (so yes, in a way, you could say that BOGAE was his only ‘one hit wonder’). BUT if we want to get very technical, most of the credit should actually be given to the scriptwriter for BOGAE: Chan Bo Wah. Bo Wah Jeh is an award-winning scriptwriter who joined TVB back in the 80s – she wrote the scripts for a bunch of great series in the late 80s, but outside of BOGAE, she was also most known for writing those long running sitcoms (i.e. When the Sun Shines, Family Squad, and the 1128 episode A Kindred Spirit, just to name a few). She actually left TVB more than a decade ago and currently works in the Mainland. I would be excited if she were to return to TVB as well, but I highly doubt that will ever happen – plus with the few talented artists that TVB has left nowadays, it would be hard to ‘recreate’ the magic of a series like BOGAE, even if the script was flawless….

      Haha…somehow, I knew you were probably going to mention 1987’s Legend of the Book and Sword (especially since we were on the subject of ‘miscasts’ in series). Casting Nixon Pang (I think his English name is Nixon, not Nelson…don’t quote me on that though cuz I usually go by their Chinese names) in the lead role for the series was the worst decision that TVB ever made – that series actually had an excellent script and a truly‘star-studded’ cast, but they had to go ‘ruin’ it by putting Nixon as the lead….argh…still sort of ticks me off thinking about it! I mean, that guy is an absolute piece of wood when it comes to acting (I actually don’t think I would be exaggerating when I say that he’s ‘more boring than a piece of wood’…LOL) – I’m so glad he’s no longer in the industry…couldn’t stand any of his performances (luckily he was only in a few series while at TVB…but still….). In terms of who he is and where he came from….not sure if you remember, but TVB had done a show back in 1987 called something along the lines of “Super New Stars” (not the actual name) where the purpose was to recruit ‘potential new stars of the future’ to work for them (sort of a Miss HK style talent competition, except without the beauty pageant part) – the participants were both male and female and they had to go through different rounds of competition that included doing skits, hosting, etc. etc to test their skills and see if they have what it takes to be a future TV star….they would then choose 2 winners (one male and one female) who would get the chance to sign with TVB and participate in an upcoming grand production series. Well, the winners of that competition were – yup, you guessed it – Nixon Pang and Fiona Leung -- which is pretty much why they ended up with the lead roles in Book and the Sword (obviously that was the ‘grand production’ series from that year). Fiona I’m totally fine with, as she’s a pretty good actress and has always been on my favorites list in terms of actresses I like…but Nixon on the other hand – all I’m going to say is that I have no clue how he won that competition (I watched that competition close to 20 years ago, so I actually don’t remember much from it – hard to believe though that the other contestants were worse than Nixon? Maybe it’s time to pull that show out and re-watch it again….LOL).

    10. Wow, our discussion get long paragraph, he3x. Glad to read your comment and explanation, seems you're an expert of TVB and HKG entertainment :)

      Recreate Golden Era, do you mean that might happen in mid 90's era (post 5 Tigers left TVB)? Yes, I notice some low-promoted actors like Gallen Lo, Bobby Au Yeung, Francis Ng, Michael Tao had been upgraded to be male lead in 90's drama when TVB started losing of potential Siu Sangs. Even "those veterans" still sticking around to shoot tv series until now. They have good acting skill but IMO they have no star power, something that 5 Tigers plus Chow Yun Fat, Ray Lui, Leon Lai, Deric Wan, Frankie Lam had, sounds unfair indeed.

      TVB management became worst in 90 period to date? Thanks for your perspective, no surprise TVB be different after golden era. Agree, some TVB drama that had aired and produced by "new" producer are far from impressive. Yeah, Chong WK-Amy W-Nelson C and 1 more Leung Choi Yuen produce many series lately even grand production or anniversary drama. It's difficult to find an ok quality of current series, maybe our standard is too high, LOL

      Lee Siu Wah, honestly don't know about his TVB series except BOGAE, he3x. One ATV wuxia also produced by Lee SW, The Undercover Agents a.k.a. Four Constables. Chan Bo Wah, kinda familiar name...including Cheung Wah Biu as former TVB script-writer.

      Thanks again for the info about behind the scene of LOBAS 87 casting. Don't know that TVB had star search program :D Oh, Nixon Pang, my bad to mention Nelson Pang, some HKG or TW artists have different English name, Benny Mok or Max Mok, Noel Leung or Vivien Leung, Alan Luo or Show Luo, he3x make me headache...Book and Sword 1987 case, TVB was so brave to cast "new blood" as male lead, such important role that could determine the series outcome. No wonder Book & Sword '87 flopped, most of wuxia fans never recommended this version as THE BEST despite had well done script.

      Just wondering, why TVB stop to release their old series in DVD format? The last DVD that I bought was The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung 1984 (Eng sub version).

    11. @Anonymous: Hope you’re ok with reading long paragraphs, as I tend to get a bit long-winded when talking about this kind of stuff… ;0) (Just a word of warning that this response will be a LONG one as well, so be prepared….LOL…).

      Thanks for the compliment! Though I wouldn’t really consider myself an ‘expert’ persay….it’s just that I’ve been following the HK entertainment industry (and TVB) for a long time and was ‘exposed’ to it even before I was born, so it’s hard for it not to be a part of my life. There are definitely a lot of things I don’t know still and my memory isn’t always that great – luckily though, I’m pretty organized so it’s easier for me to pull information about people / things when I need it. :0)

      In terms of ‘recreating the golden era’, I was actually referring to the early 2000s period. I actually consider the late 90s one of TVB’s ‘peak eras’ – of course, that era might pale in comparisons to TVB’s ‘golden era’ in the 80s /early 90s, but it was still a pretty good time period where TVB produced a lot of great dramas / programs.

      Things actually truly started to go downhill around 2003/2004 when Run Run Shaw ‘unofficially’ turned over the reigns of the company to his wife Mona Fong -- that’s when things really started to change at TVB in terms of management ranks and also management style. Ms. Fong put some people in management positions who really don’t deserve to be in those positions and also made a lot of other changes that negatively impacted the company. The worst part though is Ms. Fong’s management style – she is notorious for being ‘stingy’ and a ‘tightwad’ when it comes to money, so when she took over, she ‘cut’ a lot of stuff that really shouldn’t have been cut (i.e. employee perks such as special dinners during holidays, the amount of ‘lucky money’ that employees used to get during CNY, etc.) – she held tight control over the finances and really worked hard to cut expenses…that’s why for the 10 years or so that she was ‘running the show’, TVB became increasingly cheap and even stopped doing some basic things such as filming their series on location in other countries like they used to do (just to give an example: for a major production like No Regrets, the production team wasn’t allowed to go to Mainland China to film because it’s too expensive – instead, they built a fake set inside TVB City and passed it off as the backdrop or they would film at a local HK location and use bad quality computer graphics to make it look like the real thing).

      Also, once Ms. Fong’s ‘people’ were in place in the management ranks, they started promoting artists who obviously were not as talented as the ones they had in the 80s/90s (to be honest, the management in the after 2000s era really didn’t have much eye for talent….they pretty much just promoted whoever they felt looked good or knew how to kiss up to them) – unfortunately, at the same time, they started ‘neglecting’ many of the veteran artists (those who had been around for ages – even before those management joined TVB), most of whom were way more talented than those that the management at that time favored. So in other words, the ‘politics’ got really bad….

    12. @Anonymous (continued from my previous response): To be honest, I actually don’t think that our standards (as audiences) are too high or that we’re overly picky – it’s just that we have more to be ‘critical’ about nowadays because the artists and productions overall just aren’t at the same level as they used to be. Back in the 80s and 90s, there were a lot of poor quality series as well, but we were more willing to overlook certain flaws because 1) we could truly see the effort that was being put into every production, as TVB took things more seriously back then, and 2) there was an abundance of talented actors/actresses back then who had the ability to hook us in to the series they were in, to the point that even if the plot/storyline was flawed, it wasn’t as obvious. Nowadays, the acting talent isn’t there and the scripts suck most of the time, so the combination ends up being lethal….

      There are actually quite a few great scriptwriters who used to work for TVB, but unfortunately, most of them already left…probably the best scriptwriter they have left now is Au Kwoon Ying (which is perhaps why she is involved in the scriptwriting for almost every major production?) – but even she has been a hit and miss in recent years when it comes to quality scripts (probably because she has huge workload due to lack of scriptwriters and is stretched too thin?).

      LOL…you’re welcome. Not sure how many people knew about the casting thing with Book and the Sword (though it’s all public information, just that nowadays very few people pay attention to the older series). I vaguely recall that there was a reason why TVB decided to go that route with that particular series, but can’t remember right now – I may have to go back and pull the old magazines I have from that year, as I remember there were quite a few articles about it due to the series being a grand production. It’s really a shame though that Book and Sword 1987 version flopped overall because personally, from a casting and script perspective, that was my favorite adaptation of that particular story – with the exception of Nixon Pang, everyone else in that series was great, the script was well-written, and the series overall was well-produced.

    13. @Anonymous (last part of my response): Haha…sounds to me like you’re a fellow TVB series collector? I totally understand what you mean about TVB not releasing the older series on DVD – in fact, I had asked that exact same question a few years ago. Though I never received a direct answer from TVB (of course they are not going to reveal the true reasons), I have my own reasoning as to why they stopped doing it – my guess is that 1) the older series are less popular than the newer ones, as TVB’s audience pool has shifted quite a bit over the past few decades and there are more ‘after 90s’ and even ‘after 2000s’ audiences who are only familiar with the current series – I mean, let’s face it, how many audiences nowadays care to watch series from the 70s / 80s / early 90s? It’s all about what’s ‘hot’ and ‘popular’ right now....; 2) the whole piracy thing with TVB series undoubtedly had a hand in it – I’m sure there were people probably taking the newer series that aired on Jade Channel in HK, dubbing them onto discs (it’s easy to do now with all the advancements in technology), then sending them overseas to their friends and family to watch…in order to combat this, TVB probably decided to release the newer series right away (which I assume is also the reason why they started airing the new series overseas at the same time as they did in HK – I’m a long-time subscriber to TVB’s satellite channel here in the U.S. and I can tell you for sure that TVB only started airing the new series simultaneously here about 3-4 years ago…in the past, we used to have to wait a year to watch the series on TV or wait for it to come out on DVD, which could take months).

      Given the above, I highly doubt that TVB is going to release any more older series – as it stands currently, there is already no point for them to release their new series on DVD anymore since majority of audiences either can watch on TV or on the Internet. And since the ‘market’ (meaning audience pool) for the older series is very very small, there’s even less incentive for them to do it. Case in point – for the past 20 years, I’ve bought almost all my TVB series from the same DVD shop (probably one of the few shops you’ll find nowadays that actually sells ORIGINAL versions of TVB series rather than bootleg versions) and the owner of the shop actually tells me a lot of firsthand information about the business. He told me that out of all the customers who buy TVB series from his shop, I’m the only one who is actually interested in the older series – most customers go in there looking for the newer series…but even so, nowadays with all the bootleg versions and prevalence of the internet, even the newer series don’t sell well (though I don’t agree with it, I can understand why people would go that route… after all, why fork out $20 to $50 on the original DVD version of the series when people can get a bootleg version for like $5?? Or better yet, watch the series for free on the Internet?). Looks like there aren’t very many TVB series collectors out there anymore – you and I are probably one of the few last ones….

    14. No worries, I really enjoy your long paragraph, he3x. As TVB oldies fans I'm curious to know why TVB series quality constantly decline until now. I got the point after read your opinion.

      Au Koon Ying, she is one of producer of the ongoing TITS II, not impressed to watch first three eps except the setting location in London :p Again, younger gens are very eager to watch this kind of drama who basically only sell about romance, love triangle, etc.

      Thank u very much for all your informations about TVB, hopefully you don't mind if I have many questions to ask later :)

  2. Thanks for posting and translating the article. I never really knew her name but I knew her (and the characters that she played). Was sad when I heard she passed away.

    Mingpao made a great tribute article to her.

    Suen Jeh, RIP.

    1. @fangorn: You're welcome!

      Suen Jeh will definitely be missed by both the HK entertainment industry as well as the audiences who had the privilege to watch her performances (regardless of whether we knew her name or not).

      Rest in peace, Suen Jeh!

  3. I didn't no Suen Jeh pasted away. She was such a great veteran actress. Her motherly roles were definitely very memorable. Especially in Files of Justice and Detective Investigation. It's such a way that she didn't film series after the 90s? Never really know why she did that.

    1. @sport3888: My apologies again for such a late response (better late than never, I guess?).

      Anyway, to answer your question about why Suen Jeh stopped filming series in the mid-90s…actually, by coincidence, I happened to re-read the interview she did with Mingpao Magazine a few years before she died (this was around the time when she won the HKFA Best Supporting Actress award). In that interview, Suen Jeh stated the reason why she left TVB – she actually didn’t want to, as she still had affinity with TVB (after all, she had worked for them for 24 years) and they were actually quite sincere with their contract renewal terms (which shows they valued her). She pretty much said that it was a rash decision that she truly regretted making – at the time, she was thinking about starting a business (her vegetarian restaurant), but then TVB approached her with contract renewal – in talking to her husband about it, he said that he anticipated she will likely choose returning to TVB to film series over doing other things….because of her husband’s words and out of defiance, Suen Jeh decided not to renew her contract….