This article was actually written back in September 2013 and I had actually already posted up Part 1 not too long after the original article was published, however, before I got a chance to post up Part 2, I got sidetracked with the whole free TV license thing. Now that things have settled a bit, I finally found some time to translate Part 2 – therefore, I figured it would be best to ‘re-post’ Part 1 so that people can read both parts together….besides, there are some important ‘disclaimers’ that I wrote when I posted Part 1 initially that also apply to Part 2 – this way, I don’t have to repeat myself for Part 2…LOL.
Anyway….those who didn’t get a chance to read Part 1 can do so now. Part 2 will follow right after this…
Here’s an article that I came across earlier in the week. It’s kind of a ‘two-parter’ special feature of sorts where Singpao (newspaper in HK) counts down the Top 10 highest rated and lowest rated TVB series from the past 15-20 years (the article doesn’t specify the dates, but based on the content, looks like the oldest series is from 1992).
I actually didn’t get the chance to ‘vet’ this article yet to see how ‘credible’ the information is – therefore, please take this article for what it is and don’t get too worked up if certain series are not on the list and you feel they should be (and vice versa). I personally won’t vouch for the information in this article, but I will say this – I definitely have heard about a few of the series on the list having high or low ratings in the past, so there weren’t too many ‘shockers’ for me when I first read the article (for example: The Intangible Truth being on the ‘lowest rated’ series list and Square Pegs being on the ‘highest rated’ series list are both accurate for sure, as the star of both series -- Roger Kwok -- had talked about this several years ago on his Be My Guest interview with Stephen Chan).
The one part I question about this article is the timeframe – I wish that it were more clearly defined. It would make sense to say that the series were all from the past 15 years or so (late 90s to post-2000s), but then they threw in the series Key Man in there, which is from 1992 (which is why I threw the ‘20’ in the title of this post) – true, that was the only early 90s series on the list, but still, makes me wonder about the gap in timeframe.
Anyway, one thing to note – both the ‘highest’ and ‘lowest’ lists only count the ‘top ten’ series….so just because a series didn’t make the list doesn’t mean that it had good or bad ratings – it just didn’t get a ‘placement’ on the list based on mathematical calculation. I emphasize this point because some people may misread the title and think that this is one of those ‘highest/lowest of all time’ type countdown, which is definitely NOT the case – there are actually NO 1980s or early 1990s series on this list at all. [As a sidenote: If you would like an idea of what the top rated TVB series were from the 1970s to early 1990s (1991 or so), check out this particular blog post that I wrote several years back – it’s a recap of the ‘top rated series countdown’ that TVB did themselves during one of their Anniversary Galas (complete with a video excerpt from the gala itself!): TVB 28th Anniversary Gala]
Back to the article…..part 1 will cover the ‘highest rated’ series while Part 2 will cover the ‘lowest rated’ series. (Again, both lists were put together by Singpao – I’m not too familiar with that particular newspaper, so not sure how ‘trustworthy’ it is…therefore, please don’t shoot me if the information is wrong….)
What are your thoughts on this list? Agree? Disagree? Shocked? Don’t care?
Top Ten HIGHEST Rated TVB Series
In recent years, there has been an obvious downward trend in the ratings for TVB series. Some of the criticisms towards TVB series that have arisen over the years include poor production quality, accusations of ‘copying’ ideas from other series, plot and story arcs being too ‘heavy taste’, etc. – the result is that TVB series have lost a lot of their previous luster and appeal. In addition, the rapid advancement of technology such as the Internet -- which gives audiences the choice of viewing series online rather than on television -- plus TVB’s recent switch to a different ratings measurement company, all contributed to majority of TVB’s series not being able to reach the 30 point mark in the past year. In fact, it has gotten to the point where even TVB’s own ‘TV King’ and ‘TV Queen’ winners aren’t able to pull the station out of its ratings rut, as evidenced by the disastrous ratings that both Bullet Brain (神探高倫布) [starring 3-time TV King winner Wayne Lai (黎耀祥)] and Beauty at War (金枝慾孽貳) [starring 2-time TV Queen winner Sheren Tang (鄧萃雯)] garnered. With all these factors combined together, it’s no wonder that so many people have called into question the relevancy of TVB’s series in recent years. It wasn’t until this past summer when the airline-themed Triumph in the Skies II (衝上雲霄II) finally aired that TVB was able to regain their lost ground in the ratings department – unfortunately though, since the series was a sequel to their hit series from 10 years ago and brought many of the characters back from the original series, it can be said that the ratings increase was partially due to the popularity of the original.
Given the recent ratings situation, we (Singpao) decided to put together a list of TVB’s highest rated series from the past 15 years or so to ‘reminisce’ together with our readers. However, one interesting thing to note is that even the number one highest rated HK series on the list could not reach the ‘ratings peak’ that Korean drama Jewel in the Palace (大長今) created when it aired on TVB back in 2005.
Rankings and summary below:
1st PLACE: Square Pegs (戇夫成龍)  – averaged 37 points, peaked at 46 points
Set in the late Qing / early Republic era, this series aired at the end of 2002 going into early 2003 and starred Roger Kwok (郭晉安), Jessica Hsuan (宣萱), Raymond Cho (曹永廉), Winnie Yeung (楊婉儀), Yuen Wah (元華), etc. Not only did the series garner the highest overall ratings (based on calculation), it also proved to pay off greatly for the series’ lead actor Roger Kwok, as he won both the TV King and Favorite TV Male Character awards at that year’s (2003) Anniversary Gala for his performance, which catapulted him once again to the height of his career. In 2005, the sequel Life Made Simple (阿旺新傳) was made, which was set in the modern era and re-assembled many of the same cast members from the original series – unfortunately though, the series was not able to achieve the type of record-setting success that its predecessor did.
2nd PLACE: Return of the Cuckoo (十月初五的月光)  – averaged 36 points, peaked at 46 points
At the mention of this series, the first thing most people will probably remember is Julian ‘Chilam’ Cheung’s (張智霖) character Brother Chor (初哥哥). Set against the backdrop of one of Macau’s most famous streets (Rua de Cinco de Outubro十月初五街), the main plot of the series revolved around both family love and romance.
In addition to setting ratings records at the time, the series also received quite a few awards, including the Best Serial Drama award from Taiwan’s APTV as well as various awards at TVB’s Anniversary Awards Gala, such as the ‘Favorite Television Character’ award for Chilam Cheung, Charmaine Sheh (佘詩曼), and Nancy Sit (薛家燕) [TN: the Favorite Character award back then was given out to as many as 10-15 artists in a given year] and also the ‘Favorite On-screen Partners – Drama Series’ award for Chilam and Charmaine.
The series also successfully cemented lead actress Charmaine Sheh’s ‘first line fadan’ status at TVB; at the same time, Chilam Cheung’s theme song for the series, Wishing Kwan Well (祝君好) became an instant hit and even today, enjoys a status as one of TVB’s most popular, ‘classic’ love ballads.
3rd PLACE: Armed Reaction 2 (陀槍師姐II)  – averaged 36 points, peaked at 47 points
Fans who enjoy watching the ‘magical’ chemistry between ‘golden’ pairing Bobby Au Yeung (歐陽震華) and Esther Kwan (關詠荷) can check out their latest collaboration Always and Ever (情逆三世緣) [which just finished airing on TVB]. But when it comes to recounting one of the most representative, ‘classic’ collaborations between these two, the Armed Reaction (陀槍師姐) franchise is definitely at the top of most audience’s lists. Set in the modern era, the first installment to this police comedy/drama franchise originally aired in 1998 to almost instant popularity, resulting in a sequel to be made in 2000 that not only reunited the entire original cast, it also continued the story exactly where the original left off. In an interesting twist, the ratings for the second installment far surpassed the original -- not only did the series break ratings records for franchised series, it also shattered the widely held notion that sequels are never as good as the originals. The franchise also expanded its reach into Taiwan at one point and was well-received there as well.
The characters in the series also left a deep impression with audiences – Esther Kwan’s Ngor Jeh and Joyce Tang’s (滕麗明) Sam Yue’ were especially memorable and can be considered both actresses’ most ‘representative’ performances.
4th PLACE: Time Before Time (大鬧廣昌隆)  – averaged 36 points, peaked at 46 points
Starring Gordon Lam (林家棟), Kathy Chow (周海媚), Florence Kwok (郭少芸), etc., this pre-modern ‘supernatural’ themed series premiered in 1997 with a plot that revolved around the romance between ‘Ah Gwong’ (Gordon) and a ‘ghost’ named ‘Siu Fu Yong’ (Kathy) who resides in an umbrella. Even though the series was technically a ‘ghost story’, the underlying message was actually about interpersonal relationships (whether between family, friends, lovers, etc.) – resulting in a story that resonated on an emotional level with audiences.
5th PLACE: Journey to the West (西遊記)  – averaged 36 points, peaked at 43 points
Starring Dicky Cheung (張衛健) in the lead role as the Monkey King, Journey to the West first premiered in 1996. In 1998, the series was rebroadcast on TVB’s Jade Pearl channel [TN: TVB’s English language channel] in both English and Cantonese – that same year, a sequel to the iconic series, Journey to the West II, debuted on TVB’s Jade channel, however this time around, Dicky’s starring role was replaced by fellow actor Benny Chan (陳浩民).
Journey to the West was an important series in many aspects, but one of its biggest ‘contributions’ was that it shot each of the main actors in the series to almost instant stardom, including ‘Monkey King Sun WuKong’ Dicky Cheung, ‘Tang Sanzang’ Kong Wah (江華), ‘Zhu Bajie’ Wayne Lai (黎耀祥), and ‘Sha Wujing’ Evergreen Mak (麥長青). The series proved to be immensely popular with audiences, especially the younger crowd – back when the series aired, audiences throughout HK could be heard repeating Dicky Cheung’s ‘golden phrase’ from the series: “Yo! Nothing to be afraid of!” [Yo！使乜驚呀！]
6th PLACE: Detective Investigation Files III (刑事偵緝檔案III)  – averaged 36 points, peaked at 44 points
When it comes to cop series, the entire Detective Investigation Files franchise can be counted as a ‘classic’ that was immensely popular with audiences back then and continues to be even now. Back in 1995, the first installment in the franchise debuted to stellar ratings, prompting a sequel to be filmed immediately and aired in December that same year, thereby making DIF the first franchise in TVB history to have both its original and sequel air within the same year. The 3rd installment of the franchise – the last one with the original cast from the first 2 installments -- aired in 1997 and broke ratings records. In addition, the DIF franchise also succeeded in cementing star Michael Tao’s (陶大宇) status as a lead actor – he also became especially popular amongst TVB’s female audiences, earning him the title of ‘housewife killer’ (a title he shared with fellow actor and close friend Bobby AuYeung 歐陽震華).
7th PLACE: The Key Man (巨人)  – averaged 36 points, peaked at 43 points
Out of the 10 series on this list, 1992’s The Key Man can be considered the one that dates back the longest. Many of the artists who participated in this series became ‘stars’ in their own right – amongst them including Alex Man (萬梓良), Louise Lee (李司棋), Idy Chan (陳玉蓮), Monica Chan (陳法蓉), Dicky Cheung (張衛健), Cutie Mui (梅小惠), etc. With its storyline surrounding the complicated love/hate relationships between several generations of 2 families, The Key Man can be considered a ‘model’ for classic, family conflict themed modern series. In addition, this series started the ‘trend’ of series that revolved around business world conflicts and battles amongst families – a theme that was pushed to its ultimate peak with TVB’s famous classic The Greed of Man (大時代), which aired later that year. This series can also be considered one of veteran actor Alex Man’s most representative works.
8th PLACE: War of the Genders (男親女愛)  – averaged 35 points, peaked at 50 points
Every time comedian Dayo Wong (黃子華) films a series for TVB, it almost always garners attention and becomes a hot discussion topic -- in this way, he is absolutely a ‘ratings guarantee’. In 2000, Dayo teamed up with Dodo Cheng (鄭裕玲), Marsha Yuen (原子鏸), Patrick Tang (鄧健泓), etc. in a situational comedy (sitcom) called War of the Genders that not only became an immensely popular ‘classic’, it also ‘smashed’ ratings records when it peaked at 50 points near the latter part of the series. War of the Genders was the first TVB series to reach the 50 point mark in ratings and shares the record as being one of only 4 series that have been able to achieve this so far. [TN: The other series were: Korean drama Jewel in the Palace (大長今), which aired on TVB in 2005, 2008’s Moonlight Resonance (溏心風暴之家好月圓), and 2009’s Beyond the Realm of Conscience (宮心計)]. In addition, this was one of the few TVB series that was also turned into a stage musical not long after its successful television run, thereby allowing audiences to enjoy the hilarious antics of the cast and the humorous story all over again.
9th PLACE: Moonlight Resonance (溏心風暴之家好月圓)  – averaged 35 points, peaked at 50 points
Billed as the ‘sequel’ to 2007’s grand production Heart of Greed (溏心風暴), Moonlight Resonance went down in the history books as one of HK’s highest rated series ever. With its huge ensemble cast comprised of TV veterans such as Ha Yu (夏雨), Louise Lee (李司棋), Susanna Kwan (關菊英), Michelle Yim (米雪), Lee Heung Kam (李香琴) as well as popular idols such as Raymond Lam (林峯), Moses Chan (陳豪), Linda Chung (鍾嘉欣), Tavia Yeung (楊怡), etc., the series not only lived up to the ‘success’ of its predecessor Heart of Greed, it also far surpassed it in terms of ratings and popularity. Further to re-assembling most of the original cast from the first installment, the sequel also boasted the addition of popular artists such as future 3-time TV King Wayne La, Kate Tsui (徐子珊), etc.
10th PLACE: Beyond the Realm of Conscience (宮心計)  – averaged 35 points, peaked at 50 points
Due to its ancient series genre and palace conflict theme, Beyond the Realm of Conscience has often been compared to TVB’s 2004 hit palace series War and Beauty (金枝慾孽) since it debuted 4 years ago. At TVB’s Anniversary Awards ceremony in 2009, the battle for TV Queen ended up coming down to a heated race between BTROC’s Tavia Yeung (楊怡) and veteran actress Sheren Tang (鄧萃雯), who was nominated for her phenomenal performance in Rosy Business (巾幗梟雄) [coincidentally, Sheren had also starred in War and Beauty back in 2004 and was widely viewed as having been ‘robbed’ of the TV Queen award that year for her stellar portrayal of Concubine Yu in the series]. In the end, Sheren triumphed by winning the coveted TV Queen award for her portrayal of Fourth Mistress in Rosy Business while Tavia took home the Favorite Female TV Character award for her performance in BTROC.