I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for quite some time but just never got around to it. Well, better late than never, right?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple months, I’m sure you probably know that TVB became the “talk of the town” when they decided to re-broadcast their 1992 series The Greed of Man (大 時代) in their midnight timeslot starting in late April. Produced and written by award-winning film screenwriter / director / producer Wai Ka Fai (韋家輝) back when he worked for TVB (he left the station in the mid-90s to concentrate primarily on movies), the series is considered a ‘godly’ classic. During its re-broadcast (which ended in June), the series garnered record-setting ratings, the highest ever for any series aired in that timeslot. Outside of the ratings though, what’s worth mentioning the most is the “media sensation” phenomenon that the series created during its run – practically every day during its re-broadcast, there was some type of article / interview / tidbit in the media about the series and/or its cast (no, I’m not exaggerating – go back and do a simple search of the series’ name and see for yourself). I mean, the ‘sensation’ got to the point where the HK media even located the former child actors who portrayed the 4 Fong siblings as well as their adult counterparts -- including retired former actresses Carol Yeung (楊羚) and Sher Ng (吳詠紅) – for interviews and to participate in various events. Of course, that all pales in comparisons to what the rebroadcast did for former TVB actor David Siu (邵仲衡), who had already retired from the industry back in the 90s and became a successful business man during that time -- he himself said that the number of interviews he did as well as the money he made from all the event appearances and projects/job offers he received the past 3 months alone was way more than he got during his 8 years (from 1987 to 1995) working for TVB! Oh and let’s not forget the “exclusive” interview that NowTV did with the series’ female lead, former actress Yammie Nam (藍潔瑛), who was able to tell the world for the first time through her own words that she is doing perfectly fine despite all the reports of her unstable mental condition throughout the past 2 decades. Not only did the rebroadcast of the series re-attract ‘old-timer’ fans who had pretty much already given up on TVB, it also gave a new generation of audiences a glimpse into what TVB was like back during the ‘good old days’.
I’m sure the irony is not lost on anyone that a series from 23 years ago being re-broadcast in the midnight timeslot (for the 3rd time, if the reports by the media are to be believed) could be more popular than even TVB’s currently airing series (and, I dare say, more popular than almost all of TVB’s series from the past decade). It goes to show how much the quality of TVB’s series has deteriorated – audiences would rather watch a well-made series from 20 years ago than waste their time on today’s poorly produced fare. Even TVB realizes this, which is why they’re trying to keep the momentum going by continuing to air more hugely popular classic series in the midnight timeslot.
After The Greed of Man finished airing in June, TVB decided to air another popular favorite, 1989’s anniversary series The Justice of Life (他來自江湖), starring Alex Man (萬梓良) and Stephen Chow (周星馳). Though the series was produced by another of TVB’s ‘golden’ producers, Lau Ka Ho (劉家豪), and is definitely well-deserving of the ‘classic’ title (plus we’ve got ‘comedy king’ Stephen Chow in there with his ad-lib dialogue), it is nowhere near the level of The Greed of Man in terms of production value and social impact. Don’t get me wrong – The Justice of Life is a great series and also one of my favorites (it’s pretty much the only Alex Man series that I like, since his regular acting style has never been my cup of tea)….but as a long-time TVB follower, I’m well aware that there are other series more on the level of The Greed of Man that TVB could have aired right afterwards, especially if their intention is to ‘keep the momentum’ going with the high ratings and ‘media sensation’ impact. If I were the person making the decision on the management team, my choice would’ve been to air 1989’s Looking Back in Anger (義不容情) – another one of producer Wai Ka Fai’s masterpieces and also the best modern series to come out of the 80s era (not to mention it was TVB’s highest rated series of all time up until the 2000s era plus the widespread impact the series had). To me, airing the widely popular LBIA in the midnight timeslot next was a ‘no brainer’ (and according to reports, LBIA was actually on the list of series being considered by TVB management when they met last month to discuss what to air next). So then why was TJOL chosen instead of LBIA? At first I thought perhaps they didn’t want to air another Wai Ka Fai series so quickly after TGOM – but that argument is no longer valid, since TVB recently announced that they will be airing 1987’s The Final Verdict (誓不低頭) – another Wai Kai Fai production -- in the midnight timeslot after TJOL finishes. And from the looks of it, TVB doesn’t intend to air LBIA at all, as there was no mention of the series at all in recent reports (in the latest reports, TVB management said that they are working on arranging for popular 90s series such as Detective Investigation Files and Files of Justice to air in the midnight timeslot in the near future). Based on all this, my ‘educated guess’ for why TVB won’t rebroadcast LBIA is because the series’ star Felix Wong (黃日華) as well as co-star Spencer Leung (梁思浩) are both on TVB’s blacklist. Well, I guess I shouldn’t care so much, since it’s the current audience’s loss, not mine.
Anyway, I also wanted to comment on the next ‘midnight timeslot’ series, The Final Verdict. The series boasts a talented cast that includes Adam Cheng (鄭少秋), Kenneth Tsang (曾江), Roger Kwok (郭晉安), Eugina Lau (劉美娟), Gallen Lo (羅嘉良), Rebecca Chan (陳秀珠), Samuel Kwok (郭鋒), just to name a few. However, for those who have never seen this series, a word of warning: it’s definitely NOT a series for the faint-hearted so watch with caution. The series is actually much ‘darker’ and way more ‘tragic’ than The Greed of Man (in fact, I would consider TGOM ‘tame’ in comparisons – no exaggeration). In addition to The Final Verdict’s ‘infamous’ murder spree scene (more on this later), there’s also a gang-rape scene, a tragic suicide scene, and an intense murder scene where one of the main characters burns to death after his office is set on fire (and this is just scratching the surface – there are more tragic scenes, but these are the ones I remember most). I first watched this series back in the late 80s and it left such an impression on me that all these years, I have not been able to muster up the courage to watch it again. The most infamous scene (and the crux of the entire series) occurs in episode 6 where Kenneth Tsang’s character Luk Kwok Wing (yes, I still remember his character’s name) goes on a crazy murder spree, killing everyone in his uncle’s family with a meat cleaver (and nearly killing his own son too). That scene was actually based on a real life murder case that occurred in Macau back then and it was so realistically filmed that it was definitely chilling to watch – in fact, TVB was actually fined by the Broadcasting Authority back when the series aired because of the disturbing nature of the scene (we all know that Wai Ka Fai is known for ‘pushing the envelope’ when it comes to his productions, which is why he’s probably better suited for movies where he can do whatever he wants, whereas with television, he’s forced to hold back due to the restrictions from broadcasting rules).
According to the latest reports, TVB has already confirmed that when they air The Final Verdict later this month, they are going to cut out the murder spree scene from the broadcast because they don’t want audiences to be disturbed by the intensity of that scene. Um, does this mean that they are going to cut out all the other ‘disturbing’ scenes in the series too? If so, then they might as well just not air the series period!! Honestly, TVB is being way too conservative – it’s 2015 for heaven’s sakes, not 1988!! Besides, they are airing the series in the midnight timeslot during the weekdays, not during the ‘prime’ family hour golden timeslot like they did back in the day, so I don’t know what the heck they are worried about. While it’s true that the murder spree scene is intense and graphic, it’s actually relatively ‘mild’ compared to what you would see in a movie in theaters (again, the limits of television) – most importantly though, that scene is pivotal and is the catalyst for what happens in the rest of the series (in other words, the premise of the series would not exist if that scene were cut). If they are worried about audiences reacting negatively to the series, then why even bother airing it? Well, one thing’s for sure – if TVB is going to air the ‘censored’ version of the series, then I definitely don’t care to re-watch it!
So, for all of you TVB old-timers out there....if you were given the choice to decide which series to air next in the midnight timeslot, which series would you choose? (P.S. I actually have another choice in terms of classic series to air in addition to LBIA, but I will hold off on mentioning it for now, though I'm sure most of you probably already know which series).