Sunday, July 5, 2015

TVB’s midnight timeslot series

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 ( 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 () and Sher Ng (吳詠) – 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), 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), 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), starring Alex Man (萬梓) and Stephen Chow (周星).  Though the series was produced by another of TVB’s ‘golden’ producers, Lau Ka Ho (劉家), 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) – 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) – 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) as well as co-star Spencer Leung (梁思) 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), Kenneth Tsang (), Roger Kwok (郭晉), Eugina Lau (劉美), Gallen Lo (羅嘉), Rebecca Chan (陳秀), Samuel Kwok (), 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).


  1. Hi, I found your blog from googling "Blood of Good and Evil". This would definitely be my choice of classic series to run. I'm so dismayed that yesasia are out of stock and I can't find it anywhere else. :(

    1. @Cee Bee: Welcome and thanks for posting!

      *high five* Blood of Good and Evil is actually my second choice of classic series to air (that's the series I hinted at in the last paragraph of my post). If Looking Back in Anger is the best modern series to come out of the 80s era, then I would have to say that Blood of Good and Evil is the best modern series to come out of the 90s era -- to me, BOGAE is a nearly flawless series, from the cast, acting, script, story, production value, etc. Those who haven't seen the series before are definitely missing out!

      Yea, unfortunately most of the old series from the 80s and early/mid 90s are hard to find now. If you live in HK, there's still the option to watch most of TVB's old series on their website (subscription based and limited to HK region only), but overseas, there are definitely fewer options. And who knows when TVB is going to re-broadcast the series.... :-(

    2. Thanks for the welcome. I absolutely agree with you with BOGAE being the best TVB drama of the 90s, there hasn't been anything of comparable standard of late. I love watching Deric Wan and Maggie Sui's characters relationship develop. Yee Ming's fiery character was a perfect complement to Hou Nam's cool character and I loved every scene they were in together. Diane's timid personality pales in comparison.

    3. @Cee Bee: You're welcome! :-)

      I love Deric and Maggie in BOGAE -- they've become my favorite TVB couple from the 90s era because of their awesome chemistry in that series! Definitely agree that every single scene these two were in together was absolutely enjoyable.

      Oh and every time I talk about BOGAE, I have to mention the ending because it is one of the few great TVB endings that is memorable, well-done, and not cheesy (not to mention the high emotional factor). Despite the many times that I have re-watched BOGAE, I cry every single time during the ending, starting with the part where Hou Nam discovers that Yee Ming lost her vision (because of the bullet she took for him) all the way to the last scene where she trips, he helps her up, and they hug. And the dialogue in that last scene was amazing too -- when Hou Nam asks Yee Ming why she didn't tell him about her lost vision and what would've happened if he didn't remember their house in England, to which she replies that she would've continued to wait for him until she's old, until she heart-wrenching yet so bittersweet! Needless to say, I'm full-fledged bawling by this time! Absolutely awesome series!!

    4. I've seen many series with Maggie in it and she very rarely has a happy ending. She either dies in some pitiful way (LBIA, Kim Mo Tuk Ku kow Bai, Breaking Point), has her heart broken (HSDS '86, Bing Kuen, Silken hands) or goes to jail (Conscience).

      At least in BOGAE, she ends up with the love of her life even though she never sees him again. That ending is a real tear jerker but I also thought the scene in which she protects Hou Nam from being shot was very poignant. When she collapses, the first and only person she looks at is Hou Nam despite being engaged to the doctor. The relief in her voice as she realises that her beloved Hou Nam is unharmed.... sniff!

      I note that you like Jacky Cheung too. Wasn't 花花公子 so appropriate when he went to give Yee Ming a lift when she rushed out of his house? :D

    5. @Cee Bee: So true about Maggie! And if we look specifically at her collaborations with Deric (whether as a couple or not), the only one where he doesn’t end up harming her in some way and they end up together is BOGAE -- his character kills hers in both LBIA and TBP and doesn’t he cause her to go to jail in Conscience (I skipped some parts of that series so don’t really remember)?

      Ah, yes that scene was poignant too (of course there were many other great scenes as well throughout the series). The acting was so perfect in that scene too – so natural and flawlessly executed! Definitely another tear-jerking moment! Oh and another memorable scene for me was Hou Nam and Yee Ming’s break up scene – Deric and Maggie took the emotional factor to another level entirely….there might not have been a whole lot going on in that scene, but from their actions, expressions, and the few things they said to each other, I could almost feel their pain and conflicting emotions (love, disappointment, anger, etc.) right through the screen (lol).

      Haha…yes, I’m a huge Jacky Cheung fan. And yes, that song was appropriate during that scene…lol. Actually, I really like all of the song choices and background music for the series (including the theme song, which I absolutely LOVE – definitely one of my all-time favorite duets!), all so appropriate and blend in so nicely with the series. Again, this series is great from all aspects, truly deserving of its ‘classic’ title! This kind of quality series is what the old TVB was about (unfortunately can’t say the same about TVB now).

  2. I can't believe they made Maggie's character sacrifice herself again in the same way with Breaking Point as with BOGAE! Did they run out of ideas? Yes, Maggie's character ends up in jail because of murder in Conscience and Deric's character no longer loves her.

    Outstanding soundtrack in BOGAE too. Love both of the Anthony Lun compositions including the title track.

  3. BOGAE is simply one of best contemporary drama that had been produced by TVB. This flawless drama is so memorable, perfect ending, great cast and love the soundtrack including Western pop songs, The End of Innocence, Right Here Waiting, As Tears Go By, etc. Such brilliant producer and script-writer as well! Hou Nam-Yee Ming :)

  4. Have you seen this?

    Very exciting!

    1. @Cee Bee:  Yes, definitely saw that article and also watched that episode of the show too!  It was super-exciting indeed, especially since they were also able to get Chan Po Wah (the scriptwriter for BOGAE) on the show as well – with her as well as Deric and Maggie (one of my all-time favorite on-screen couples by the way), it was an absolutely awesome BOGAE reunion moment!!!

    2. I watched it and shed a few tears when he revealed himself, reminded her twice that she was Chai Ho Nam's wife when she fell about laughing and crying, confessed that he missed her and would do anything without regrets for her. It is very clear that despite no real life romance (as well as being married already!), Maggie holds a special place in his heart in a way that no other woman does. Choosing to re-enact the final scene in BOGAE is very sacred to him and what followed could have easily been an ambiguous declaration of something more than a unique friendship.
      Also loved how Chan Po Wah and Benz played along and sneaked a glance at her during 一生何求 and 靑蛙公主.