Back in July, I wrote a post entitled “TVB’s midnight timeslot series” (read it here). Well, it’s now September and due to some recent things that transpired, I felt the need to do this follow up post.
First….is it just me or has the ‘hype’ surrounding TVB’s midnight timeslot waned? Does anyone know which series TVB is airing in that timeslot right now? (the answer is Time Before Time in case you haven’t heard) I don’t blame you if you don’t because the Media sure didn’t ‘talk about’ it as much as they did the earlier series in that timeslot. Why? Not the Media’s fault (for once…lol) by any means. Rather, the problem lies with TVB’s poor choice of subsequent series lineup, resulting in them not being able to keep up the momentum that had started with the airing of The Greed of Man in that timeslot. Actually, this problem of TVB making stupid decisions is not new -- in fact, it’s such a common issue with them that they’ve actually become notorious for it over the past decade. I mean, for a station that has been in existence for 48 years and is pretty much the only local option for ordinary Hong Kongers to watch free TV programming, TVB’s lack of proper decision-making ability is appalling! The complaint over the years that TVB does not know how to properly utilize opportunities that stare them right in the face, but rather, they only know how to employ 24/7 in-your-face promotional tactics without regard for quality or value, is indeed very valid. The way they handled the midnight timeslot series thing is yet another example of this.
In my earlier post about the midnight timeslot, I had informally given TVB a few suggestions on what they SHOULD HAVE aired following The Greed of Man that would’ve allowed them to maintain the ‘hype’ and ‘momentum’ they had gained. Well, let me lay it out more clearly. If I were the person responsible for putting together the midnight timeslot schedule, here’s what I would’ve done: instead of airing The Justice of Life and The Final Verdict (2 great series for the record, but not ‘the best of the best’), the series I would’ve put in the line-up after TGOM is Looking Back in Anger -- um, hello, given this series’ popularity as well as impact on society and the fact that it has been hailed as one of TVB’s best productions of all-time -- well, to me, this is a NO-BRAINER! (In my previous post, I actually gave my ‘speculations’ for why TVB decided not to air this series). Then after that I would’ve aired another one of TVB’s greatest productions of all-time: Blood of Good and Evil (if LBIA was TVB’s best series to come out of the 80s era, then BOGAE is surely their best series to come out of the 90s era!!) – again, this is also a NO-BRAINER. With those 2 series alone, TVB would’ve had it made, as there are many many audiences who either haven’t seen these 2 series despite hearing such great things about them (probably because they were born after these series aired or they didn’t ‘follow’ TVB back then) or audiences who have seen these series but love them so much that they would jump at the opportunity to re-watch. Personally, I fall into the latter category – despite the fact that I’ve re-watched both series more times than I can count AND I own both series as part of my TVB series collection, I have absolutely no problem pulling up a chair and doing nothing but stare at the TV screen for the hour or so that the series is on.
After both of those awesome series, next in my line-up would probably be The Breaking Point (another one of my favorites that I’ve watched a gazillion times), which, coincidentally, TVB is actually re-airing right now during the weekends here on their U.S. satellite channels [sidenote: I’ve got to say that whoever puts together the lineup for TVB’s overseas satellite channels is much smarter than their counterpart in HK…lol]. TBP was a hugely popular series at the time it aired and rightfully so given the awesome cast and acting (though in my opinion, there were definitely issues with the script/story, but taken as a whole, it’s not hard to overlook those flaws). Then, to give audiences a ‘break’ from all the heavy, serious dramas (which I personally don’t feel is necessary but fine), I would choose a light-hearted comedy to air. Actually, from what I read, it sounded like this was TVB’s original intention back after The Greed of Man aired (to give audiences a break by airing something less ‘heavy’). While that’s not a bad idea, unfortunately TVB picked the wrong series. If they wanted to air a Stephen Chow classic, they should’ve picked The Final Combat instead, as that series was the most representative of Stephen’s TVB career and was truly the series that shot him to stardom (plus he was the lead in that series whereas he was only supporting in The Justice of Life). Oh and let’s not forget that while Stephen did show a bit of his trademark ‘mo lei tou’ comedy style in TJOL, it was really in The Final Combat that it’s unleashed in full force – plus the series was unique in terms of being a ‘wuxia comedy’ (which was a rarity back then, since most of the wuxia dramas at the time were pretty serious).
Speaking of wuxia…..how many times have you heard audiences complain about the lack of true wuxia series the past 15 years? I, for one, hear that complaint every year and my response is always the same: TVB can’t make wuxia series like they used to – they lack the resources for one and two they lack the know-how (I’m talking about the ‘traditional’ skills and knowledge involved in choreographing complicated fight scenes and working with wiring, not the crappy, fake CGI stuff that they love to use nowadays). Of course, the fact that they no longer have the rights to remake Jin Yong’s works also doesn’t help (not that I would want another JY remake, as there have been way too many already, plus the remakes get worse every decade). In terms of program line-up though, to feed the wuxia series drought, I would’ve seized the opportunity to re-broadcast a few classic wuxia series in that timeslot -- anyone familiar with the old days of TVB would know that there are plenty of great wuxia series from the 80s to choose from – for example: Legend of the Condor Heroes, Return of the Condor Heroes, The New Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre, The Two Most Honorable Knights, etc. – all are good choices in terms of wuxia classics that were popular back in the day and absolutely well-made/produced (plus, judging from the comments I’ve heard over the years, it’s obvious that many of the newer generation audiences have not seen the JY remakes from the 80s – well, this would give them the opportunity to see why us old-timers keep praising the 80s remakes as ‘the best’).
If we go back to modern series, other great choices include: The Bund, Police Cadet ’84 as well as its sequel Police Cadet ’85 (don’t bother with the third and final installment, Police Cadet ’88, because it sucked), The Feud of Two Brothers, The Challenge of Life, Files of Justice, Detective Investigation Files, etc. I could keep going on forever on this topic actually (I’ve got plenty more ‘classics’ that I would definitely include in the lineup), but I think those of you reading this get my drift already.
In addition to airing all these series, the other thing I would’ve done is ‘poll the audience’ – meaning that I would send out a survey to audiences with the question: “Which classic series from the 80s/90s era do you most want to see re-broadcasted in the midnight timeslot?” (keyword here is ‘80s/90s era’ because unfortunately, everyone’s definition of ‘classic’ is different). This method sounds familiar, you say? Yes, very discerning! This is the exact thing that those ‘smart’ people over at HKTV did when they were preparing to launch their station last year – they put up a poll on their website and asked audiences to vote for which series (out of the 16 series they had produced) they wanted to watch first. As we all know, the outcome was that their political-themed series The Election came out on top. Originally, the plan was for HKTV to air their cop-themed series The Borderline as their debut series due to the tremendous reception the first episode had garnered months earlier during its ‘test run’ on Youtube. But last minute, they decided to do a poll instead (which is not surprising since HKTV has had heavy interaction with audiences from the getgo – much unlike TVB who doesn’t give a crap about what their audiences think/feel/want). I’m sure they were thinking that The Borderline would end up being the winner (so they could just move forward with original plan) but surprisingly (well, maybe not given that this was post-Occupy timeframe), their newest filmed series The Election ended up garnering the most votes (with The Borderline coming in at second place). So what did HKTV do? Well, this is where the ‘smart’ part kicks in (no, I didn’t use that word just because I felt like it): they decided to air both series simultaneously – The Election was aired first, debuting on the weekend, and The Borderline followed right after, debuting the following weekday [sidenote: for those wondering why The Election aired on a weekend, it’s because the series had just wrapped filming and there was still post-production work that needed to be done on it – by airing it once a week instead of every day, it gave the production team more time to complete the post-production]. So it ended up being a win/win situation for both sides: the audiences got their pick (The Election) and HKTV still got to move forward with their original plan (air The Borderline as debut series). See, it’s not that difficult to make audiences happy – so why can’t TVB get it right??
In any case, it’s obviously ‘too little too late now’, since TVB already lost their momentum with the midnight timeslot and who knows whether they will be able to gain it back (I highly doubt they can with the idiotic management team running the station currently). Such a shame! It’s sad how ‘not in tune’ TVB’s current management team is with their own programming and the station’s history / trends. My advice: change out this management team and get people in there who actually know what they are doing and can make proper decisions. Otherwise….well just take one look at ATV – seeing what happened to them should be enough motivation for TVB to want a competent management team in place that is capable of making wise decisions that actually benefit the station. I know it’s wishful thinking on my part but hey, I tried….