Lots of TV news this past week! Below are some of the highlights of TV industry related news that I read about this past week. Again, this is not an all-inclusive list and most of this is being written from memory so there's a huge possibility I missed some stuff. If there is anything I missed that you would like to know about, feel free to put in the comments and I'll either respond there or put it in the next post if I remember….
HMV (China 3D)
- Hmv (China 3D) chairman Stephen Shiu Jr. held a press conference last week announcing his intention to foray into TV series production (for those who are not familiar, his company currently produces movies and also music). Stephen Shiu Jr. said that he is interested in doing web series because that's the largest media platform aside from movies – with movies, audiences spend 2 hours watching and that's it, but with TV series, they could spend 30 hours or more chasing a series. He will be entering the web series arena (like pretty much every other HK production company out there nowadays) and his series will be available in OTT format as well as via phones and tablets. One thing that Stephen Shiu Jr. said during an interview which I thought was interesting (and I'm assuming a huge reason why so many production companies nowadays are going into the "web series" market) is that he prefers web series because there are little to no limitations on what they are allowed to do, versus "regular" TV series (i.e. the kind TVB films) where target audience is more family-oriented and so they are limited by strict broadcast regulations. He also said whether they continue on the series production route will depend on whether this first series is successful.
- HMV's first series has already been filmed and is currently available on their platform HMVOD. The series is called "Hong Kong West Side Stories" and will be 13 episodes at 30 minutes each. Louis Cheung will star in the series as will Myolie Wu (in what is touted as her first official "comeback" since giving birth). I still need to read up more on the series so not a whole lot of information to share at this point other than the series is a comedy and Louis plays an "animal whisperer" (someone who communicates with animals).
Fantastic Television (i-Cables free TV arm)
- Awhile back ago, when ATV made its "comeback" as an internet TV station, one of the highly-touted "recruits" to join their venture is former TVB GM and current CRHK chairman (CEO? I'm bad with the terminology) Stephen Chan, who will be hosting the 2018 version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire for the station. Nowadays, where Stephen Chan goes, we are likely to see his buddy Wong He as well, which is why I was not surprised in the least to see Wong He also attend ATV's launch party (filling in as host for Stephen Chan, who fell ill and couldn't attend) and confirming that he will be hosting a weekly program for them. Well, it turns out that in addition to hosting programs for ATV, Wong He will have another responsibility soon – he was invited by the new COO of Operations for Fantastic Television (i-Cable's free-to-air TV arm that "quietly" launched last year) to be Creative Director overseeing production of their TV series (OTT format of course). The announcement hasn't officially been made yet and while Wong He alluded to it in a recent FB post, it is pretty much still a "rumor" at this point (and apparently, not everyone at Fantastic Television knows, as HK01 interviewed someone who works there and they only know Wong He is joining but don't know what capacity).
- Personally, I'm not too surprised, as Wong He has always been a talented (albeit opinionated) actor who obviously has his own ideas on how TV series should be produced (when he was with TVB, he was very vocal about stuff that he felt didn't make sense and had no problems approaching scriptwriters to "tweak" dialogue and such that didn't flow right). In the years since leaving TVB, Wong He has continued to film stuff (movies, TV series, hosting programs etc.) and took the leap into behind-the-scenes work as well, writing scripts and also directing/producing stuff (this is what I've gathered from his interviews the past couple years – I don't have any specifics on what types of projects he has been involved with though).
- It will be interesting to see what Fantastic Television's vision will be in terms of TV series with Wong He at the helm. Since they launched last year (to pretty much zero fanfare), they have pretty much been in the shadows will not much coverage about them in the media (I follow some non-mainstream media outlets and only hear of the programs they produced occasionally). I know they did produce a few series earlier on (I think they were idol-type series focused on love and relationships) but not sure if those series ever aired or whether they will continue in that direction in the future.
- Ok, this one is technically not related to ViuTV (at least not yet), but since the artist I'm writing about currently still "works" for ViuTV (well, at least he still attends various ViuTV functions) and the news has to do with one of their series, I figured this was the most appropriate place to put this.
- Earlier, when it was announced that former TVB producer Jonathan Chik (who has moved his career to Mainland) will be producing a brand new Mainland series with the cast from his 2011 TVB series "When Heaven Burns" (a series which fared dismally when it aired but was later pushed up by netizens as a "godly series"), there was much talk about the reunion between that series' main leads Charmaine Sheh, Moses Chan, and Kenny Wong. However, one lead's name is glaringly missing from this list: Bowie Lam. Of course, people immediately started wondering whether Bowie will be in the new series or not, since he was instrumental as one of the 3 male leads (and technically it wouldn't be a true WHB reunion without him). Well, according to HK01's interview with Bowie (which was in an article that came out early last week), Bowie will not be participating in Jonathan Chik's new series.
- When asked about the new series, Bowie said that Jonathan Chik never approached him about it (interesting though not entirely surprising). He said that even if Jonathan does approach him, he wouldn't be able to participate anyway because he will be producing and starring in a series of his own this year. Bowie said that his series is in its preparation stage right now with the script still being worked on – cast hasn't been decided yet, all he knows is that he himself will be in it. The series will be co-directed by 'fat ball' and '25', whom some of us here will recognize as the directors of the series that Bowie filmed for ViuTV earlier, "Margaret and David: Green Bean" – Bowie will serve as executive producer as well as main lead (not sure if he is writing the script too, as he didn't say specifically). Bowie said that he hopes the series will be able to air at the end of this year.
- I'm actually kind of excited because I was probably one of the few people who actually watched "Green Bean" and really liked it. I didn't really follow the production too closely at the time but I had heard there had been problems during filming because of discord between the series' producer / author of the books the series was based on and the directors/cast (@sport – since you know more about this than me, feel free to comment), so it looks like this series gives the directors and Bowie the chance to do what they had wanted to do with M&D but couldn't? I will definitely be keeping my ears open for more information on this.
- The big news last week (which I'm sure everyone knows by now) was that TVB held a press conference on 3/9 "officially" announcing the return of golden screenwriter Chan Po Wah (she wrote many great series but the one all of us fans remember the most is of course "Blood of Good and Evil"). Technically, this is "old" news because Po Wah Jeh had already indicated in previous interviews last year that she would be returning, it's just that she was still working on the script for her new series at the time so nothing official was confirmed yet. Based on those interviews, Po Wah Jeh will be returning for this one series only (as a favor for TVB) and will continue her career in Mainland (which has been very successful) once she's done.
- The name of the series is "Wonder Women" and it will be a comedy. Most of the cast had actually already been announced previously (male leads will be Raymond Wong and Pakho Chau) but TVB had (supposedly) kept the female lead top secret so they could announce on the day of the press con (more on this later). Of course, everyone knows by now that Miriam Yeung was cast as female lead and will be returning to film this series for TVB after a 17 year hiatus (her last series was 2001's A Taste of Love). Miriam will be pairing with Raymond in the series – this will be a reunion of sorts for them, as both of them collaborated previously in the movie Love Undercover. The interesting part is that Raymond's character in this series has the same name as his character in that movie (which to me is a sign that TVB is playing up the Raymond/Miriam reunion and using their previous collaboration as a gimmick to hype the series).
- Personally, I like Raymond – he has always been a solid actor in my book and was unfortunately under-utilized by TVB most of his career (I guess having a background in movies didn't help him much). From the looks of things, it looks like Raymond will FINALLY be first lead in this series given that he will be pairing with Miriam – but of course, this is TVB after all so who knows….it's pretty obvious that TVB is trying to promote Pakho big time so they could very well make him first lead and Raymond is just co-lead like usual.
- Speaking of Pakho – I watched the his interview with reporters at the press con on the news the other day and he actually said that he knew in advance that Miriam was cast as the lead on the female side. Normally this is no big deal, but the reason why I'm bringing it up here is because there was so much hoopla over TVB keeping the female lead a secret up until the press con – in fact, TVB made it quite clear that only the top execs and the series' producer/director knew who the female lead would be. Raymond said that he had no clue who the female lead would be and only found out when he saw Miriam walk onto the stage during the presscon (though he said that when he heard his character's name in the series, he did suspect for a brief moment that it could be Miriam but he didn't think it was possible given her status now). So if only the execs and producer were supposed to know and it's obvious no one else from the cast knew, how the hell did Pakho already know in advance? Sounds suspicious – either Pakho is claiming to know when he really didn't or TVB chose to share the information with him only, which tells me that in their eyes, they are considering Pakho as the lead who gets privy to "inside" information (this is the way TVB usually does things – when they have someone they consider a big enough lead filming for them, they will share all sorts of information with them…I honestly don't consider Pakho a "big name" but I guess TVB has different standards, as usual).
- Personally, I'm not excited at all. Chan Po Wah is one of my favorite scriptwriters and prior to this announcement, I truly was looking forward to her new series, but as soon as the cast was announced, all interest went out the window. I like Raymond, but not to the point where I would watch every series he is in. I'm not a fan of Miriam's and though I feel she is a competent enough actress, she's not someone I would be excited to watch. No comment on Pakho, since I didn't watch his previous series (though I heard that his performance was very wooden) but I've never been a fan of his singing either so him being in this series means nothing to me honestly. For me, the biggest reason to skip this series is because Tony Hung and Rebecca Zhu are also co-starring in this – both are artists I can't stand at all (I've taken to turning off the TV whenever I see Tony on screen now, lol). So yea, this one is a definite skip for me.
- By the way, for those who are wondering – yes, this is the series that Chan Po Wah had originally said she had "written especially for" Sheren Tang…and yes, this was the series that triggered all those rumors of Sheren returning to film for TVB again after the fallout they had earlier (I saw some websites back then "report" Sheren's return as "confirmed" and "for sure" which honestly pissed me off because I hate such irresponsible reporting – one of my biggest pet peeves is when people try to pass off rumors as "confirmed truth" without doing their due diligence to vet the info….how hard is it to put "rumored" in front of the information so people aren't misled??). Anyway, looks like whatever the original plan was for Sheren to star in this, those plans fell through – I'm not sure what happened (I've been trying to dig on both sides but so far haven't come up with anything). Reporters did ask Po Wah Jeh at the press conference about Sheren originally being slated to star in this series, but she gave a vague response, saying something along the lines of "Sheren and I will get the chance to collaborate again in the future". From Sheren's side, I know in earlier interviews (late last year), she had talked about being really excited to work with Po Wah Jeh again and all indication at that time was that the likelihood of her returning for the series was high. Since I like Po Wah Jeh, I am going to give her and TVB the benefit of the doubt in this instance and assume that Sheren couldn't participate due to schedule conflict (though of course I have no idea how it went down).
- One last interesting fact – in previous interviews, Po Wah Jeh had thrown around the idea of casting Sheren and also Francis Ng as the leads for this series, but now the confirmed leads are Miriam, Raymond and Pakho. I don't know about you but to go from Sheren and Francis to Miriam / Raymond / Pakho is a HUGE downgrade in my opinion. Just saying….