After watching this, I had to re-analyze all Andy Lau dramas back then when he was still with TVB. I used to think that Felix Wong was the one who got the short end of the stick, but Andy wasn’t too far behind. I have watched the majority of Andy’s TV series so I think I could say something about that. Anyway, back to this series–before I get too side-tracked. It wasn’t like that terrible, comparing to some other supposedly Golden ’80s series I watched before. However, it was so disorganized that I didn’t know what to think of it, except to treat it as one of those series where you watch for the stars only, not caring much about the story. (It’s like people make fun of Taiwanese idol dramas for having pretty faces only but nothing else. That was what I felt about this and some other TV series back then. They just came up with a loose story so we could stare at beautiful people.) The overall story wasn’t that bad, but I was talking about the focus at times and then the wrap-up. It wasn’t doing anyone justice.
First off, the English title was misleading to say the least. The Chinese title was more accurate–Po Chi Lam (寶芝林) because it was the story about all of Wong Fei Hung’s disciples, not just him. The story was all right with how Wong Fei Hung met his disciples and how they eventually became his disciples. It was in a sense, they did have good and bad times and it wasn’t too cheesy that they were so perfect or always doing good. They had their moments and when it mattered, they stuck up for one another. Yet I had a feeling throughout that the disciples would lead to Wong’s downfall. But that wasn’t so. His son (portrayed by Lee Kwok Lun) was the one who died, and what a tragedy too. Not to mention so frustrating.
What got me mad about the whole story was like they had a good story about Wong Fei Hung’s side and the other local sect competing, but didn’t develop it well. It was like they wanted everything in the mix but wrapped up poorly. Like how there were different story arches with Kent Tong’s character helping his master with overthrowing the current king but also wanted to focus on the triangle with him, Yammie and Andy’s characters. The triangle annoyed me to no end. The fact that Andy and Yammie weren’t paired off was frustrating to me on many levels. I understood why and the fact that Heir To The Throne Is… (真命天子) was after this made it funnier since I watched the other one ages back already.
I actually quite liked Yammie’s character, Au Yeung Ching Ching. She was very independent, even for women back then who were not allowed much freedom or rights. She worked hard and helped her mother to maintain a living by doing what she could. She knew the reality of the situation and did not complain about the hardships her family had endured. She was also very understanding–as far as can be–regarding Lam Sai Wing (Andy Lau) and what he had to do. She knew everyone had their jobs to do and they were all trying to make the best of their lives. Yes, she did throw some side tantrums and was jealous of the attention his sister was getting at one point but was reminded of that. She soon redeemed herself, trying to be more understanding. She came from a rich family at first too, so I thought she was already adapting quite well with not being a spoiled, rich snob. So as much as I didn’t like that she accepted Kent Tong’s character (since I knew he was in cahoot with his master in a lot of stuff and I hated his fake attitude and how he jumped in the middle of Ching Ching and Lam Sai Wing’s relationship), I didn’t blame her–unlike most of the men around Lam Sai Wing. (I understood that they were his friends and sided with him and was being supportive of him yet they totally let him off so easily with blaming everything on her and saying she was just following some rich dude or whatever. Again, just because that was how it was back then didn’t mean that I have to accept it.)
As I was saying that everyone was working hard to make their lives better, so they only have some time to spend together, which included her and Lam Sai Wing. So I was really annoyed for her that he ended up not paying attention to her when she was playing her music for him or try to talk to him. She couldn’t really learn martial arts or mingle with the guys–that wasn’t what she was taught or used to. So the only way she knew to share with him was her music, but he went outside to practice his martial arts instead? That was just one example that got me annoyed. I didn’t want either of them forcing each other into pretending about their interests or anything. But I thought he at least made the effort since she was very supportive of him when knowing he was going to spend more time with martial arts practice and their time spent together was less. The fact that he seemed clueless or oblivious to her interests or didn’t at least try to understand her attempt to help him relax with her music annoyed me even more. Again, he wasn’t showing the least of effort. Yeah, I got it that it was back then, guys just assumed once the girls liked them, they were hitched forever and she supposedly belonged to him (major eye-roll here) so he didn’t feel the need to exert energy to try anymore. I know he wasn’t a terrible human being, but the way he was going, I was really frustrated for her. I loved the times they spent together, going on adventures–at least mini ones, like the time at the beach or whatever. I know they couldn’t just be happy forever and need to live in reality too, but I was disappointed that his initial care was so short-lived. It was like he was sure she liked him, so he was done impressing her. I didn’t need it to be a game. I just wanted him to try as much as she did.
Now regarding Andy’s Lam Sai Wing. What was off for me from the start and played against Andy for me was the fact that I watched Sammo Hung’s Lam Sai Wing first, lol. So it was super weird seeing Andy portraying the role. After temporarily putting it aside, I liked his character. But I realized it was just because he was Andy and I tolerated it. Sure, he was righteous and very caring toward his sister. He was also quite kind at heart–if he didn’t let his temper get to him. Yet those didn’t make up for his stupidity at times and also causing trouble for the others. Sure, it was Nap Lan (Kent Tong) who did most of the scheming with his master to take Lam Sai Wing and Wong Fei Hung down, but Lam Sai Wing didn’t help with half of his actions throughout. Just because I hated Nap Lan didn’t mean that I would let Lam Sai Wing off easily. It was like he was pitiful on purpose so the others could sympathize with him or something. I didn’t want to force him into liking Ah Fong (Marylinn Wong)–like how the others tried to get them together, but I didn’t like that it was so his fault she had to marry that one dude. Sure, it was her choice and he was very devastated and angry after learning of Wong Chun Yee’s death. But he made it worse, not allowing her the chance to escape–if there was some sort of hope. Then it was like the scriptwriters decided that he just escape and return to Guangzhou, not caring if Ah Fong was forced into the other marriage situation. Yeah, I got it that the other guy was soooo powerful and he probably couldn’t do anything anyway. But he tried a lot harder when he found out Wong Chun Yee was dead. Why wasn’t he trying for Ah Fong? Again, it gave me the impression that women in here were disposables so it didn’t matter. So they could just move on. And here, I know he had to take Wong Chun Yee’s body back home to his master, but it was so cold to not try to save Ah Fong. Even if he didn’t like her in that way or whatever, but his righteousness was shown at one point in trying to save her from being sold into the brothel. That was when they barely knew each other. So what changed? That was one of the reasons why I was frustrated with the plot. The transition at times just didn’t make sense.
What was kind of off and/or confusing for me was how Ching Ching was torn at times after she found out what her husband had done (which in no way was her fault) and sometimes seemed to accept it? I don’t know. The scriptwriters were trying too hard to drag the episodes out or something. Or they were trying to drag her character through the dirt too so the men would look better. I don’t know. I just had that feeling. I tried to be fair to all characters but they were disappointing and it was going downhill even more as the series progressed. Even Chu Siu Bo’s character, even more sheltered and naive than most of the female population in here, managed to wake up from her obsessed mode and realized she was con hence redeeming herself. Yet Ching Ching was left to become a wishy-washy character in the end? Sure, I got it that Ching Ching didn’t want to expose her husband. I liked her stubborn personality with how she didn’t put up with Nap Lan’s tantrums at times and his jealousy. I liked it that she pushed back and didn’t just cry away. She worked really hard at making her marriage work too, considering how she mentioned that she wasn’t forced to marry him, she accepted him on her own. So she tried. But it was like she was once again disappointed. I got it that he became paranoid that she snuck out and helped Lam Sai Wing escape that one time so it worked against her. But the other times, she already put him on top of everything, what else did he want? It was like the men in here didn’t want to try. Sure, he tried to impress her by learning music and the instrument that she played, etc. But that was initially and after they were married, he did try to make her happy, etc. Aside from that, he just expected it to be that way and frustrated when things didn’t go his way. It was mostly a control thing for him hence me not being sold on this couple either.
I think among all the couples in here, Leung Foon (Stephen Tung) and Chan Ying (Lau Suk Yee) were the luckiest. I thought they wouldn’t work out because of what happened with her brother. The fact that he almost died made it nerve-racking too. I also felt frustrated that they threw in the whole jealousy thing with Leung Foon not accepting the fact that Wong Fei Hung taught Lam Sai Wing the special techniques first. It was like they were throwing Stephen Tung under the bus and making his character so cliche like his other series. And the scriptwriters had to go and stick it at the end too. Yet he redeemed himself and almost died trying to protect Lam Sai Wing. He and Chan Ying were a bickering couple. They were funny to watch at times and possibly the comedy relief of the show. I thought she would have followed her brother yet it wasn’t so. Sure, she cared for her brother but also knew how well the others treated her. I thought she was quite brave, not caring that she was going to die when she was captured. When Lam Sai Wing came to save them, she yelled for him to not worry for her and just focus on Nap Lan. I was surprised, but that was when she became my favorite character in the series. I was done with other wishy-washy characters in here–or the too good to be true types. Her character was more grounded here. Luckily, it wasn’t destroyed like some others. Although I was also mad at Leung Foon for blaming Ching Ching regarding Lam Sai Wing too, I just had to let it go and let him and Chan Ying be my favorite couple.
What else? Was this the start of Liu Wai Hung and Chan On Ying’s pairing? Because he later starred in Being Rich (富貴超人) with her, along with Roger Kwok and Margie Tsang. Interestingly, both series had her liking him first and then later him accepting her. He initially liked Chan Ying, but that went nowhere. It was funny to see how the other Po Chi Lam people tried to sabotage their date that one time at the opera event.
Aside from that, how was the ending? Like I said before, it was a mess. I thought the ending should have been saved for the face-off between Wong Fei Hung and Yeung Chak Lam’s character, Duen Bo Tin. Yet they had to rush the face-off and then forced us to endure the triangle again and then finished on a lame note. I got it how and why things were that way. I knew it was impossible for Lam Sai Wing and Ching Ching to ever be together again. I knew those things. I just wish the scriptwriters knew and just moved on. Letting the face-off between Wong Fei Hung and Duen Bo Tin be the last moment of the series made more sense, because it tied in with the situation of their country. It tied every character together on a larger scale.
So recommended? If you want to watch for beautiful people, go ahead. I wouldn’t recommend it for the plot.