The Rough Ride

I finally watched this series though I have it on my to-watch list awhile back. Watching this series somehow affected me more than I thought. Possibly because both Barbara Yung and Susanna Au Yeung passed away already. Not to mention Anita Mui, who sang the main theme so beautifully. There were many moments that I got teary-eyed, not because of the plot, but because of seeing old faces.
Anyway, back to the plot. At first, I thought TVB was going the daring route–because they rarely do that, mostly safe within their traditional shells as not to upset the viewers. However, I was wrong. What do I mean? I thought they were letting Lau Dan and Ha Yu portray a couple who was raising an adopted child and trying to survive in society, especially one might not be accepting them. It seemed that way with some details at the beginning. Even when they were trying to explain at the police station after that one time getting into a fight and the police officers were trying to get them to tell their story. I thought from their hesitation, the whole fighting over Jian Hong’s mother was a made-up story. Yet it seemed like it was true except for some details that were never clarified, because the plot didn’t want to focus there. Even Zhou Rong’s mother was chiding him for staying with Zhou Zhang You all these years–when he came home that one time to visit her after another dispute with the latter. Seriously, I was wrong. That was okay though since they had to move on, but I felt the plot was scattered everywhere thus causing details to be muddled throughout. I liked it that they were moving back and forth among different characters, but I didn’t like it that they were so inconsistent with different characters at times. It was frustrating to say the least.
Main Cast:

  • Tony Leung (梁朝偉) as Zhou Jian Hong (周劍虹). I felt this role wasn’t that special as in part of the Tony legacy in the old days. I think it was sort of a break for him. I think his best scene was his argument with Bi Hua/Barbara Yung when she was acting distance toward him since she didn’t want to cling to him just because he became rich. It was emotional and added more to their bond, because they finally talked about some things that actually mattered instead of feeling like they were stuck in a loop of not being able to communicate like previously. I guess his passiveness at times was a balance to some people’s extremeness in here. I liked him fine, until he listened to his father Zhou Rong to try to propose to Bi Hua so he could control her. Of course, he didn’t think it in that way, but I felt the proposal wasn’t as genuine as when they finally got back together at the end. I think he finally understood Bi Hua’s importance or realized he should cherish her more, because he admitted at one point that he used to think Bi Hua was more serious about their relationship than him. It was like a pride thing for him, but he figured he was going to have to gain her confidence in him again, not just taking her for granted like before. I guess I liked him for the most part, but what I was annoyed about was how he–along with the others–treated Shao Wen like she was Tian Wei’s possession or like a sure deal (even when they weren’t together yet). He didn’t like Shao Wen romantically and no one could force him, but I didn’t like how he and the others seemed to force Shao Wen to go with Tian Wei as well. Just because Tian Wei liked her, not letting her decide at all.
  • Barbara Yung (翁美玲) as Xie Bi Hua (謝碧華). I was watching the Viet-dubbed version so the person who dubbed for Huang Rong dubbed for her in here too so it was really funny and somewhat bittersweet at the same time. She was so stubborn and probably short of all the things Huang Rong could do and get away with, lol. But I really liked her. At least she was straightforward with her attitude. I liked that she was able to go train in England and became an even better cop with her new skills later. There were times that I didn’t like it either that she was using her boss as a shield, but I felt I could forgive her somewhat since at the beginning when she was trying to get rid of that one annoying pest, she actually asked her boss for help so he knew about it. Then later, it was her jealousy getting in the way so I felt like I should cut her some slacks and she did apologize to him (her boss) later. (I think, I hope.)
  • Ray Lui (呂良偉) as Jiang Tian Wei (江天偉). I didn’t think I could hate Ray Lui for a role he portrayed. Well, in Shanghai Bund, I think I was annoyed yet wasn’t feeling this strong hate toward his character. Aside from those assault scenes toward Shao Wen, I think the rest of Ray scenes were kind of subtle. Then it seemed interesting when he was undercover for the cops. Yet I felt the ending scenes were just there to bring his character up again or trying to make him active to wrap up the show. Or trying to make up for his past wrongs, which I didn’t care for. Yes, his character for me was fine. They had to ruin it like that. When, perhaps, the writers had this mentality about “love” or “assault” was how you get a girl OR whatever. But I didn’t want to let it slide just because. The writers totally downplayed those horrifying moments and brushed if off completely later on. Anyway, I also thought his character would become the villain later since his jealousy of Jian Hong escalated after some disagreements at the company yet it wasn’t so. In fact, he was probably the dumbass of the show. Sounds mean, but he was so easily manipulated by his uncle that I eventually got frustrated too. I got where he was coming from and felt sad for him that his mom was manipulating him and pressuring him, but the others stuffs he did, I couldn’t forgive him for.
  • Barbara Chan (陳敏兒) as Lin Shao Wen (林少文). A lawyer. I liked her having an awesome lawyer role. However, some of the plots sort of brought her character down. I actually liked the approach they (script-writers) did with making her so expressive and being almost best buddies with Jian Hong and how they seemed to have this connection. Yet the writers had to bring her character down later by making it confusing and manipulative in a way. I wondered if it was so they could somehow justify Tian Wei’s actions and then bring them together. I didn’t like the pressures people were giving her, her mother and others. Yet I didn’t like how she tried to jump in between Jian Hong and Bi Hua either.
  • Lau Dan (劉丹) as Zhou Rong (周榮). Jian Hong’s father. Mixed feelings throughout. I liked it that he wasn’t greedy and didn’t care for those fortune he suddenly stumbled into. Yet I felt he was too hot-headed at times. Also, I didn’t like how he treated Bi Hua later. It wasn’t like she was backing down, but he was seriously unreasonable. Who could stand it?
  • Ha Yu (夏雨) as Zou Zhang You (鄒長有). Jian Hong’s other father. Mixed feelings throughout as well. I was surprised he was more accepting of Bi Hua later on (brushing aside the conflicts with her father previously). Yet I was glad and in a way, he gained my point in that. I also liked that he wasn’t as greedy as he seemed to project at first. He didn’t latch onto Jiang Hong or Zhou Rong to get some advantage at the Yang family.
  • Susanna Au Yeung (歐陽珮珊) as He Pei Pei (何佩佩). It was a different role for her for me. I guess it was because I mostly saw her portray mature roles in the past so it was strange. NOT that her acting was strange, because she was a natural in it. She made her character lively and relatable. Although she was supposedly “not a good role model” or “good person” as some people had said in here or at least at first, but I really liked her. Perhaps, it was because of Susanna’s portrayal. Not to mention how Pei Pei’s character was redeemable, unlike her mother and sister whom conspired with others to trap Zhou Zhang You that one time. She didn’t have proper guidance growing up, but once she broke out of that toxic cycle and with the help of the people who truly cared for her, she was able to overcome her hardships and became  her own person again.
  • Lau Kong (劉江) as Yang Zhi Jian (楊志堅). Jian Hong and Tian Wei’s uncle. I felt like he wasn’t getting a break for the villain roles he was involved in back then, lol. Because I guess he did his part, but I felt it wasn’t anything new. Have to admit the character was indeed devious and despicable. He got what he deserved. Or maybe it was still too kind? I don’t know.

Supporting:

  • Lee Kwok Lun (李國麟) as Bi Hua’s boss. He was actually the true gentleman in here and was actually deserving of the nice guy title. But he wasn’t up in your face kind of nice guy and demanded that he should get something in return type of nice guys often seen in movies or TV series either. I felt like he was the most admirable among the young guys in here. As a cop, he was a good leader and everyone loved him. Although there wasn’t much to go on, but it was obvious with the way the other cops were reacting to him that he was a good boss and also a good friend. They really respected him during work and joked around with him when they were off work. He also liked Bi Hua, but he didn’t say it out until near the end. Yet he didn’t expect Bi Hua to accept him or anything, he was just joking that she was breaking his heart, lol. He didn’t mind that she used him to get Jian Hong jealous, but didn’t think it was good for them (Bi Hua and Jian Hong that was). People might be saying he had a doormat attitude and maybe that was why I liked him, but I felt like he was actually genuine among all the guys in here, even surpassing Jiang Hong. Perhaps, it was Lee Kwok Lun’s acting that made it so believable and not exuding any fake exterior, etc. (NOT saying Jian Hong was fake or Tony’s portrayal was poor. Just that like I mentioned above, I was sort of annoyed with Jian Hong for some stuffs too.)
  • Lau Siu Ming (劉兆銘) as Bi Hua’s father and Shao Wen’s legal assistant. Ming Sir and Barbara Yung also portrayed father and daughter in United We Stand (生銹橋王). It was interesting to see a different type of relation in here. Although he wasn’t my favorite character and was super annoying with his greedy nature at the beginning, I soon understand where he was coming from. It was so hard to earn money and all to survive. It wasn’t a good thing to do with how he was pulling his tricks at times, but I could forgive him for that, considering how he’d been trying his best all these years. Mixed feelings throughout but probably not the most hated character for me either.
  • Chun Wong (秦煌) as Da Peng (大鵬). Jian Hong and Tian Wei’s uncle. He was so cute in here, lol. He was probably the only kind person in the Yang family and truly cared for his family, unlike some others. He also was independent and had his own restaurant, pursuing his own passion. I actually thought he was the smartest because he wasn’t involved in those senseless family conflicts. And I never saw Chun Wong portrayed such a kind role before–or I might have missed it. Because he was always either too silly, stubborn, or was just plain annoying. So this was refreshing for me even though it was such an old series.
  • Bonnie Wong (黃文慧) as Bi Hua’s aunt. She was so funny and cool in here. I loved her character the most among the female side, aside from Bi Hua’s that was. She was really smart and witty. I liked it that she got guts and didn’t care what others think of her. But what sort of off with her character was how she let that annoying dude pursuing Bi Hua into the house time after time. Sure, she was just being polite, but I thought she shouldn’t let him in or give him information regarding their trip that one time. Yet that soon passed and I enjoyed her scenes majorly with Da Peng, because they both loved food and enjoyed many delicacies and fun moments together.
  • Paul Chun (秦沛) as Tian Wei’s father. He had a short story at the beginning of the story and then just phased into the background again. It was fine that no one was hogging he camera for too long, but I felt it wasn’t doing him justice. Or was it better he was one of the parties not causing trouble too?
  • Bak Yan (白茵) as Shao Wen’s mother. I usually like her role yet I didn’t really like it in here. Her acting was top-notch, but I just didn’t care for the character throughout. Yes, I felt very bad for her, having such a tragic life. Luckily, she was able to start anew in the end and knowing her family was all right again. However, I didn’t like it that she also contributed to forcing Shao Wen to get married or at least acknowledge Tian Wei. She later realized what was going on and sort of let her daughter choose, but it was sort of too late.
  • Bai Man Biao (白文彪) as Shao Wen’s father. He was sure despicable all right. They sure let him off easy later.
  • Kwan Hoi San (關海山) as Yang Zhao An (楊兆安). Jian Hong’s and Tian Wei’s grandfather. Although I understood that he wanted to protect his family and was somewhat saving face too, but I couldn’t forgive him for what happened. He knew Yang Zhi Jian was beyond help yet forbade Third Uncle to harm Yang Zhi Jian regardless. Like what? How was he supposed to help when he couldn’t take action? If he was strong enough, he could have just toss his son in prison and saved the rest of the family the trouble. Was saving face so important? Seriously. I didn’t like his miserable, pitiful acts either. Yeah, I know he was heartbroken and devastated of what happened, but I just didn’t care for him after I realized he wasn’t going to do anything anyway.
  • Felix Lok (駱應鈞) as Yang Zhi Jian’s right hand man. He was just latching on to the Yang family and only knew how to party so he wasn’t that useful. However, I thought he’d done his part of damage to the overall plot.
  • Richard Ng as a gangster boss. Well, not as much as some others in here, but he contributed in messing up other people’s lives so that counted for me.
  • Chu Tit Wo (朱鐵和) as Third Uncle. He was a gangster boss yet was somewhat too rash for his own good. He tried but he was responsible for harming Jian Hong at one point before investigating thoroughly so I didn’t blame the others for not trusting him later.

Others:

  • Bobby Au Yeung (歐陽震華) as car owner at the beginning. He was the guy who had his car inspected in the beginning yet was yelled at, lol. It was funny seeing him in there like that. He appeared later as well, but I wasn’t sure if it was the same role or just some random second role.
  • Tony Leung Hung Wah (梁鴻華) as Jian Hong’s friend. I liked him in The Return of Luk Siu Fung and Duke of Mount. Deer yet I couldn’t find anything to like him for in here. He was annoying. He was a terrible friend, having thrown Jian Hong under the bus too many times to be considered a friend. He also pestered Bi Hua to the point of excruciating that made me want to jump into the screen and slap him. He was basically like Tian Wei, except he wasn’t main so it was easy for people to hate him versus Tian Wei, but I felt they were almost the same. If Bi Hua wasn’t able to fend for herself and had others to help her, he would progressed to the point of Tian Wei too. Sure, he liked her and wanted to pursue her YET when he finally got turned down with a strong “no”, he didn’t get it and thought she was playing hard to get or whatever else. Bi Hua wasn’t that type of person and made it clear. (I didn’t like that one time she used him to extract information regarding Jian Hong either since that was seriously poor taste.) He was just trying to wear her down (like he admitted at one point). The fact that he tried to use suicide to get to Bi Hua was equally pathetic and somewhat hit too close to home. (Coincidentally, Barbara committed suicide at that time the drama was in the middle of airing using gas so that got me even more annoyed. Although I know TVB didn’t know and no one knew either regarding that, but that scene just added to the things that rubbed me wrong in here regarding the character.) And no, I don’t hate the actor, but found him exaggerating somewhat in here too versus his more natural act in other series.
  • Amy Hu (胡美儀) as Zou Zhang You’s on and off girlfriend. She appeared at the beginning of the series and then somehow disappeared and then appeared again near the end. I liked her, she was cute and funny in her own way.
  • Maria Chan (陳立品) as Jian Hong’s grand-aunt. I got where she was coming from but I didn’t like how she was acting high and mighty at times. Well, Yang Zhao An deserved it, but I didn’t think Pei Pei or Bi Hua deserved her rants at all. I got it that she was following her traditional ways or whatever, but that was so judgmental and so hard to relate to. Especially how she thought Bi Hua was jinxing her grand-nephew and how she wanted Bi Hua to quit her job just because Bi Hua was getting married to Jian Hong.
  • Kenneth Tsang (曾江) as Pei Pei’s rich boyfriend. Was that him? LOL! I swear it looked like him when he appeared briefly. The fact that he wore sunglasses didn’t help.
  • Michael Tao (陶大宇) as Bi Hua’s younger brother. I was initially annoyed with him because how he was so lazy and all. Yet I found him hilarious later.
  • Hui Kin Bong (許建邦) as Tian Wei’s assistant. I wasn’t sure if he was an analyst, a lawyer or another assistant at the office since he only appeared twice. But I thought his character had more potential for development than some in here.
  • Sandra Ng (吳君如) as Yang Zhi Jian’s lover. That was a surprise but that was back then so it wasn’t too strange to see Sandra appearing a little.
  • Shik Kien (石堅) as gangster boss. He was the real deal with all the badass gangsters in here since even Third Uncle was afraid of him.
  • Maggie Siu (邵美琪) as Anna. She owned a bar and was into Tian Wei when he was acting as a mole for the cop. Maggie was so gorgeous in here, and the role was mischievous yet playful that I felt it was too bad she wasn’t taking on some major role. What a shame yet I guess it had to be that way. Not to mention what surprised me was how it departed from her usual pitiful and/or tragic roles of back then. Yes, although her character was supposedly bad and didn’t care if Tian Wei was married or whatever, but I felt she was more honest about her motives than some people in here.
  • Wong Yat Fei (黃一飛) as boat owner at the pier. He was around at the second last episode where Yang Zhi Jian was trying to find a boat to escape. It was fun seeing him at long last. He was like Waldo of TVB, lol. You have to find him because he might not be getting an important role at times yet he was fun to watch and locate.

So, after all that rant, how was it overall? I thought Tony and Barbara Yung were cute together. Even though my mom mentioned that Barbara looked older than him, but I thought they were still cute. (Note, my mom loved Barbara too so it wasn’t like she was picking on her.) If the tragedy didn’t occur, I wonder if they had collaborated more for future series. It was one of those what-ifs in life. Second favorite couple in here must be Chun Wong and Bonnie Wong because they made me feel hopeful about humanity in general in the series’ world–at least. Aside from that, I felt that Susanna and Lau Dan weren’t that bad of a couple but their triangle involving Ha Yu really dragged the pace at one point and made me feel frustrated with the two men’s childish antics. Though I found it interesting that Susanna and Lau Dan also paired up in ATV’s The Ghostbuster Gang (捉鬼家族) years later, but I had watched that one first.
What about Ray Lui and Barbara Chan? I felt their characters ruined it for enjoying their chemistry–if at all. I got it that Shao Wen later realized with worrying for Tian Wei that she did love him, etc. (That was near the ending that she had the conversation with Jian Hong in the hospital during her mother’s operation.) Yet I didn’t like their initial start or the in-between at all. I didn’t like the emotional tortures that she had to go through with his pestering (and it was like how I mentioned it was with Bi Hua being pestered by that one guy as well). The fact that the assault scene happened and also bordering on rape (it wasn’t shown so I didn’t want to assume). I’m talking about that one time he was super frustrated and wanted to get her to talk BUT ended up force kissing her and she was terrified and yelled for him to stop and then the scene just jumped to the next day that she seemed to accept him. It was a terrible plot device and it totally thrown his character toward the hateful zone for me, even if it wasn’t before. I didn’t like that the writers used that type of setup for the characters to eventually get together and forced her to re-think. I already said that above when discussing their characters, but I felt like I need to put it here once again. The script-writers were downplaying assault and/or rape, not taking it seriously at all. What was even more terrible was how Tian Wei kept uttering out that she didn’t have to love him but couldn’t stop him from loving her. He could love her, BUT directly attacking her like that and forcing her? Even if the world was different back then, it still didn’t make it right AND I don’t have to accept it regardless. I thought it was best if they let the characters take it slowly and understand each other instead of forcing her like that. That scene was so traumatizing that it left a very bad impression on him throughout. The ending had a better setup. It seemed lame that she accepted him for saving her mother, but it wasn’t so since she realized when he disappeared that she cared for him. Why didn’t they go with that approach first? I didn’t like it either that there was plot inconsistency with people assuming they were together just because he liked her–at first. Then they dragged her character through the mud with her getting in-between Jian Hong and Bi Hua just to downplay Tian Wei’s assault scene–or all the things he did in general toward her.
Anyway, there were gaps and inconsistency at various points (as I said at the beginning of the review), like how some characters already knew each other or already got introduced yet was expected to be introduced again later. Or one of those like they seemed to have a gap. Other things, I already mentioned above so do not want to be too repetitive. But what was too obvious was the aqua/green dress with pink and yellow rims around the neck Barbara Yung wore at one episode near the beginning ended up being Barbara Chan’s sleepwear near the end. It was hilarious really.
What was fun to watch about this series that I have to admit was the majority of the cast–whether major or minor–were linked to the Condor trilogy one way or another. However, I still wouldn’t recommend as much for the plot. To me, it was one of Tony’s weaker series because I think the majority of Tony’s old series were quite good or considered good overall. It was just some details were inconsistent and frustration that I didn’t like it as much. It wasn’t the worse series of back then, because if you’d seen my reviews of my back-watching, some were worse.

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The Legend of Wonder Lady

Just when I thought The Maverick was the worst of the ’80s classics, I was wrong. This sort of took the trophy from the other one. Why was it the worst? I swear, it started out interesting enough with a team of women kicking asses and carrying out righteous acts. Yet it deteriorated after the initial scenes, making them victims and eventually devaluing their cause. I’ll go into more details later.

Main Cast:

  • Angie Chiu (趙雅芝) as Mu Lan Hua (木蘭花). This was possibly my second favorite role of Angie–if only it didn’t deteriorate. It wasn’t her fault. She tried her best, but the plot sort of went against her, letting her become a pathetic victim later, not allowing her to soar higher than that. I thought she was awesome and was smart in concealing her identity. Yet the script-writers just had to make her lesser than some other people in here–just because they were trying to create the illusion that the villain was worse. I know, duh, villains were supposed to be bad. But honestly, if they didn’t knock the major characters’ IQ down several pegs, they couldn’t make it look like the villains were smart. The final trap proved her capabilities and intelligence once again, but I wished the plot didn’t knock her down and dragged it through mud before restoring her character. It was seriously frustrating.
  • Sharon Yeung (楊盼盼) as Mu Xiu Zhen (木秀珍) aka Mu Mian Hua (木棉花). I thought I was going to really like this character of Sharon. In fact, I did at the beginning. She was a bit hot-headed/impulsive at the beginning, which I thought was kinda cute since she was still young after all–and it made the whole bickering with their nanny funnier. Yet that also passed and I realized the script-writers were just trying to knock her down–like how they made Angie weak later. With her, it was her impulsive behaviors and then her IQ wasn’t improving at all, but it had gone down to the point of frustrating. I liked that Sharon got to be the kicking ass superwoman since I’d often seen her in roles where she was always suffering through tragedies so she cried a lot in those (even if she did have fighting scenes or tried to prove herself)–with the exception of her martial arts movies. I thought I was going to enjoy seeing her being awesome, but was totally disappointed by how her character turned out.
  • Kenneth Tsang (曾江) as Cheng Wu Hui (程無悔). Despite the flaw in the plot, I think Kenneth delivered–like how Angie and Sharon had tried with theirs. He was my favorite character from the start since his identity was a mystery and how he was being hunted by the assassins. Yes, we knew he was a friend of the family of the Mu’s, but that was it. He didn’t have any other identity. The details unfolding was nice enough, allowing us to see more into his world and his personalities. He wasn’t afraid to cut corners, considering how the world was back then. What disturbed me greatly was his infatuation toward Lan Hua. Okay, it wasn’t impossible and I had rooted for older man and younger woman relationships before, but this was different. He was indeed a friend of the family and sort of like her uncle (in a sense of comparing him to her father). Aside from that, it sort of knocked down his character for me a bit, considering how I thought he was a good guidance for both sisters in such chaotic time. Did the script-writers had to go there to be so controversial?
  • Melvin Wong (黃錦燊) as Gao Xiang (高翔) aka Di Qiu (地球). I liked him, but I felt they had him appeared to knock the Mu sisters down thus rendering their roles useless. I swear. It wasn’t like I needed the sisters to be perfect, but I felt they (the script-writers) had to knock the sisters down, not allowing them to excel so we could see Gao Xiang’s awesomeness or something. He was mysterious and funny in his own way. Yet can’t they just have him and the other two going against each other (as relevant one point of the story) with their talents matching or something instead of making it like the other two needed his rescue all the time? Although there were times Lan Hua helped him too but I felt his character was untouchable (well, until later, lol) to the point that the other two just looked pathetic, waiting to be rescued.
  • Cheung Kwok Keung (張國強) as Yun Cheng Feng (雲乘風). This was probably one of his major roles back then? It was either that or I didn’t watch the right dramas back then. But I was surprised that he got a major role in here. I thought he would become a side character since he wasn’t around much at the beginning and was fading into the back. Yet he got pulled forward because the focus on his family became more apparent. He delivered with whatever he had to work with and I felt he was one of the true victims of the story, considering how he was stuck in the conflicts and all.
  • Susanna Kwan (關菊英) as Yun Zhao Yi (雲昭儀). She sure was ambitious in her plans. It was somewhat hilarious that she thought she was going to win in the battle of power with her father. She thought he was weak yet she had no idea. But what got me irked was how I was reminded each time a woman was displaying ambitious nature, they were immediately labeled as the bad woman. It was like they (the script-writers) needed to tell us that women should be victims/weak/obedient to be good or something. Sure, I understand Zhao Yi’s lust for power and wanting to overthrow her father and it wasn’t impossible that she was so scheming, not caring about family and all. Yet it was a typical pattern of TVB to make ambitious women out to be the bad ones in the end so I couldn’t just let it go.
  • Peter Yang (楊群) as Yun Tian Peng  (雲天鵬) aka the real Tai Yang (太陽). I knew he wasn’t just in to play some pathetic old man. Didn’t mean for it to come out that way, but the plot paved it that way for him, with his daughter conspiring against him and all. Then there was the whole sickness and hospital scenes. It was an elaborate trap all right. I didn’t doubt his cruelty since he represented a part of a major crime organization. What he underestimated was Lan Hua’s recovery and how she was able to put aside her feelings and create a final trap for him.
  • Kwan Hoi San (關海山) as Tai Yang (太陽). He was fierce and calculating enough to be the leader. Yet that was also a front for others to underestimate Yun Tian Peng. He also became a pawn for Yun’s final scheme after all. Great performance from him like always, even if short-lived.
  • Paul Chun (秦沛) as  Huo Xing (火星). I thought he was going to be around until the end yet it wasn’t so. He also became another chess piece along the way. I was disappointed that he wasn’t that smart. I thought he knew better. It was sort of anti-climatic to have him gone so soon. But perhaps that created the mystery of what was next?

Others:

  • Cheung Ying Choi ( 張英才) as Mu Yi Long (木一龍). He was in here for a short time. He was another true victim of all the chaos. But what I thought was really fake of how the scene was laid out after his death. It wasn’t convincing and I thought it might be something else with how he was already saved and was just at some other place. Then I was reminded of that TVB probably didn’t want to get too graphic with the whole explosion scenes and the aftermaths.
  • Lam Tin (藍天) as Long Kun (龍坤). He was probably the most despicable in here, even comparing to Yun Tian Peng. He betrayed everyone around him and was really only out for himself. Even though he was exposed and punished later, but I felt it wasn’t enough. He’d done so much damage throughout.
  • Chun Wong (秦煌) as Cao Te Hua (曹特華). He was funny for me at the beginning and annoying in the later parts yet somehow managed to compensate himself for the ending. It wasn’t much of a role but I guessed he had to be there since he was relevant for the ending parts.
  • Lee Kwok Lun (李國麟) as Cop. He only appeared from time to time or more like most of the first few episodes. It was just fun to see a familiar face in here. Not much.

Questions / Discussions / Frustrations:

  • TVB seriously DO NOT know how to write strong female characters. I think I watched enough TVB series to get this out there. YES, I do know the time period that was in the story and it made sense that women didn’t get to make much of an impact during those times. But this was after all a story focusing on the strong female characters so why can’t they just stretch it a bit and make them awesome all the way instead of devaluing them like that? Like I said in the other part, I didn’t mind that Xiu Zhen was impulsive since it was kind of funny at first–and I initially thought she was just impatient and more for actions than talks. Yet the story just made her character worse and worse by enhancing her impulsiveness tenfold. In fact, it had stepped in to the stupidity territory, which caused deaths or other consequences along the way. Okay, with some other series, the main lead might or might not have caused some deaths or consequences at the beginning too, but they somehow grow later. What has Xiu Zhen grown into? A total bitch? I don’t usually use that kind of language. But I couldn’t take it anymore with how her character turned out. Not to mention how strong personality type of character DO NOT mean that they were always loud and brainless. Did TVB have anyone to consult with regarding people’s personalities? I got it that she could be lively and smart too, not too boring. But seriously, Xiu Zhen was a complete idiot by the end of the story. Or should I rephrase and ask if TVB know that people could be lively and intelligent too, not a loud-mouth without a brain? Then there was Lan Hua, the smarter and sensible of the two. However, she was knocked down (like said before) when Gao Xiang appeared. Sure, they did have some battles of wit along the way yet it seemed like Gao Xiang was always one step ahead. (Okay, I don’t want to make it petty by turning it into a “men vs. women” kind of thing, but the plot laid it out that way with their competitions at the beginning.) I would like it better that they match wit-per-wit or something. It seemed that way on the surface at times, but it was obvious Gao Xiang was the stronger one. It made sense because he was more experience than them and was actually one of the members in that mysterious organization that they were trying to investigate, but again, please stick to the theme of the series. Not only did they knock Lan Hua down, but also made her a complete victim halfway through and then somehow restoring her character at the end for the final battle. I totally understand her breakdowns during the times when she thought Gao Xiang was dead and when he was really dead, but I didn’t like it that she was soooo trusting of Yun Tian Peng. I had a feeling she wasn’t just the type to just plain lean into others just because they were there. She proved her capabilities and how she managed to keep her distance and had outright told Cheng Wu Hui about her feelings (or lack of) toward him. Once again, I got it that Yun Tian Peng was scheming and manipulative, so careful and all and so easy to trust, but seriously?
  • The disturbing matches? I don’t know what to call it really but it was the whole idea of it was all right that somehow Lan Hua ended up with Yun Tian Peng. Hello, there was an actual wedding with others attending so happily. Seriously? I don’t know how that was even acceptable. Like Xiu Zhen was with Cheng Feng already so Yun Tian Peng was her father-in-law. Yet it was all right that her sister married her father-in-law? What? Even before Lan Hua learned of Yun Tian Peng’s truth identity as Tai Yang, she was seriously all right with it too. I swear it was sooo messed up. It wasn’t about her forgoing with the revenge plot either. She was fine with it. Like I thought she would only apologize for misunderstanding him that one time Cheng Wu Hui brought to her attention about some suspicious details that he might be involved with Gao Xiang’s death YET she had to go one more step to give him the sweater she knitted. (That time, Yun Tian Peng used trickery to get out of it and eventually dissolved the misunderstanding just like that.) What? That was a grand gesture and indicated something else. Tell me I’m not the only one wanting to puke if it were to go through otherwise.

Recommended? If you don’t want to think but just watch, go ahead. If you’re fine with these types of dramas, go ahead.

Under the Veil

I wanted to watch something of Wayne’s so that was the reason for tuning in to this one. Then I realized Wayne and Sonija were collaborating again so the better for me since I had liked them together after watching Pages of Treasure (and felt they were kind of robbed as a couple in there). I also didn’t have any problem with the rest of the cast so I dove in. As I was patiently waiting for the plot to unfold, I thought it was just another palace related show. However, I was wrong. Yes, the main story arch was regarding the palace and the uprising of some arrogant dude who thought he would be a better ruler. It always happened that way. What made it different was how it brought back feelings of old series. Mostly feelings of ancient series of the old days. It wasn’t being controversial on purpose or try to dramatize everything. The story just flowed along. I found it funny at first that they had several characters in here in various roles and even their characters looked alike. I soon got past that and realized it would be an interesting one. At least it was different. Then I got pulled in by the story. Sure, some were repetitive and reminded me of Liao Zhai related stories. Yet it was refreshing in a sense of the chemistry between various characters. I felt it strange at first that they let Kristal portrayed a guy. It was almost as if they were running out of cast or something. But then the character grew on me and so did Kristal’s portrayal. (If they did some Mulan adaptation, she would make a perfect Mulan. Not kidding.)

Anyway, aside from the main story arch, I felt the rest of the couples had a fair share of stories. Although Yat Pan Heung was shown as a greedy, flirty, and despicable character at first but the background story for her made sense. She was a prostitute, what was she expected to do? Then she was living in such a place, how could she not come up with different schemes to triumph over others? Who was she supposed to trust? It made sense. The previous happening with the switch and all was only to teach Chu Yi Dan a lesson. It didn’t allow for Yat Pan Heung to justify herself more than that. Because he wasn’t her fate so he only seen her as the fun person, not like his boring wife–as he mistakenly thought. Chu Yi Dan finally learned that his wife was very talented in her own way and very strong. There were many things she’d done for him but he didn’t realize its importance until she was no longer doing them. It made him realized his unreasonableness and knowing that the wife he wanted had been by his side all along. When Yat Pan Heung finally met Hon Tin Loi, the story unfolded and she found her own happiness and what could be considered a normal life. I actually liked those characters more, lol. Call me bias but scholar versus awesome martial arts dude. But both Wayne and Sonija did quite well in bringing out their different roles.

Then there was the story of the Song prince and Princess Lap Ka. Their story was cute at first and then moved toward the tragic route. However, their story was spread out throughout and not bunch together. It created a sense of mystery to it, making you wonder if there would be some sort of miracle in the end, which there was. But it didn’t make it too corny. The story actually made sense in the fairy-tale or folktale kind of way.

The story regarding the fish spirit and Cheung Chan was a mixture of cuteness and tragedy. Although it turned out favorable in the end. But that story brought forth both humor and mystery. The ideal, sweet girl wasn’t who she posed as out in public and a supposedly fish demon wasn’t so evil like often portrayed in others’ eyes. Eliza actually did quite well portraying both roles. She brought out the innocent, cute side of the fish spirit nicely. Then there was the cunning, scheming side of the royal miss, Hung Mao Dan. Her chemistry with Bosco was cute and likable in their own way.

Aside from all the couples in here, I felt some of the notable mentions went to Lee Kwok Lun, portraying two roles (like some others in here) of the turtle spirit and Justice Bao. He was humorous as a the turtle spirit and somewhat grim as Justice Bao. Yet he was convincing in both roles. Koo Koon Chung was given a loyal, righteous role in here, which was hilarious. Well, okay, not like he’d never portrayed a good person type of role before, but I was more used to his cunning side or somewhat playful roles in the past. So having him in this role was a nice change. He was a great addition under the reins of Dyun Fung Sam. At the part where it was thought he had abandon Dyun as well, considering how he had a family and all, it was tragic but understandable. Yet he returned after having settled all his families at a safer place. It proved that he really meant what he said, i.e. caring for his family, and that he wasn’t afraid of death–like initially thought.

After all that was said and done, I think the most tragic couple must be Yuen Sam Yeung and Dyun So Sei. The ending for them was so sad. There was supposedly another chance for them at long last after all those years of waiting. However, in the end, they couldn’t be together. Both Raymond and Kristal acted out their scenes so well. Their chemistry wasn’t bad either.

There were many things about this series that made me wanted to defend TVB again, although I know they’re a lost cause for the most part. Most dramas nowadays are always leaning toward “love, love, love” and not so much for theme of patriotism so I thought this series sort of brought that back into focus. Yes, there were various love stories in here–and it would probably contradict my previous statement somewhat, but I think that they made the right calls for the main story arch, i.e. the side stories weren’t that dragged out for the sake of it. It was more plot driven than character driven so it made the pace likable and enjoyable in many ways.

The ending? Although not completely satisfying and I’m sure there were flaws somewhere, but I felt it was nicely executed for the most part. A typical ending with a battle between good versus evil. Yet it united some of the key characters for the epic ending. It was nice seeing Raymond in another role, but this time as Prince Wanyan Siu. He joined forces with them to help find the special liquid and also defeated the ultimate bad guy in here. It was a nice battle scene. Not overdone.They actually worked together to defeat the bad guy AND NOT make it like someone hogged the entire scene for some outright exaggerated battle. It brought forward a sense of joint effort like how it was from the beginning, having different characters participate in the events, not one or two person(s) all the time. One of the main reasons why I liked this series. And yes, it was indeed a major surprise that I’m praising it.

The Smiling, Proud Wanderer 1984: Theme Song

*NOTE*: Video got taken down already, I’ll try to find another version later.

Because of all the hype lately, I just have to hunt down for one of the old versions, LOL! Since people were wandering about music (the heart of the novel), so I hunt around for the song of an old version as well. I just love the song so much. The song said it all. So jiang hu. In fact, I’m tempted to go watch again. Anyway, the song is ‘Xiao Ao Jiang Hu’ (the title of the series) and it was performed by Johnny Yip and Frances Yip.

The Grand Canal

Phew! Finally finished this series…and possibly glad that I could finish it throughout so I wouldn’t be hanging or missed any details of it.

Excellent acting from these actors and actresses that reminded me that TVB once had really good actors and actresses:

  • Tony Leung: Even if Tony’s character went downhill later on since he was mostly dominated by his emotions rather than his mind, but his acting still carried on with portraying the emotional state his character was going through that made it convincing.
  • Felix Wong: Felix was just plain evil in here. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that his most successful villain role was this one. Because I saw some of the other ones that he portrayed the bad guy but it was just wrong and I wasn’t convinced. For this one, he managed to make me hate him and believed that his character was beyond reasoning and was just some greed driven maniac.
  • Margie Tsang: Her character was really annoying at times because she was really loud. But to look at it on another point of view, she was just very naive and wasn’t as mature as the others. To put it simply, she was just living in the wrong time period since she didn’t understand the intense situations sometimes. However, she had a good heart overall and cared for her friends and was very loyal to them. I actually liked it that she was quite stubborn because she wasn’t wishy-washy like the majority of the characters in here. She knew what she liked or didn’t like. She was also understanding toward others since although there might be misunderstandings between parties, but after she found out the truth or others told her about it, she would forgive and forget it (also another good side of her). It was really good to know that she didn’t die in here or listened to Felix’s character near the end of the story. Maybe it was because of her strong friendship with Derek’s character that made it possible but it was really great to know she didn’t listen to his nonsense thus causing more trouble. It was safe to say that she had this strong sense of righteousness within her that made her character more admirable in a sense.
  • Derek Kwok: Yes, TVB viewers often refer to him as the MOST underrated guy in TVB history. The fact that he only delivered his best made it even more frustrating since TVB is practically blind to keep casting him in supporting roles or just some role. But I’m glad that he always gave it his best–whether people think it was the best role or not. As I said before, I really loved his character (and knew that he won’t last till the end of the series) and really liked his friendship with Margie’s character in here. It was just a pure kiddy relationship since they both loved to roam around town and explore or do any random activities together. His loyalty to his second brother was apparent also. A great character overall.
  • Sean Lau: I think this was my second favorite role of him. At first, I thought he was not right for this role. However, he was really great as the future king. He really brought out the smart side of the character and managed to convince me of his emotional state at various points–such as being stuck in between his family and his friendship to Tony. And also various scenes with Margie. (Subtle but still touching.)
  • Jimmy Au: I don’t know if it was his acting or the roles chosen because he usually did WAY better in supporting roles vs. the ones where he starred in. Maybe the characters were better written? Although they managed to rob his character of various talents in here, he still showed great loyalty with various people in here. I really liked scenes of him and his wife also. (Not that I don’t like Rebecca, just think that he matched with Red Dust Lady more.)
  • Wong Yee Kum (Red Dust Lady): She was really great in various scenes with being calm as well as rash at times. She was very intelligent, outshining Idy’s character in many ways. She didn’t judge anyone (like in the case of Idy, etc). Yes, she was stubborn at times too and couldn’t control herself, but it was in her personality. Her loyalty and bravery were very admirable. (Thanks to llwy12 for helping with her name.)
  • Liu Kai Chi: Yes, he was Mr. Naive all right. Can’t blame him because of his brother’s great acting and always speaking up for him when he was in trouble. I really liked his performance in here as the nice and suave prince although he was badly taken advantage of by practically everyone in here. Such a tragic ending for him and he was probably the only one in his whole family that I actually felt sorry for since he didn’t deserve the fate at all. He was not the cunning nor deceiving type so he wasn’t able to figure some things out on his own versus his sister who had the time, intelligent, and the access to it (but failed to discover it sooner).
  • Lawrence Ng: The only reason why I even put his name in was because I think this was one of the rare series that I actually liked his acting or think he was up to it–although he was portraying a villain. He made me hate him so bad that I couldn’t even blame others for being dumb (except for Idy’s character, lol). He put the show up so well with being the filial son and then the drastic change in his character later after he acquired what he wanted all along.
  • Cheng Yim Foong (the girl who portrayed Sheung Yee). Her character ended in tragic and it was very annoying with too much of the pity thing playing into the story but I think that this actress was really great in portraying her role. It got really complex later on but she managed to pull it off very well. (Thanks to llwy12 for helping with her name.)
  • Bau Fong and Lee Heung Kam. Love these veteran actor/ actresses. They were only in the first part of the series but managed to convince me with their characters (even if they weren’t the wisest people).

Other good points about this series:

  • The friendship between Tony and Sean. It was known and proven many times that they were a great team at times thus leading to jealousy from various parties and causing more conflicts between both sides.
  • The brother/sister relationship between Tony, Jimmy, and Wong Yee Kum. There were misunderstandings at times but they managed to resolve it and stay true as friends till the very end. I loved it that they had different views at times but still managed to stay true to one another, not giving in to power or some other forces.
  • Sean and Margie as a couple. To elaborate a little more on this, I didn’t like the idea of them being a couple at first either but it really grew on me. (And I was waiting for sparks to fly between Tony and Idy instead.) This was actually my other favorite pairing–if it was even relevant to discuss in such an intense series like this. He was probably what people call book smart while she was the street smart kind. They complemented each other really well. She might not be helpful to him at various times, but could help him relax a bit with taking him out to various places to relieve some stress or talk nonsense so he could laugh. (LOL)
  • Derek and Margie as friends. I really thought he liked her romantically at first since he loved to hang out with her, etc. But it was just this pure and innocent friendship between them. He liked to roam around and play some senseless games once in a while so she made the perfect candidate as his close friend because of their similar interests. They were really funny when together as said many times already. They had this strong bond of friendship which others couldn’t understand (because most of them were so serious) thus leading to Margie having a very strong reaction toward his death. (Glad like I said before so she wouldn’t back down to believing Felix’s character.)
  • The costumes and hairstyles. If you watched the majority of the ’80s series, you would know that they reused some of the costumes, but it was all right. Still nice to look at for the main cast and great hairstyles. I especially loved those they did for Rebecca’s character at the beginning of the story. It looked really sophisticated and nice–unlike those weird, bulky hairstyles they did for ancient series nowadays.

The bads:

  • Idy Chan’s acting. I’m sorry to pick on her yet again but I couldn’t even see her shine in here even IF it was the highest peak of the series or the lowest point. Her character was tolerable near the end but her acting ceased to impress. The majority of the script was to be blamed but her acting didn’t amount to much either.
  • The dragged out of the plot and/or lack of development of both characters and plot. This was said over and over again but I thought I should include it one more time to get the point across. They had a lot of great characters to work with, yet they kept shuffling back and forth with only certain characters at times and dragged it out too much. They should’ve developed more of Chun Wong’s sidekick’s character in here. He was a great character from the book–or so I was told. Why did they make him fall so behind in the story? It just defeated the purpose of putting him in the series in the first place. That went for the other characters as well. Tony’s character was a very intelligent person yet his indecisiveness caused more harm than help people in general. It got really annoying and was quite repetitive. Same for Idy’s character because she was supposed to be smart (like how the scriptwriters led us on to believe), but it took too long to solve problems, etc. They managed to give characters good background information and show off their skills at the beginning but failed to develop it later on. The beginning of the story was developed quite well with the plot also but it just dragged on so much in the middle that only the last 10 episodes were worth watching.
  • The fact that the majority of the female cast in here was annoying. I only managed to endure Margie’s character in here because it was Margie and she made it so charming with her character without being as annoying. However, Wong Yee Kum was the most intelligent as far as I see and the most understanding also. Although she did have her moments (like mentioned before) but it was understandable and relevant–unlike some other characters in here. The second to her character that wasn’t as annoying was probably Rebecca Chan’s. Although she was a third-party at one point of the story, I pitied her more than hated her. I couldn’t help but come back to thinking that the scriptwriters must have hated women a lot or was trying hard to make Idy’s character shine that they wanted to sink the rest of the female characters in here. (Because honestly, making the female population super whiny and annoying wasn’t the way to “charm” in case the definition of “charm” had changed. It had to be on purpose or someone was really dumb.)

So on the last few notes, I would like to say that this series actually reminded me of The Yang’s Sagas because of the political elements and the conflicts in between. However, The Yang’s Sagas was WAY better because of its length and well thought out storyline. (It was also sad but wasn’t draggy or annoying.) I wouldn’t recommend this series even if you really love any of the cast, but watch it at your own risk since it was really long. But if you skipped just one episode, you missed some major detail stuck in between. To say it simply, each detail was essential to the overall plot and would help you understand the plot better but it wasn’t necessarily well written.

Posted (on Xanga): January 28, 2009

Posted: April 27th, 2010