Okay, so finally finished watching this one after putting it off for a bit. Strange that they should try to pull the “triangle” thing like toward the very end of the series. There have been hints here and there with Alex and Hillary, but to start some mess toward the end is just pointless. It doesn’t prove anything at all. (I still see the chemistry between Alex and Hillary more than Alex with Abbie. Both appearances and personalities. Maybe because Eric seems very uncomfortable around Shirley although he’s trying hard to make it natural and it seems like his character, Alex, really loves her character, Abbie. We can see that through various gestures and things he did for her, but there’s something missing. Still too awkward if anything. For once, I would like to see the second leading guy ending up with someone else instead of the second leading girl. It’s just too typical that it’s not even interesting to watch or anticipate anything more. IF they had put at the beginning that he met both girls at the same time and somehow like both girls, having to choose–it would’ve been better and fairer for Hillary. That’s another typical plot but still better to see than the pointless scenes of meeting Hillary and having her play the bad person.) I think that they’re focusing too much on the whole Abbie, Alex, and Hillary triangle that they seem to stray from the story as an overall. I would like to see more of Wayne and Sonija scenes as Ming and Chung. It’s like although they appear a lot too, I feel they’ve been robbed as of their time spent together. It’s like the script just barely squeezes in their shared screen time or something. I love to watch Eric, but I feel that Wayne is once again robbed even if this is supposed to be his first leading role.
Aside from that frustration rant, ‘Like’ factors are:
- The bond of the Fong family. Even if the mother seems unreasonable at times and is too pushy with making the whole family stay together, but everyone has a great bond overall. They are supportive of each other, especially the father toward them.
- The chemistry between Wayne and Sonija as Ming and Chung. They’re just too funny together and their interactions are just too much to watch. It’s one of the most joyous moments of the series itself. Yes, there was the whole misunderstanding thing at the beginning of the series, but that was resolved quickly. They’ve become friends and the constant bickering and the support for each other is just great also.
- The message of the importance of knowledge. The most disappointing factor is that it got lost among all of the other themes in here. But was brought back into focus with the last few episodes. Still, it does no justice.
- Paul Chun and Mary Hon as husband and wife. I find it very refreshing that for once, Paul’s not portraying a man who takes care of his own kids by himself. It’s great to see the interaction between this old couple. Yes, Mary’s character is annoying at times but it really complements with Paul’s character who’s passionate about books and his calm side makes up for her stubbornness at times (and vice versa, depending on situations).
- Stephen Huynh and Sharon Chan as a couple. It’s just hilarious how they got together and thus leading to Pansy getting the treatment she has always wished for (i.e. her scar).
- Eric Suen and Vivien Yeo as a couple. Yes, I have to put them in even if I hate the triangle. I love their chemistry together. Even if they meant the characters to have so many flaws, but I like them together. Eric is so comfortable with Vivien that makes it better to watch them versus when he’s trying too hard to act lovey-dovey with Shirley.
Things that they should have focused on instead of the triangle:
- More on the importance of reading and enhancing your knowledge and less on the romance (especially Alex’s side). I really like it that they emphasize this strongly and remind us not to abandon books over technology. However, it lost its purpose and message after developing too much into the romance department. We’ve seen the importance of the books through the father and how the bookstore was opened. But it seems to only exist so they could come in and chat or socialize instead of focusing on books as a major theme.
- Sharon Chan as Pansy. I would rather they give Sharon’s character, Pansy, more background and develop her character more. She has some good in her but because she’s so aggressive to drive for her career and the fact that she has a scar that caused her to resort to selfish means thus looking out for herself only. However, I rather see how she learns to appreciate Chung slowly and let things continue to improve between them slowly than see that it gets squeezed in the last few episodes. Probably they don’t want to tone down her lively personality by making her too virtuous but squeezing in some last minute stuff isn’t all that believable either. However, Sharon’s acting is so charming and funny that it’s hard to hate Pansy. And maybe because there are fewer scenes of her so it’s hard to hate her.
Since I complained so much about the Abbie, Alex, and Hillary triangle, I guess I have to break it down and analyze further to explain why I actually dislike this triangle so much.
First off, Alex’s character:
- Filial son and a good brother (to both siblings). In short, he’s a family man and always tries his best to provide for his family and gets along with everyone all around. He really wants his family to be happy so he will try to do anything to make it work with everyone’s expectations. There are conflicts at times between him and other family members, but they do calm down and try to understand in order to make it work.
- Intelligent. It can’t be denied that he’s a very intelligent person–mostly because of his educational background.
- Tech-freak. Yes, it’s his passion and his career. It’s noticeable how important it is to let him see the knowledge in the books versus his over obsessiveness with the tech-world.
- The too perfect exterior. We see too much of him being the filial son and the caring brother, plus not to mention the considerate boyfriend with the whole “chat” at the beginning of the series. It paves out a great image for him, which is more ironic to see so many holes in the relationship with him and Abbie yet it still worked in the end because TVB said so.
Second, Abbie’s character:
- Career woman. She’s a career woman not because she chooses to be that way but because she has no other choice than to be one since she doesn’t have any family left (except for her nephew).
- Pessimist. This can’t be helped since considering how her past was with an abusive father and how her mother ran out like a coward to leave her in such a mess. So this is a great setup because the pitiful characters usually get more sympathy.
- Intelligent. It sets out a great foundation for her with her reading knowledge and how well she gets along with Alex’s father. There goes her bonus point again.
Third, Hillary’s character:
- Filial daughter. Whether the mother deserves it or not, but must admit that Hillary is a very good daughter. She cares for her mother a lot and shows it through various actions. Their mother-daughter relationship is really good. However, it reeks of irony no matter how you look at it. It seems like the mother’s trying to make up for her past wrong with putting so much love toward Hillary. It makes it sickening sometimes too that she thinks she could be forgiven. This also sets up a death-trap for Hillary since she automatically gets blamed because she gets all the love and attention thus she’s wrong. (Oh puh-lease, could the scriptwriter grow up for two seconds?) I feel even more pity for Hillary since she didn’t do anything wrong (just because she’s the one living by the mother’s side at that point). Hillary’s a good daughter that’s why she feels the need to defend her mother and try to understand her, but it doesn’t make her the shameless sister. (So why did they put in the typical boyfriend snatcher thing for her? To make her character more hated by others?)
- Career woman. She’s dedicated to her work and welcomes new challenges. She’s also professional toward her work even if there are conflicts among her and other colleagues. It shows that during her intro scene and various scenes later into the series.
- Romantic. She’s probably a hopeless romantic at times thus leading to her easily getting deceived by that one dude at the beginning of the series.
- Not the wisest. The scriptwriter sets her out for destruction and probably a guaranteed way of getting the viewers to hate her by showing us how she was involved with a married man at the beginning. However, she does learn her lesson and decides to not be a third person in relationships anymore. It does show promise in her character but the good image has already been ruined since we would always remember her as the girl who once tried to ruin someone’s marriage. (Yes, stupidity even if she does learn to smart up a bit.)
- Wishy-washy. She tends to get easily persuaded sometimes and doesn’t have enough self-control. Why does she have to go after the guy her sister dumped? It’s lame. Yes, he’s a potential candidate or good one, but come on now! WHY in the world did she look so happy when she hears that they’ve broken up? What was that?! Ugh! (I call it the scriptwriter’s conspiracy to bring her character down with this thing and score more points toward Abbie.) Yes, she gives up in the end because she knows how much Alex cares for Abbie.
The result? A mess. Definitely. From various points, Alex and Hillary match more in that they have this undeniable tacit understanding. However, if people want to argue that opposite attracts, it’s fine too. I think because of TVB’s attempt to give more advantages to Abbie’s character that it ruins the whole thing. It turns out making Alex the bad guy and the whole triangle just crumbles down to a bunch of nonsense.
Alex and Abbie as a couple:
- Cute. Cute is actually a nice word for childish. Honestly, yes, the cute message is spread all over their interactions and forces us into believing that they’re actually meant for each other, etc. It makes me want to roll my eyes every time I see their “cute” interactions. It’s trying too hard to show their bond. It’s too much on the surface that it becomes fake. It’s more convincing when they’re alone thinking of each other or doing things for each other–more him than her–that they really care for each other, but it’s just plain odd when they’re together. (Like I said before, lack of chemistry. And possibly because he has to jump through too many hoops for her that it’s too unconvincing. His fault for choosing it, but the script sucks big time in the convincing department with how much they love each other.)
- History. So they have some history together. Does that mean definite success in the relationship? Yes, it helps a lot so that’s why TVB decided to pair them off from the beginning to secure Abbie’s place in Alex’s heart and us viewers have to believe that Hillary is actually the evil sister and a boyfriend snatcher. (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes again.)
- Hot-headedness. Yes, they seem very cute together–when they get along. But when he disobeys her? There’s the whole tantrum unleashing and the only way he could calm her down is to give in to her ideas or reasoning. Not to mention that he would try to apply logic into the whole matter, which is even more frustrating. What’s with that trying to explain to her when he already made a mistake? It only adds oil to the fire.
- No Trust. Okay, the beginning of the story makes Abbie the reasonable girlfriend who trusts Alex completely with Hillary so it automatically is his fault for lying to her. (Lying is never good but his reasons are valid because he cares for Abbie’s feelings.) She’s upset when she comes into his company that one time so his automatic reaction would be to not trouble her with such small things. (Since he doesn’t think of Hillary in that way, right?) It’s probably a wrong move to make up an excuse like that, etc but his intention was good. (I’m not encouraging for people to lie away, but in this case, I just want to clarify that part since he wasn’t even thinking of cheating on her or wasn’t even dating Hillary behind her back.) Lie number 2 (if counting by sequence, it’s actually #1) is about the song that he said is still unfinished. Whether or not he wants to conceal it as his and Hillary’s song or not is debatable. However, I think it could possibly be that he does want to create a different song just for Abbie without Hillary’s help–or anyone’s help for that matter, considering how much he loves Abbie and only wants what’s unique for her. Yes, he seems so into the song when he’s playing it with Hillary at the musical instruments shop, but it’s because of his passion for music and their common interest. (To Abbie, it must have been a heavy blow since she only sees it through her POV, but I just want to debate a little about it from a viewer’s POV.) She has every right to get mad and I couldn’t care less, but I thought just to be fair, she did lie to him about already finding her mother and what has been going through her mind. He’s too dumb sometimes regarding not taking enough hints, so it’s better off if she says it. (Considering how they dated for several years already, she would’ve known him better than react that way. Same goes for him just to be fair to both sides. He’s an idiot for not handling things better. Not wanting to trouble her with stuff is one thing, but hiding too much stuff will make her paranoid.) So the whole hiding thing just proves that there’s no trust or lack of trust in this relationship. It’s just a fake exterior the scriptwriters created at the beginning for both characters just to spice up the “cute” relationship. This leads me to the next point.
- Fake Commitment. Another reason why this relationship doesn’t work is because of false promises from both sides. Yes, Abbie seems quite unreasonable at times and only Alex could tolerate her (until he couldn’t take it anymore), but he DID promise to stick it through with her and try to help her with erasing the past memories she had of her brutal childhood. What did he do? Yes, he tries to get her to see that it’s not all scary with family and bring her into his family so she would feel a sense of belonging. However, it’s like he’s trying to do this as fast as he could in trying to convince her to stay in Hong Kong so he could be with his family before the two-year agreement expires. (HUH?) I honestly want to hit Alex over the head with something. (So he could become dumber and it would make more sense than see him in such an intelligent suit and yet he fails to use common sense.)
- Conclusion. They’re so not ready for a relationship–the way I see it. ‘Cause honestly he’s dedicated to his family more and she has too much past baggage in her to carry on such a relationship. She actually doesn’t need a boyfriend but more like someone to spoil her rotten and make up for what she lost in the past. (I do NOT blame her for what happened but that is what she had become.) Alex is not ready for it either since he keeps pressing her and persuading her to stay in Hong Kong and accept his family. However, he doesn’t realize that’s not the point about accepting his family. It’s about her family. He needs to focus on getting help for her–like getting her psychological help. (Cliche but better than what he’s doing since they jump into trying to get the mother psychological help asap when they found out what might have happened to her so why not apply that with Abbie as well in the beginning?) Like all his mantra about how good his family is could help her put it all behind her. It does help a bit but it just doesn’t erase her nightmares away right there and then. They’re just too wrong for each other because both want to be right. Yes, he does try hard to make it work and she probably did too but the approaches are so off that it makes me wonder about their intelligence, especially his since he’s a bright guy (or it’s what the script meant for his character to be) yet he can’t seem to do it the realistic way. He did persuade her to stay in Hong Kong so that means he’s willing to sacrifice. So although that little “ice cream” thing is somewhat cute when he has to sneak around and eat it, it’s irrelevant and immature that he would complain when he knew what he was getting himself into when he wanted to help Abbie. Why does everyone else have to pity him when he signed the contract already? It’s his choice. (I like Alex a lot, but I just don’t see the twisted reasoning behind it all. It’s not like she forced him, he agreed to it without giving it a second thought. He should blame himself.)
- The reason why they actually end up together: Because character-wise, it has been built in by TVB to seal Abbie’s place with Alex from the start. Not considering how it would earn her mega brownie points with the whole taking the stab for Alex’s mother. I don’t hate them as a couple but I just thought the script was trying too hard to make it work.
Alex and Hillary as a couple:
- Serious yet carefree. It makes it almost ironic that Alex and serious should be associated together, considering his childish moments at times. However, he’s very comfortable with Hillary when they’re together with how they operate–considering they have the same mentality–at work; and when they’re together as friends. It gives off a very comfortable image and how he would be so happy that he is able to eat ice cream or enjoy other things. Their topic of conversation touches on the serious side more frequent yet there are traces of a playful side as well. (This is possibly due to the fact that because they are friends that he doesn’t feel pressured or the need to impress her, but it just seems so lighthearted and refreshing at times when they’re together.)
- Tacit understanding. They have this bond toward each other that sometimes things don’t need to be said or explained but they get it. It’s very genuine.
- Chemistry. Yes, it sort of got covered in other categories already but just want to put it separately to emphasize my point. It’s also the reason why I don’t see that she’s a rebound. (They do care for each other, but it’s just that the script seems to convince us that he loves Abbie more.) He’s really considerate toward her with switching places with her during the employees meeting organized by their boss at the hotel conference room. He’s really happy eating ice cream with her when they’re finally dating and seems to be more comfortable. There are other gestures too so it makes me feel like he feels guilty toward Abbie near the end and sort of unwilling to part with Hillary than love for Abbie. It’s too strange. (Or it’s just Eric’s acting!)
- Height. A bit irrelevant but this is brought up lots of time. They’re both 173 cm so they’re the same height. But it’s because she’s wearing high heels the majority of the time so it looks like she’s taller than him.
- The reason why they’re not together: TVB said so. And also because how their characters are set like that. I know it’s supposed to set up the hospital breakup scene for Hillary to finally let go because she sees how much Alex cares for Abbie, but it’s just wrong and sad that the way Alex looks at her when she leaves. It’s like he doesn’t want it to end. (How could it be so ironic? Blame Eric for forgetting he should be caring 100% for Shirley’s character and not Vivien’s, lol. Or it could have been guilt that he has caused Hillary grief hence the look.)
- And maybe I shouldn’t have watched the Break-up Agency mini movie between Eric and Vivien because I was really anticipating the new collaboration between Eric and Shirley before that.
If this was a Taiwanese idol drama, they would’ve already made it work for Alex and Hillary with finding someone who understands you more and fighting to stay together. (LOL) Too bad. And the most twisted thing is Alex doesn’t like Hillary in that way but because Abbie keeps rubbing the matter in his face that he realizes of Hillary’s existence. (I mean he has always treated her as a friend and even if they have this strong bond, he still thinks of it as the two of them having this shared interest, etc. It doesn’t mean anything to him–until Abbie brought it to his attention.)
With all that said, I think that Vivien must have offended TVB majorly to deserve such types of roles on her all the time. The most likable one must be from Forensic Heroes and that doesn’t count for anything either. (Into Thin Air was another likable role for her but still minimal significance.)
So with all those rants, who did I hate the most in the whole series? Abbie and Hillary’s mother of course. They make it like she had no other choice but to run off and abandon her daughter. She escaped, why not take her daughter too? It wasn’t like she didn’t have any time. Yes, she was afraid that she might not be able to provide for Abbie, but was leaving her with such an abusive father a better alternative? Abbie was given false hope when she received such a great day planned by her mother, but then it all came down to nothing. (It was almost as if because the mother wanted to follow someone else but was afraid he wouldn’t accept it that she has a daughter already so just abandoned Abbie just like that. NO EXCUSE. She made a poor choice by choosing an abusive husband–and it was not like she was supposed to be perfect–but come on now, she just fled responsibility and left her daughter behind to face her consequences?) She just has the nerve to look so pitiful. Yes, she probably couldn’t think straight or right at that point when she decided to leave. But she understood more than anything that she couldn’t stay so what made her think that her daughter–a 5-year-old–could bare so much? Apologizing doesn’t help. No matter how she loves Hillary or seems to think of Hillary as Abbie at times, it doesn’t help. (The reason why I’m saying that she’s using Hillary as a substitute for Abbie at times is because of past recounts of how she remembered back to when Hillary was lost and how desperate she reacted during those times, etc seem to be so similar to Abbie–like losing a daughter. There’s also points where she remembered back to the day she took Abbie out to the park, etc. It’s obvious she cares for Abbie a lot, but the script is just stupid to make such weak points for her reason to leave but NOT to take Abbie with her. Either she cares for Abbie or not. She was probably confused at that time, but she still remembered to care and treat Abbie well, so how could she just turn around and leave just like that without Abbie by her side?) The most frustrating part is Alex’s mother wanting Abbie to forgive her just because she wants to keep her son by her side. Yes, it’s hard not to want such a thing with family reuniting, but she’s too harsh on Abbie and doesn’t understand that Abbie also left everything behind in the U.S. for Alex. So why can’t he do the same? It’s only fair for her. But Alex’s mother doesn’t understand what Abbie’s going through and just wants to get her way. It doesn’t matter how many times she’s saying that Abbie is cold-blooded, it still doesn’t change anything with how Abbie’s mother is such an irresponsible fake person. (Alex’s father is more reasonable and understanding since he knows how sad it is to lose her mother at such a young age. Maybe it’s ’cause he has experienced so much more and read so many books? I’m not trying to discriminate against the mother but that’s what it seems to imply here. It seems that only the father is the bigger person to let Alex go back to the U.S. with Abbie. Yes, he will probably miss his son too but it’s not like they’ll never come back. And like he said, they’re always family no matter what. The plan doesn’t go through but at least it’s good to know that he has his father’s full support.)
I sound really ironic for not liking Abbie yet defending her at various times with her mother’s situation. But in truth, I like her character and pity for her, but I don’t like the unconvincing elements paved into the plot by the scriptwriters in trying too hard to convince us of certain matters. It’s just too weak. This is the reason leading to not really liking her character much in the end. When a plot is so weak, everything will just crumble away.
If you want to watch this for a family drama or a comedy, it’s all right. But it’s really not made out as what it’s supposed to be. Yes, love the Fong family (as said before) and their bond but other side things just distract the purpose of the series. Pages of Treasures–doesn’t it relate to the whole theme of the importance of reading and enhancing your knowledge? They stray from the main theme so much that the whole message got lost.
If you’re honestly a fan of Wayne, Sonija, or Eric–or just watching to see the Fong family, just use the remote and fast-forward all the scenes of the triangle and that’s good enough. The last few episodes are sort of intense and funny in a sense about the psycho woman too, but it just goes right back to wanting to give Abbie credit again that it gets a tad lame (and overly dramatic). Yes, it made Alex’s mother realize that Abbie’s a great girl after all but it’s kind of weak and somewhat unrealistic to see Abbie forgiving her mother. Yes, she’s probably tired of fighting over that just ’cause of what happened in the past. But it seems too quick considering her strong reaction before. It’s also probably because she had encountered a near-death experience but still rushed.
I thought the triangle in Life Art with Kevin, Gigi, and Queenie was weak but looking back, this one is weaker and it dares to occupy the majority of the series. (I finally understand why the triangle in Life Art was so weak because it was more on how Gigi’s character came into acceptance with her disabilities and how Kevin’s character learned to appreciate the simplicity of life surrounding him. So it would make sense that it focused less on the triangle, but this one? No excuse since they put it WAY in the back of the series and try to show us that Alex and Abbie are meant to be together. It just doesn’t slide.)
With all those talks about various characters, almost forget about acting, so here goes:
- Wayne Lai: No doubt he’s good and could pull off his role extremely well, making us believe that’s who he is. He doesn’t disappoint at all with his first leading role.
- Sonija Kwok: She’s really improving nowadays and shows her emotions better and it’s not overdone at all.
- Paul Chun: Was there ever doubt since he started acting like ages ago? Well, maybe some people probably would doubt him, but I think he’s one of the veteran actors who could still pull it through flawless nowadays.
- Mary Hon: No doubt either ’cause of different types of roles from before. This is somewhat similar to some other roles but still love her.
- Eric Suen: The reason I put him behind the others is that I’m a bit disappointed since he seems to do better in certain types of roles versus others. He’s the reason I fail to be convinced with the whole Alex and Abbie relationship. But it’s also partially due to the weak script. Again, it’s likely due to the fact that he’s more comfortable with Vivien because of their past collaboration. However, he should take it up to the challenge in interacting with various actresses. He has great chemistry with his past co-stars so I’m not sure why it doesn’t work this time around. (Stress? LOL!) I think I’m being too harsh on him ’cause the failed chemistry between Alex and Abbie. So to say something positive, I think his overall acting is good because during his interaction with the whole family is very natural and great.
- Shirley Yeung: Slightly disappointed because I was actually impressed by her performance in several series. It’s like there are still traces of her character from The Brink of Law left over and she couldn’t pull out of it hence the fake acting sometimes (’cause the whole pitiful look reminds me of that character too much). She needs to sharpen up a bit. I do understand the pain that her character’s going through but her acting doesn’t convince as much, making it so weak at times.
- Vivien Yeo: She’s getting there because she managed to portray different sides of her character and how complex it is.
- Sharon Chan: I can see that she’s able to pull off various roles more comfortably nowadays and that’s a good thing to see with variety but hope to not see her in such a role too often. Yes, in the end, it actually shows that she values her friendship with Chung a lot since she actually tried to expose Chung’s brother before it’s too late. But it still lacks something to help her character build a stronger foundation toward the end. It’s like it’s rushed and tossed in at the last minute so they can wrap up the series nicely.
- Jason Chan: The potential actor of the series. He’s actually quite charming and his acting isn’t bad. Hopefully, he doesn’t slip and gets careless later on ’cause I’m looking forward to some of his upcoming series.
- Lily Ho: Mixed feelings but her acting’s a bit weaker comparing the same group of newcomers. She does better in some scenes versus the others. Still, there’s room for improvements so don’t want to be too harsh on her.
- Fred Cheng: He is robbed once again. I thought he was rising after the whole Love Bond, The Charm Beneath, and all those series that he played a major role in. Why is he sinking again to play such a role? I know this makes him more versatile by playing all types of characters, but this is getting repetitive with making him bad or unimportant all the time recently. Still seeing potential in him with how he looks so convincing with turning a new leaf at the end again.
- Stephen Huynh: Funny, but charming at the same time! Can’t complain about him since I’ve seen him in various roles already. However, hope he gets some other different roles before his acting slips ’cause of boredom.
This is almost a good series if it wasn’t for TVB trying to be creative again. So this has gone down to average or below average by the end of the series with unnecessary plot developments.
Posted (on Xanga): February 14, 2009
Re-posted: Monday, March 22nd, 2010