Friday, January 9, 2015

Iris and Niki's Ridiculously Long 2014 Year in Review

With another year behind us, Niki and I are looking back on how TVB did in 2014. Instead of writing separate series reviews, we have written a mega big year in review post. For those looking to see what series they should check out and skip, this is broken up everything into categories for your convenience and amusement…
Series excluded because neither Niki and I watched them are “All That is Bitter is Sweet,” “Queen Divas,” “Tomorrow is Another Day.” Series with only one person commenting indicate the other did not watch it.



“Black Heart White Soul”
Iris: Roger anchors this rare thriller series with his villainous performance and proves no other actor could have portrayed the manipulative “Matt Ko,” making his Best Actor win a big “Duh.” It also boosts a scene-stealing Louis Cheung as “Marco Ma” and a truly chilling performance by veteran Waise Lee as the coldblooded “To Yee Hang.” Unlike most series though, the cast acts out a great script as opposed to trying to compensate for a bad one. “Black Heart,” with its questions, plot twists, and rapid pacing, keeps you on the edge of your seat and anxiously waiting for the next episode and does not ever waver too much inconsistency. The female characters are either unimportant or not likable, but did not ruin the series for me overall (though Gillian came pretty darn close). My main complaint is the anti climactic endings for epic characters Marco and To Yee Hang.

Niki: This series tackled the tricky but intriguing theme of human nature without becoming tacky or overly-confusing (unlike “When Heaven Burns”) and that deserves praise all on its own. It was just a shame how Kristal Tin’s character was underused when she had more potential. She had more to do at the end of the series working to expose “Matt”, but for the most part she just played Matt’s obedient girlfriend. I also agree that Marco and To Yee Hang deserved a more fulfilling ending than what they got.

“Gilded Chopsticks”
Iris: Ancient comedies from TVB these days are rarely funny and usually just dumb, but “Gilded Chopsticks” managed to balance being genuinely laugh out loud funny and fun while balancing it with palatial drama (which for once didn’t make me want to stab myself). Wong Cho Lam was hilarious in a silly fashion without being annoying or over the top, and I especially enjoyed his friendship with Ben Wong and relationship with the cute Stephanie Ho. Although I think Ben lacks charisma as a main lead, this is an entertaining drama with humor from start to finish.

Niki: This was a fun drama, but I felt like the food theme didn’t go together with the political storyline that was happening with Ben and Louis Cheung. About halfway along the food theme became more supplementary, which is a shame because I wanted to see more of that aspect.

“Never Dance Alone”
Iris: This series was the victim of getting majorly snubbed at the Anniversary Awards (it only managed to score acting nominations for Lawrence Cheng and Eliza Sam, ironically enough for giving two of the least worthy performances). The whole M Club ensemble gives strong and likable performances (except for maybe the underused Fennie Yuen), particularly Carman Lee and Rachel Lee. Flora Chan, who I usually dislike, ended up being one I loved to hate with her arrogant use of English and playful bitchiness. I personally was not crazy about the excessive use of flashbacks but the young actresses were good as well. “Never Dance Alone” was lighthearted, fun, and sweet with a refreshing and solid cast.

Niki: I didn’t mind the flashbacks actually. It was interesting to compare the young characters to where they are currently. Even though it was a more lighthearted series it did have its darker moments that I didn’t expect, but unlike other series it wasn’t completely random and actually contributed to the story’s development. What I liked best about this series was that you could connect with what the characters went through and there was a certain feeling of nostalgia (especially since we watched this during our senior year of high school).

“Storm in a Cocoon”
Niki: At first I expected “Storm in a Cocoon” to be another one of TVB’s typical draggy family drama, but it turned out to be a well-written and suspenseful mystery. The constant plot-twists prevented the series from becoming too predictable and kept the viewers constantly engaged. However, without such a capable leading cast (Steven Ma, Tavia Yeung, Maggie Siu, and Evergreen Mak) the series wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable as it was. Steven and Tavia, in particular, were outstanding in their roles and shared undeniable chemistry as the star-crossed lovers.

Inches above average:
“Line Walker”
Niki: “Line Walker” created one of the highest buzz out of all the TVB series this year and for good reason. The series balanced its thick suspenseful plot with endearing moments and comedic relief to lessen the tension. Charmaine Sheh shined in this series, no one was more deserving of the TV Queen spot than her this year. Her character was sassy, flirty, yet strong and intelligent at the same time and Charmaine nailed all of her scenes whether it was comedic or emotional. It was also nice see Raymond Lam break away from his usual “chok” image in the recent years to play a more organic and playful character. My favorite character by far though, was “Hei Foon Gor” played by veteran Benz Hui. “Hei Foon” is the epitome of the saying “a dagger hidden behind a smile." He was the only character where you could never really guess what they’re thinking and everything he did had an ulterior motive (regardless of whether it was good or bad). Benz did a spectacular job capturing all of the dimensions of this complex character and really brought him to life. The series just wasn’t the same after he died and I kept clinging onto the hope that he would magically come back. The only disappointment character/acting-wise was Sharon Chan. Sharon was supposed to be an intelligent madam, but she came across as weak, indecisive, and lacked any common sense (the series accumulated an insanely high death toll, WHY couldn’t Sharon have been one of them).

Iris: I concur with everything in Niki's diatribe, particularly about our love for Benz's character and dislike of Sharon's, and won't repeat myself. I also enjoyed Sammy Sum's character and performance in the first half, but unfortunately he faded into the background following his real-life injury, making his unhappy ending uncalled for. "Line Walker" is a great and entertaining series overall, but unfortunately simmers in its last third. Also, if it's something this series taught us, it's that there are a hell lot of undercover cops out there.

“Ruse of Engagement”
Iris: An intriguing action series, though it spends too much time on Ruco Chan and Ron Ng’s training in the beginning to then become much darker. Due to having been filmed so long ago, Aimee Chan's performance is weak and her chemistry with Ruco is awkward, particularly due to how “Jessica” and their relationship is written. Ron did not do much better and was quite unlikable as the guy who was always so quick to turn on his brother and trusted the girl he liked more. I ended up enjoying it most for Ruco and Yoyo Mung’s ambiguous relationship, and wished more had come out of it.

“Swipe Tap Love”
Iris: Some people may have disliked it because it has no plot, but I believe there’s not meant to be one. There’s a general premise and set of characters used as a jumping off point to just portray life in all its happiness, bittersweetness, and sadness. This led to a surprisingly somber tone at times without getting too depressing. Priscilla Wong is sweet as a girl next door type, and the child actress and dog were oh so adorable. Unfortunately, the first half is quite draggy because of Elaine Yiu’s character, and it becomes much more enjoyable after her departure.

Eddie Kwan and Kelly Fu’s storyline also went from being a little strange to quite sweet, and I liked their ending (Eddie’s real daughter accepts his money for her wedding yet still refuses to acknowledge him, but he goes on to build a strong father-daughter relationship with Kelly and walks her down the aisle). It shows how life doesn’t always work out the way you think, but that doesn’t mean good things don’t happen unexpectedly either.


Enjoyable but forgettable fillers:

“Coffee Cat Mama”
Niki: “Coffee Cat Mama” was a light series that developed at a slow and steady pace. It was more like a mini sitcom in the sense that it just followed the characters’ daily lives and didn’t really have an overarching plot. Eliza Sam did well as the naive and indecisive “Grace Bean” and the easy-going “Pau Chi Tai” was an easy character for Bosco to tackle, but they failed to stand out as leads. Acting wise, it was Vincent Wong who stole the spotlight for his spot on portrayal of the honest and slightly awkward “Yam Ka Ching.” This was a nice laidback series to follow on the weekends (if you ignored the last 15 minutes), but it might come across as boring for some.

Iris: Vincent was the highlight for me as well, and outshined Bosco by far. He nailed the smallest mannerisms which added to his character. May Chan was also very cute and endearing here as well. While it was obvious Vincent and Nancy would end up together, he and May surprisingly were sweet together, and I loved that it was kept mature and the script never resorted to fat jokes for cheap laughs. I wish she would play more of these not loud and over the top but still cute characters. I remember I also enjoyed the scenes Bosco, Vincent, and Koo Ming Wah shared together.

“Outbound Love”
Iris: If the male lead had been anyone else besides Ruco, I probably would have skipped the series. However, it was nice to see Ruco in a lighthearted role for a change and he was very enjoyable in the laidback and quirky role. He and Aimee also had much better and more genuine chemistry this time, with Aimee being surprisingly quite likable here. Tony Hung gives a decent debut performance as the second male lead. Still, drama was thrown in to stretch it out to 20 episodes, particularly with Matt Yeung, Samantha Ko, and Elaine Yiu’s characters.

“Ghost Dragon of Cold Mountain”
Niki: Do not be fazed by the cheesy name, because “Ghost Dragon” was actually a pretty enjoyable series. The characters’ different backgrounds and unique personalities sometimes clashed with each other, which resulted in some cute and fun comedic relief. It only went downhill during the second half when TVB tried to, once again, force an uncomfortable love triangle down our throats and muddled up the storyline. But Selena Li definitely deserves props for her solid portrayal of the two heavily contrasting characters “Tou Fa” and “Yan Mei Leung.”

“Lady Sour”
Niki: Personally I have mixed feelings about “Lady Sour.” On one hand, the partners in crime, Myolie Wu and Ron Ng, were definitely the highlight of the series with their hilarious (yet extremely touchy) interactions. On the other hand, the storyline suffered several plot holes due to the rushed storytelling that had everything happening in the last four episodes, and the unjustified cruelness Myolie’s character “Cho Ching” received from her in-laws just made me want to punch the screen. I also felt sorry for Ron who was demoted to second lead, but still ended up having to do the majority of the work.

Iris: I don't think "Lady Sour" really had much of a plot but instead, it was Myolie and Him Law's marriage and other events stringed together. Yet, maybe since I'm on break, I still watched and finished without much trouble as it still managed to be pretty funny. However, Eliza Sam and Him Law in the second half were such useless second leads. Alice Chan was pretty amusing in that bitchy but entertaining way. I liked Myolie and Ron's friendship turned relationship, but the last ditch efforts at storytelling and plot twists the last few episodes were shoddy. Also, given the time period, it's beyond me why Myolie's in-laws yelled at her about everything under the sun except for spending so much time and being so touchy with Ron.

“Rear Mirror”
Iris: The most subtle love story ever? Until the very end, Wayne Lai and Louisa So’s relationship seemed like more of that of a very close friendship than love. It was a series that moved slowly and steadily and never amounted to anything much with some family drama thrown in. Wayne and Louisa are likable but fail to captivate, and this series plot-wise is clearly filler. However, Tony and Natalie Tong’s chemistry was undeniable and their scenes were sweet and adorable.

"Return of the Silver Tongue"
Niki: Honestly I had to re-read the synopsis before I remembered what happened in the series. Kristal Tin and Roger Kwok were entertaining enough as the pair of constantly bickering and witty lawyers, but nothing about this series was outstanding or memorable. It was by definition, okay.


Sequels that should’ve never seen the light of day:

"Come On, Cousin"
Iris: I avoided "Inbound Troubles" when it first aired because I thought it'd be dumb and over the top. I heard a lot of praise afterwards and thought I'd give it a try, but time made me always put it in the back of my mind. I finally watched it before the sequel released, and absolutely loved it. It was silly sometimes yes, but hilarious, sweet, had a lot of heart, and never became downright stupid. "Come On Cousin" was what I was originally afraid "Inbound" would be like, only worse. It's full of bad gags, over the top "humor," and lacks the heart the first one did (with Ram Chiang's character being an exception). I loved Ivana Wong's character but just couldn't get through it. Wong Cho Lam is unbearably annoying. I don't understand why he and the scriptwriters decided to suddenly change the comedy style when the first was so well-received. What happened to "Don't break what's not broken"? The cast deserved so much better, and I honestly would wish I could forget this was ever made if it hadn't finally won Ram the Best Supporting Actor and cemented Louis' Most Improved victory. I gave up about 14 episodes in.

Niki: Sometimes when you try too hard to make something special you tend to overdo it, and that’s the case with “Come On, Cousin.” Wong Cho Lam was too focused on being different and standing out he forgot to put in the heart to keep the series grounded. Nonetheless I did enjoy Ram and Ivana’s moments together as well as Louis’ scenes (after his character turned over a new leaf). Without those three, I don’t think I would I have finished the series.

"Tiger Cubs 2"
Iris: This sequel screwed itself over the minute they casted Linda as the tough cop, whose eyes perpetually looked like they were going to pop out of her head. Unfortunately, the series is bad even if you put aside Linda's obvious miscast. The cases are boring, and somehow the action scenes are as well. The original characters, particularly Him and Oscar, are stagnant with practically no development. This would be more acceptable if TVB had interesting cases or used the opportunity to develop new characters or promote more minor ones from the first one like Benjamin Yuen, William Chak, and Patrick Tang. Instead, all we got was a static trainee character played by Matthew Ko who has next to no screen time anyway. After struggling to get through six episodes, I'm incredibly disappointed and have decided to just drop it.

Niki: The writers probably got lazy with this sequel and figured some flashy shooting scenes and a wardrobe of sleeveless shirts to show off the guys’ muscles would be enough to distract the viewers.

The one that never got to the point:

Iris: The series boosts some great actors, and yet the story seemed like it was a long way from reaching a boiling point that...never really happened. Wayne has tired out the whole loud yelling in confrontation scenes thing. Also, Susanna Kwan is criminally underused. She is an amazing actress that can pull off both villains and comedic characters with multiple layers, and I kept expecting her character to do something big until the credits rolled. It turns out TVB really was stupid enough to keep her sitting around quietly the whole time, and not even in that silently cunning way. Power Chan is the resident voice of reason and scene stealer as "Lee Tsau Kan," and had great chemistry with Nancy Wu, much to my surprise. However, the series is really not worth watching besides for these two. Despite being an anniversary series, "Overachievers" lacks real plot and substance, which, given past anniversary series, shouldn't have surprised me. The writers certainly weren't very "overachieving" in their efforts to write a good script - yes, pun intended.

Niki: I was also disappointed with how Susanna was swept into the background. It was a waste of such a capable actress. What annoyed me the most was the sudden change in characterization, especially Raymond Wong’s character. We knew that “Hugo” is greedy, power-hungry, and would resort to underhanded tactics to gain wealth, but having him become an impulsive serial killer was ridiculous. Grace Chan did surprisingly well for her debut role and was natural on-screen. Ali Lee also stood out as the manipulative and calculating mistress.

There’s something below rock bottom?

"The Ultimate Addiction"
Iris: It took me three episodes to drop the series, and from the absolutely terrible reviews, it seems like I made the right decision. They made a potentially interesting backdrop and set of characters boring, Sharon's police team was a giant cheeseball, and Sharon herself looked incredibly out of place and unnatural. And there were 30 episodes of this? *Facepalm*

So overall, how did TVB do? The answer is... Baaaa-d. Maybe not terrible, as we have only placed three series into the outright “Bad” section. However, with so many series listed under “Enjoyable but forgettable fillers,” it can be seen TVB is still not doing too well in churning out entertainment of some value.


  1. Good job guys! My favourite line from this post: "the series accumulated an insanely high death toll, WHY couldn’t Sharon have been one of them" YES, WHY COULDN'T SHE HAVE DIED?!

    1. Thanks Miriam! Hahaha, I burst out laughing when Niki sent me her blurb for "Line Walker" and read that sentence. God, in the last few episodes, I kept screaming at the screen "Why can't Sharon die instead of Sammy?!"