Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Overview - Line Walker

Following the mysterious death of his colleague, CIB Chief Inspector Michael Miu discovers that the five undercover cops under his colleague's watch have gone missing. As the undercovers hold highly confidential information concerning the police force and society's safety, Michael is determined to find them. He finally tracks down one of the missing agents - Charmaine Sheh, posing as the owner of a foot massage shop. In order to recover her identity, Charmaine agrees to infiltrate the triads. She manages to get close to Raymond Lam, a member of an illegal gambling group. The two begin an elusive relationship built on lies. But just as Charmaine edges closer to the truth, Michael suddenly halts the operation. This is when Sharon Chan from the ICAC intervenes into the case. Through Sharon, Michael meets her elder sister, Elena Kong. Meanwhile, the triad leader Benz Hui has been released from jail and his assistant Sammy Sum's actions is catching Michael's attention. The relationships between the police and the triad become increasingly complex; with everyone claiming to be fighting for justice, who truly dictates justice?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Shades of Life - Episode Previews

Episode 1 – Hoping Son Becomes Dragon

Topic: Education
Airing date: July 20

Hong Kong’s educators have long advocated the mentality that “education is not about the grades”, but it has not turned out that way in reality. Today’s “monster parents” all hope for their children to succeed. Even toddlers who are just beginning to crawl are being subjected to training in order to win at the starting line. Loving parents Jack Wu and Elaine Yiu have always allowed their son to develop freely. But when Elaine discovers the surprisingly high competitiveness of her son’s classmates, she has no choice but to start paving the way for her son to get into a prestigious high school. Following the example of “tiger parents” Raymond Chiu and Mandy Lam, Elaine pushes her son onto a smokeless battlefield.

Episode 2 – Same Roots

Topic: Mainland-Hong Kong relations
Airing date: July 27

When new immigrants arrive in Hong Kong, they inevitably trigger the tensions between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Oceane Zhu has waited for many years before finally receiving a One-way Permit, allowing her and her daughter to be reunited in Hong Kong with her truck driver husband (Andy Sui). The joy from their reunion soon turns to despair as her husband, hoping to provide a better living, becomes addicted to gambling, while her daughter struggles to catch up at school. But in the end, Oceane remains strong, much like the camellia flowers from her hometown. Her emotional journey shows how important Mainland-Hong Kong integration is in creating win-win situations.

Episode 3 – Extraordinary Principal

Topic: Poverty
Airing date: August 3

Ben Wong is a principal who makes over $1 million in annual salary, but decides to give up his high-paying job to open a free tutoring school for low-income students. He hopes that knowledge can help them escape poverty. But his philosophy of “teaching without discrimination” is tearing his family apart. The tutor school also faces imminent closure, as it cannot generate enough profits to cover its expenses. In order to help these students who, while hard-working, but cannot reach the targets, how far can this extraordinary principal go?

Episode 4 – Hero of Subdivided Flats

Topic: Poverty
Airing date: August 10

Law Lok Lam is a former Inspector of Police, but having spent away his wealth, he now works as a rent collector in subdivided flats. Meanwhile, Lau Kong leaves home to allow his family members to live better and ends up in Hong Kong’s most impoverished area. Through Jack's interviews with these two seniors, it reveals the misery and suffering of Hong Kong’s poorest residents due to housing difficulties. Faced with these terrible living conditions, can flexible Hong Kongers still hold onto the mentality of “when the sky falls, use it as a blanket”?

Episode 5 – Winter’s Fairy Tale

Topic: Each industry has champions
Airing date: August 17

“All jobs are equal, each industry has champions.” Gary Tam is a former student of Yu Yang, but because of his family’s situation, he was unable to finish his education. He began working as a cleaner to support his family. On cold winter nights, when everyone is at home enjoying time with their family, Gary works tirelessly through the night. His hard work finally pays off, as the garbage man who was once looked down upon has now become a well-known property manager. This is a motivational story showing that “being poor doesn’t matter, as long as there is a way out”.

Episode 6 – Successor

Topic: Education
Airing date: August 24

An individual’s competitiveness can reflect on the whole society. Today, Hong Kong faces intense global competition. Human resource experts have pointed out that among new job seekers, 20% of them belong to the “high marks, low intelligence” category who lack independence. This raises alarms about Hong Kong’s future competitiveness. Brian Chu, a new staff member at Jack’s office, is exactly the type of newcomer that has the certifications, but has been overly protected by his “helicopter” parents. Challenged by elite talents from around the world, will these newcomers have to concede?

Episode 7 – Dwelling Dreams

Topic: Housing
Airing date: August 31

Generations of Hong Kongers have had to worry about housing. For example, the middle class do not qualify for public housing, nor can they afford to buy a house. Three best friends, William Chak, Stanley Cheung and Gregory Lee, are each confronted with the same problem of purchasing a house. In order to find their comfort home, some will choose to take shortcuts, while others will go the legal route and get a mortgage. Ultimately, with their careers and marriages on the line, how will these “flat slaves” respond?

Episode 8 – So Close, Yet So Far
Topic: Technology
Airing date: September 7

Information technology is like a two-edged sword; it can be constructive, but can also be destructive. Although the cyberculture and issues such as cyberbullying make the Internet sound like a dangerous place, the Internet also has endless business opportunities. Whether the emergence of the Internet has advanced or corrupted the world depends mostly on the attitude of the user. In order to stay current, Yu Yang tries to learn how to use a computer, but he cannot keep up with the rapid changes in technology. With the generation gap between Yu Yang and his daughter deepening, how can the older generation avoid being sidelined by technology?

Episode 9 – Grandpa and I

Topic: Social harmony
Airing date: September 14

Foreign domestic helpers are likely to be the ethnic minorities that most Hong Kongers can associate with. While there are cases of employers abusing their helpers, there have also been rumours about an old employer (Elliot Ngok) treating his maid like a daughter and leaving her $800,000 in his will. As Jack investigates these rumours, he uncovers many real stories between employers and their helpers, some of which are infuriating and others that are very touching. Foreign domestic helpers arrive in Hong Kong alone. Besides making money, they are also here to bring warmth to Hong Kong families. Mutual respect and care should not be limited by skin colour or ethnicity. The relationship between employers and workers sometimes cannot be measured by money.

Episode 10 – What To Do With Leftovers

Topic: Environment
Airing date: September 21

Hong Kong people produce over 3300 tonnes of food waste each day, equalling 40% of the daily disposal capacity of landfills. Even though recycling centres are being built, it can only handle 200 tonnes of industrial food waste each day. Three young dancers want to save money to pursue their dreams, thus, they make a variety of sandwiches using leftovers. As the saying goes, “Don’t throw away good food”. Leftovers not only can feed people, it can also help some people accomplish their dreams.

Episode 11 – Sunset Warrior

Topic: Seniors
Airing date: September 28

Retirement is a mandatory part of life. However, some seniors will choose not to rest when they retire, insisting on being self-reliant and actively pursuing new interests. They view retirement as simply the second half of their life. Choi Kwok Hing has experienced two strokes, but still possesses an indomitable spirit, refusing to step down from life’s stage. His life is like a candle – from the moment it is lit, until it is completely burnt out, it will continue to shine light on itself and provide warmth for those around it. Like the Sunset Warrior, he emits a dazzling radiance!

Episode 12 – Homeward Bound

Topic: Immigration
Airing date: October 5

With Hong Kong’s high price levels, young people, even with $3 million in assets, often find it difficult to immigrant. Matt Yeung’s business is threatened by ever-rising rent prices. For the future of his family, he decides to immigrate to Taiwan. On the other hand, Yu Yang’s friend, Wong Wan Choi, left for Australia ten years ago, but has decided to return to Hong Kong and re-earn his insurance brokerage license. The foreign-educated Jason Chan also chooses to start his business in Hong Kong. In the future, where will they all go?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Louis Cheung @ Toronto + Giveaway

Louis Cheung was in Toronto to perform at the New Talent Singing Competition. I was at his autograph session earlier.


As with the Johnson Lee giveaway, I will be giving away two photos autographed by Louis.

How to win: Leave a comment below with your email and answer to the following question:

Name an upcoming TVB series which Louis stars in (English or Chinese title).

Deadline to enter: August 3, 2014 @ 11:59 pm EST

I will randomly select two winners and announce them here on August 4, 2014.

Winners: Congratulations to Sugarcookies and Mel, who have won Louis Cheung autographs! I will be in contact with you shortly.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Emotional Officers

Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves, but TVB's cops like to have their emotions in their names instead...

Funny Sir - Ron Ng (Black Heart White Soul)

Happy Sir - Raymond Lam (Highs and Lows)

Laughing Sir - Michael Tse (Lives of Omission)

Mad Sir - Michael Miu (Gun Metal Grey)

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Ultimate Addiction Review

Producer: Chong Wai-kin
Genre: Modern, finance
Cast: Bosco Wong, Kate Tsui, Nancy Wu, Ben Wong, Sharon Chan, Elena Kong

At first glance, the financial sector is relatively new territory for a TVB drama and has potential for brilliant manoeuvers by power-hungry and greedy businesspeople. The purported lesbian relationship also looked to be a bold move for TVB. But the series tells us “Never forget who you are”, and TVB shows why they won’t be forgotten for their sloppy productions any time soon.

Give TVB 20, 25, or 30 episodes and the result will be the same: slow development in the beginning and then a whirlwind of events towards the end. Kate’s revenge plot is dragged out for at least two-thirds of the series, only to amount to essentially nothing. There’s not much going on in terms of “investigating” Bosco's misdeeds. Heck, I’m not even convinced he’s that bad. He is blamed more often for things he didn't do.

The story veers away from the financial theme too often, although the scriptwriters do deserve credit for incorporating some hot financial topics, such as virtual currency and corporate governance structures. Yet there wasn’t the same kind of variety when it came to the types of accidents that happen to the characters.

The costume department needs some serious revamping. Bosco’s wardrobe can only be described as hideous. Sharon Chan’s makeover was ugly. Jazz Lam’s black nail polish was a distraction every time it showed. The casting department had their share of problems as well. June Chan as Stephen Wong’s wife? Geoffrey Wong as Kate Tsui’s father? Clearly, no one paid attention to the age of the characters when assembling the cast.

The acting was not the saving grace of the series either. Kate Tsui looked weak and dazed throughout the series and it’s not just because she was diagnosed with that disorder. Sharon Chan doesn't pass for a high-ranking madam and she was way too deliberate as a villainess. Her pairing with Ben Wong was awkward and produced no feelings of romance. Nancy Wu fared better than those two, though this is far from her best work. She seemed to be at a distance from her co-stars. Bosco Wong does a pretty good job, especially with the smugness he showed that is appropriate for the self-confident tycoon. Ben Wong’s unpolished cop character at the beginning was a refreshing role for him, though he was inconsistent with keeping up that image. Elena Kong is a great actress, but didn't get a chance to shine here. No one challenges Gloria Tang for the worst acting in this series. It was almost unbearable to watch her recite her lines emotionlessly.

Rating: 2/5. The Ultimate Flop.

Rear Mirror Promo Clips

Overview - Rear Mirror

Promo #1

Promo #2

Promo #3

Promo #4

Promo #5

Promo #6

Extended Trailer

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Black Heart White Soul Theme Song

The theme song for Black Heart White Soul is "Grey Fate" (灰色命運), by Hoffman Cheng and Ronald Law.

The sub-theme song is "Like the Beginning" (如初), sung by Louis Cheung.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Historical Context: Sixteen Prefectures

In Ghost Dragon of Cold Mountain, the Emperor (Ram Chiang) and his minister frequently discuss about how to reacquire the Sixteen Prefectures.

The Sixteen Prefectures (燕雲十六州) is a historical region in northern China. The territory covers modern-day Beijing, Tianjin and parts of the provinces of Shanxi and Hebei. It includes stretches of the Great Wall and was a strategically important region as it guarded central China from northern invasions.

The Sixteen Prefectures were first created as administrative divisions during the Tang Dynasty. During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, they were ceded to the Liao Dynasty (遼朝), formed by the Khitans in the north.

Shi Jingtang (石敬瑭) was a military general during the Later Tang Dynasty (後唐, one of the Five Dynasties). Sensing that the emperor was becoming suspicious of him, Shi decided to revolt. However, he was besieged by the Later Tang army. Shi desperately enlisted the help of the Liao and agreed to give them the Sixteen Prefectures in exchange. The joint Shi and Liao forces quickly defeated the Later Tang army, which led to the collapse of the dynasty. The Liao Emperor declared Shi to be the emperor of the newly founded Later Jin Dynasty (後晉). Shi ceded the Sixteen Prefectures as promised. In addition, he openly acknowledged the Liao Emperor, who was ten years younger than him, to be his godfather and sent annual tributes.

During the Song Dynasty, the Song court repeatedly tried to recapture the Sixteen Prefectures, but to no avail. Eventually, the Song allied with the Jurchens to defeat the Khitans and regained possession of seven prefectures. However, they lost control again when their alliance broke down and the Jurchens attacked them. The failure of the Song to control the region left them vulnerable to northern attacks and contributed to their weak state.

The Sixteen Prefectures was reunited with the China proper under the Mongol Empire during the Yuan Dynasty. It would finally return to the control of Han Chinese during the Ming Dynasty, after over 400 years of rule by ethnic minorities.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Overview - Rear Mirror

Minibus driver Wayne Lai failed to heed to his late father's advice and suffers a series of setbacks in his relationship and career. Despite this, he stays strong and insists on raising the son that his girlfriend had with another man. His neighbour, Ronald Law, has always looked up to Wayne as a big brother. Ronald hopes that Wayne would be with his sister (Amy Fan), but Wayne is hesitant to enter into a new relationship.

A traffic accident causes Wayne to encounter Louisa So, the CEO of a large corporation. Louisa admires his personality and hires him as her personal driver. The politics at the corporation is complex and Louisa finds herself fighting alone. The only person she can trust is her cousin (Tony Hung), but he lacks his own opinion and has an ambiguous relationship with an employee (Natalie Tong). One time, Louisa mistakenly believes that Wayne betrayed her and demands that he quit within seven days. At this critical moment, Wayne helps Louisa escape from the difficult situation. A subtle bond starts to form, but they are held back due to the difference in their social status. Living in a fairytale-like reality, the main characters wander between blurred lines…

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

2nd Anniversary

Happy 2nd Anniversary to Casual TVB!

A double milestone, as this is also Casual TVB's 300th post!

Thank you for supporting Casual TVB for another year!

In our second year, we published 153 posts. Our readership has reached new highs and we are closing in on two million all-time pageviews.

Some of my favourite posts from this year:
1. Triumph in the Skies II Review
2. Kate Tsui Stamp Collection
3. Police Careers: Kate Tsui, Ron Ng, Ben Wong
4. Lucky Charm Jessica Hsuan

In celebration of our second anniversary, Casual TVB has given away Johnson Lee autographs to two lucky winners: Anthony and Chris! I will be in contact with you shortly.

Let's look forward to another good year!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Overview - Shades of Life

Yu Yang is a highly respected retired principal. He has a deep affection for traditional Chinese culture and places an emphasis on family values. His eldest son Jack Wu graduated with a journalism degree and works as a magazine editor. Jack likes to get to the bottom of things and sometimes has different opinions than his father on certain social issues. Yu Yang and his daughter Zoie Tam, being 40 years apart, have a major generation gap. Yu Yang finds it difficult to adjust to the rapidly changing technology era. Fortunately, his daughter-in-law Elaine Yiu is a good mother and wife, and keeps the household in perfect order. But as her son grows older, the family is faced with decisions about his education, which brings out the nerves of everyone. The series explores a number of critical issues for Hong Kongers, including education, housing, an aging population, declining competitiveness of youth, Mainland relations, and the immigration trend. Each episode closely mirrors reality in a way that resonates with the audience…

Shades of Life - Episode Previews

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Johnson Lee @ Toronto + Giveaway

Every year, a TVB artist comes to Toronto to perform at the Scotiabank Chin Picnic on Canada Day. Last year, it was Him Law. This year's performer is Johnson Lee. I was at his autograph session earlier.


As a celebration for Casual TVB's upcoming second anniversary, I have decided to give away two of Johnson's autographed items. One is a newspaper page and the other is an autograph ticket.

How to win: Leave a comment below with your email and answer to the following question:

Name an upcoming TVB series in which Johnson stars in (English or Chinese title).

Deadline to enter: July 7, 2014 @ 11:59 pm EST

I will randomly select two winners and announce them in my anniversary post on July 8, 2014.