Last night I was planning to write about “Dragon Gate”, but instead I got lazy and started watching this. Detective Alliance / New Justice Bao (新神探联盟) is a reimagining of the iconic Justice Bao – you know, the righteous judge with the dark skin and crescent shaped birthmark on his forehead? I’m not sure what is the official English name of this drama, but hey – did I mention GEORGE HU is in this? Based on the first episode alone, I think I like this more than “Dragon Gate”?
When I was young I watched the 90s version of Justice Bao and rather enjoyed it. The cases were interesting and the ‘golden trio’ of Justice Bao, his secretary/advisor Gongsun Ce and imperial guard Zhan Zhao were memorable characters. This version is so popular, they’re still making it some 20 years later. (with the same actor as Justice Bao!) That’s over 600 episodes! Crazy right?
Detective Alliance is set in a fiction city (De Cheng) during the Republican era – supposedly. While the locations and props are from that timeframe, there is also something very modern about this drama. De Cheng is a city which has lost its conscience and the crime rate is high. Our main characters work at DBI – where the top crime fighters investigate the most difficult cases. These cases will be the retelling of some of Justice Bao’s most famous cases, the first one being ‘Executing Chen Shi Mei’.
We’re first introduced to one of the top inspectors at DBI – Gongsun Ze (Wang Kai), a serious kinda guy who likes to play by the rules.
Assisting him is the inexperienced officer, Zhan Chao (George Hu) who is more brawn than brains. He may have wuxia-like skills hopping across car tops but he isn’t gaining any favours with his new boss since he received many complaints from the citywide damage he has done so far. He’s a bit impulsive and clueless at times which gives George the opportunity to showcase his cheeky side. (I made this gifset even before finishing the first ep because his faces just make me LOL.)
Since this is a Justice Bao remake, of course there’s also Bao Zheng (Zhang Duo), an independent judge** newly assigned to DBI to assist with their investigations. Although he comes in with a distinguished record, he isn’t exactly the most likeable guy. The crescent birthmark is missing, but he still has rather dark skin!
**Having grown up in a common law country (and watched a lot of US legal dramas which is also based on a common law legal system), the Justice Bao here is more like a prosecutor. However, as China’s legal system is based on civil law, and in the drama Bao Zheng signs off on search warrants, I’m going to label him as a ‘judge’.
Another important member of the crime fighting team is forensic pathologist Hu Xue Li (Zhang Li), an independent woman who also loves Jane Austen.
Using familiar characters and cases can be risky, on the one hand, fans of the earlier dramas might resist the change (Bao Zheng rides a motorcycle!) but it also gives them the opportunity to introduce a classic story to a new audience. I’ve only watched episode 1 so I can’t comment too much on how well they can execute this but there is definitely potential.
I am worried about one thing though, Bao Zheng has some rather superior powers of observation and deduction. He was able to deduce the victim’s age, occupation, she is recently married, her extramarital affair just from a few short moments looking at her body. His interpersonal skills are lacking because he’s blunt and not particularly tactful. Sounds familiar?
My English language television viewing consists of a lot of crime shows, including Elementary and BBC Sherlock. Bao Zheng here reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes! I’m not sure that’s how I would’ve imagined Justice Bao to be in a modern day setting.
It’s early days I suppose. Detective Alliance had recently started airing in the mornings (not exactly a great timeslot?) but will also air during primetime from 8 August. I need more hours in the day to fit in all these drama watching! With Love Around, Detective Alliance and the upcoming King of Lan Ling, there will be a lot of George Hu on our screens! (not complaining here!!)