Part of the appeal of opening your own production company must be the ability to pick your co-stars. Michelle Ye is one of the many actors nowadays who has her own production company. She allegedly paid an eight figure sum to lure Raymond Lam to star in Loved in the Purple / The Purple Hairpin (紫釵奇緣), which quietly broadcasted on Shandong TV in August.
Based on Raymond and Michelle’s popularity alone (or they just don’t want their ‘son’ Raymond appearing on any other channels in Hong Kong), TVB snapped up the rights to this drama very quickly. It started airing on TVB’s HD channel in the beginning of September, but in a pretty bad timeslot (11:45pm?). The Raymond/Michelle pairing (aka RM) was quite popular back in the day and lot of Raymond fans were also part of the RM fandom. It has been over ten years since their last collaboration, the awlful Lofy Waters Verdant Bow (雲海玉弓緣). Even though the RM fandom has shrunk over the years, back in January Michelle was spotted at Raymond’s concert standing up and supporting him like other fangirls, surely reigniting the fire inside the shippers.
I think I should be up front that I have been a pretty serious Raymond fangirl for the last 3-4 years. I’m still a fangirl yes, but I haven’t talked much about him or even followed his news that closely in 2013? Part of the reason is that he has been hiding in Hengdian for most of this year, filming three Mainland dramas back to back. And they’re all ancient dramas, which means my interest level is low already even if he’s in it. First with Loved in the Purple, then the first 3D wuxia Detectives and Doctors (陸小鳳與花滿樓), followed by recently wrapped up The Virtuous Queen of Han (大汉贤后卫子夫), the first dual language drama in China? (How ‘dual language’ aka English + Chinese it will be I have no idea, will it be released with English subs? Or dubbed? That would be too weird?!)
Now that I’ve declared my bias, Loved in the Purple / The Purple Hairpin / Legend of the Purple Hairpin is set in the Tang Dynasty, loosely based on the traditional Chinese opera The Purple Hairpin (紫釵記). I’m watching the TVB version, which is Cantonese dubbed (Michelle Ye, Raymond Lam and Kingdom Yuen dubbed their own voices) – the reason why I’m watching this version. From what I read on the TVB.com forums, TVB did their own editing – which is a worry since in the early episodes I can see some weird transitions between episodes already. You expect a particular event would be given more detail but then suddenly, it ends and we move on. There have been times when I thought I might’ve skipped an episode because of this. Apparently TVB will do some more edits of the relationship between the main characters later on, which means their edit might directly affect how the audience feels about which is actually the OTP? I am not looking forward to this!
After about 7-8 episodes I think I’ve finally reached a stage where I’m getting a grip on the relationships between the characters (and you know, all the fighting and revenge of the previous generation). Although because of my lovely fellow Raymond fangirls, I already know the ending. But alas, I’ll finish this one for you Mr Lam, because so far I quite like his character and Tammy Chen’s character.
The quick synopsis (source) – Loved in the Purple takes place in the Tang dynasty, a time when Chinese art, fashion, music, dance, and novel inventions were at their highest peak. Raymond Lam portrays the heroic Na Lan Dong, known as the “Yellow-Clothed One”, who falls in love with beautiful dancer Huo Xiao Yu, played by Michelle Ye. However, Dong’s best friend Li Yi, played by Cheng Cheng (程诚), is also deeply in love with Xiao Yu. Choosing brotherhood over love, Dong decides to step down in his pursuit of love.
I MADE A CHART! (Originally it was to save time and confusion if I were to explain it in words, but then it probably took longer doing this than writing it down?!) It’s a bit rough around the edges and it’s such a dorky thing LOL.
That pretty much sums up the love square, I won’t go too much into the plot but will just talk about my impressions of this drama so far?
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS DRAMA SO FAR…
Na Lan Dong (Raymond Lam) – After watching / abandoning a few of his horrid TVB dramas, (that will be Sister Fa, Men with no shadows & Three Kingdoms crap <- that’s what my friends and I called it!) Na Lan Dong is quite a tragic character so I can’t help my liking for him. He’s your typical 2nd lead which should be easy for Raymond to portray. I’m not saying I didn’t like Happy Sir (from last year’s Highs & Lows), it’s just that he does have a tendency to overact in emotional scenes? Na Lan Dong’s feelings for Xiao Yu is all bottled up inside. Even though they had a rocky start, Na Lan Dong began to have feelings for Xiao Yu despite knowing the person she likes is his sworn brother Li Yi. Since he didn’t want to ‘steal’ his brother’s love, he chose to stand by the sidelines, just being a good friend to Xiao Yu, listening to her troubles, helping her when she needed.
Weird thing is Raymond is supposed to be the main lead of this drama right? But his character is like the second lead. When Xiao Yu first met Na Lan Dong she despised him, she thinks he’s rude, arrogant and conceited. But slowly she warms up to him and treat him like a good brother.
But not only is Na Lan Dong unlucky in love (at least in the first batch of episodes), even though he’s the princess’ son he’s not recognised as part of the ‘royal family’. Since he likes the freedom to travel around and help others in need, Na Lan Dong doesn’t want any titles. If he wanted to become a government official, he could easily gain a position based on family connections. However, he chooses to live a more carefree life – which presents a lot of problems because on the outside, people think he’s just a rich, entitled guy who can do whatever he wants. In reality, his family has no real power and relies on the charity of the Emperor. Since he has no ‘titles’, he cannot even enter the royal palace (even if the Emperor invited him!). When the Emperor needed to cut costs, he decided his sister (Na Lan Dong’s mother) cannot live in her own extravagant house anymore. She had to fire all her servants and move back to the royal palace. But for Na Lan Dong, since he’s not ‘royal family’ he’s left with no money and no place to live.
Although his family has no real power inside the palaces there is one thing in his favour. The Emperor likes him because he was good friends with his father. The Emperor also trusts Na Lan Dong and tries to convince him (a few times) to become a government official. Despite Na Lan Dong’s refusal, the Emperor still gives him assignments, things he cannot asks others to do which shows how much the Emperor respects Na Lan Dong.
Lu Jing Lan (Tammy Chen) – My love for the ‘second lead’ (at least for the first 10 episodes) extends to Lu Jing Lan, who admires Na Lan Dong but sadly he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. I am very surprised by how sensible and likeable Lu Jing Lan is. When I first heard Tammy would play a rich girl, who falls in love with Raymond’s character I thought she would be your typical bratty, annoying rich girl who thinks she can get whatever she wants. I was SO SO wrong. Jing Lan is smart, understanding and kind to her friends. Even though her father warned her Xiao Yu is a dancer / entertainer (which in the olden days is probably just *slightly* better than a prostitute), Jing Lan doesn’t care about their class differences and become friends with Xiao Yu very quickly. She likes Na Lan Dong but doesn’t do anything underhanded to try to win his heart. Sure, when he was homeless she helped him by finding a place for him to live but that’s more out of kindness than an ulterior motive.
Needless to say I love Lu Jing Lan and I would much rather see Na Lan Dong pair up with her than Xiao Yu. But one of the major obstacles also comes from her family. She is an only child. Her father wants the future son-in-law to literally ‘marry into the family’. (I think that means Jing Lan’s husband will even have to change his surname?) As Na Lan Dong is the princess’ son, no one thinks he will ‘marry into’ someone else’s family. That’s considered beneath him?
Compared to Xiao Yu’s costumes, I much prefer the yellow outfits of Jing Lan as well! Tammy looks so pretty in yellow with the long hair. Too bad she tends to dress like a man most of the time?
Speaking of costumes I must mention I liked Na Lan Dong’s outfits as well. It feels a bit weird saying that because normally the women in ancient dramas would steal the spotlight but they put some bright colours on him which I don’t mind! I particularly like the Black/Gold (see the pic with Michelle above) and Blue/Yellow costumes!
The Theme & Ending Songs – I approve! Although I prefer the Mandarin version of the theme than the Cantonese version. It just sounds smoother?
WHAT I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS DRAMA SO FAR…
Huo Xiao Yu (Michelle Ye) – oh where do I start? So instead of the rich girl Jing Lan being the annoying, bratty one, we actually have Xiao Yu – the dancer, the entertainer being the immature, and sometimes quite spoiled one. Since Xiao Yu (along with two other girls) are known as ‘The three best entertainers in Chang An”, men pay a lot of money just to see them perform and they are very picky in what sort of occasions they will appear in. So I’m told Xiao Yu will eventually grow out of her immature ways but the issue I have extends beyond Xiao Yu the character. Why do I get the feeling Michelle hasn’t improved after so many years? She always have the same expression! Xiao Yu is supposed to be around 18/19 years old and at 33, I think it’s a bit of a stretch for Michelle to portray this character. It’s even worse when she calls her two best friends “Older Sister!” when she’s the one who looks the oldest. WTF. I find it extremely annoying to see Xiao Yu whine, pout and bicker with Na Lan Dong. Apparently in later episodes she will be less cheerful therefore less of these ‘acting cute’ stuff. Let’s hope so.
I’m also not feeling the chemistry between Xiao Yu and Li Yi (Cheng Cheng), and a lot of the early episodes revolve around them, the obstacles they face to try to get married. Sometimes it feels like they’re the OTP but their relationship is based on such thin grounds no wonder they will have more troubles later on. Li Yi is a scholar and many people admire his poems, including Xiao Yu. She pretty much ‘fell in love’ with him based on his poems and threw herself at him the first time they met. (She hints that if he proposes, she’ll accept, yes in their first meeting.) I guess Li Yi likes her because she’s pretty? For a scholar I don’t find Li Yi to be very smart, even coming across as dopey at times. I have never heard of the actor Cheng Cheng before but he does remind me of Peter Ho? It’s just a weird feeling.
THE EDITING! I’m all for fast paced dramas but the original version is 43 episodes and TVB has condensed it to 35. Some transitions between episodes already feel a bit weird and I have a feeling it will just get worse. How the editors do their ‘magic’ is going to directly affect how the viewers feel about the pairings.
So after 10 episodes I can’t say I’m loving this drama but it’s interesting enough to keep my interest. Even though I know the ending already I still want to find out more about their family history (I put in the chart that Xiao Yu and Na Lan Dong are possibly cousins? But there may be more behind that?) and how Xiao Yu will eventually fall in love with Na Lan Dong. Also curious about what will happen to Lu Jing Lan, her part in this drama is fairly small in first ten episodes, she was missing in two or three of them. I’m hoping Na Lan Dong will see how awesome she is.