Since I’m trying to write some short reviews of all the dramas I watched in 2015, I thought I’d compile all the HKTV ones in this post! (Oh and I did say in Part 1 that I was going to do that LOL.)
Compared to previous years, I watched a lot more HK dramas this year purely because of HKTV. The quality of these dramas is what stands out, although the endings can be questionable because some of them were filmed with ‘Season 2’ in mind. But still, I enjoyed a lot of them and it gave me confidence that yes – actually, HK can still make great dramas.
This list includes everything I’ve watched from HKTV – including The Borderline which I finished in 2014. I’ve used the ratings I put down over at MyDramaList.com to keep things consistent.
HKTV dramas watched as at December 2015 (In alphabetical order):
- Doom+5 – 8/10
- Love in Time – 8.5/10
- Night Shift – 7.5/10
- The Borderline – 8.5/10
- The Election – 7/10
- The Menu – 9/10
- To Be or Not To Be – 9/10
Doom + 5 (2015)
Rating – 8/10
[Previous Posts – Review: What if the world is ending in 14 hours?]
I’ve already written a review for this so I’ll just place the summaries here – As a drama based on an ‘end of the world’ premise, Doom+5 had a mountain to climb. It sure is a depressing subject matter. However, the 5 standalone stories were thoughtful and engaging with solid acting. I particularly enjoyed Story 1 with Philip Keung (for the action scene), Story 2 with Poon Chan Leung (it was scary!) and Story 5 with Gregory Wong (for bias reasons!!).
I did get an uneasy feeling at the end of it all though and feeling a bit fatigued by the end because regardless of how much I get to like each character, we know how things are going to end. It’s probably not something I will watch again but it’s definitely another high quality production from HKTV.
Love in Time (2015)
Rating – 8.5/10
[Previous Posts – Episode 1 Recap]
I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought. Was it because my expectations were low? Possibly. I cringed at the story outline sounding so much like Twilight but I actually had a crush on Danson Tang because of this drama and not Murphy’s Law of Love – strange!!!
This is your pretty typical idol drama. The cold, aloof guy (actually a vampire) who takes an interest in the bullied, poor, kind hearted girl. But the best thing about this drama was the fast pace (it’s only 9 episodes), the beautiful scenery (Hong Kong is not just a place of tall buildings it seems) and of course, good looking leads. However, there are some glaring pitfalls including the fast pace (I know, so contradictory but parts of the story could be a lot better developed) and the ending… well, we will just have to use our imaginations.
I’m also fairly certain I gave it a high score because Hong Kong doesn’t really do idol dramas. It’s nice to finally see one (even if it stars a TW star. lol)
Night Shift (2015)
Rating – 7.5/10 in general, 9.5/10 for the 6luck x Ah Fa story
In defence of Night Shift, which had one of the craziest endings I’ve ever seen, this drama was part-way through filming when they announced HKTV did not get a broadcast licence. So I thought the ending was a bit of a F-You to… you know who. Although the producers said they wrote it with plans for a season 2. (spoiler: with a zombie theme). Although to avoid the mindfuck that is the end, I’d just skip the last 5 minutes.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Night Shift was one of the those dramas which focuses on a few separate stories with just the overall theme of ‘night’. It was completely filmed at night and I do love the rawness and different vibe that brings. It reminds me of one of my favourite movies – One Nite in Mongkok (旺角黑夜). As you can see above, my favourite storyline was the one between gangster 6luck (Bryant Mak) and 7-11 worker Ah Fa (Crystal Leung). It’s more of an ‘idol drama’ story, but I thought the leads had chemistry, cute interactions and 6luck is HOT! Who would’ve thought he’s the same actor who played Kate Tsui’s mentally disabled brother in Highs and Lows?!?!? Seriously?! Plus this storyline just reminds me of those novels I used to read when I was a teenager LOL.
In contrast to The Election, although some scenes were very dark, they used some clever angles to achieve that ‘movie’ atmosphere. This was my favourite…
As for the other storylines, the ‘main’ one involving the police (Dominic Lam / Frankie Lam etc) – I think it was done well, but didn’t bring any surprises. The story involving the ‘party girls’ was more refreshing, and Kathy Yuen / Tong Yee was surprisingly convincing as someone who was in love with a married man. She was in a few HKTV series and this one was the standout for her.
Again, it’s 11 episodes. An easy watch although don’t expect it to be perfect.
The Borderline (2014)
Rating – 8.5/10
[This review was previously posted in my 2014 year end roundup.]
Since the first episode was released in June 2013, I had been waiting for this series for a long time. Did it deliver? Yes and no. Some of the casts were great (Liu Kai Chi and Dominic Lam in particular) but the weak link was definitely Lawrence Chou. I thought he’s an experienced actor but when he’s angry, he’s wayyyy over the top. It was like pulling a rubber band and you know eventually, that rubber band is about to snap and it’ll hurt. Seeing Leila Tong again was a delight but unfortunately her character was 80% annoying. I grew to like her relationship with Calvin Lui Hei (Tyson) though. They were a really cute pair.
As for the story itself, it’s definitely not perfect and suffers from inconsistency. The first episode, was really really good but as it progressed, some elements were rather far fetched. There were convenient plot devices (found a few long lost family members along the way) and ultimately, the ending had me scratching my head wondering where the heck it came from. I’m probably extremely generous with its 8.5 rating but I guess it was for – Liu Kai Chi, the cinematography and the real filming locations. Oh and of course, support for the new HKTV.
The Election (2014)
Rating – 7/10
[Previous Posts – Episodes 1 to 4 thoughts / Interview with Gregory Wong
It feels so long ago since I finished this series. (February it was!) Originally, I quite liked it but over the course of 15 weeks, the enthusiasm was lost along the way. It’s hard to stay motivated with only 1 x 40 minute episode per week! Whilst it looked good and started off quite strong, I think the main issue was the story – and I’m not just talking about the ending. Every week it tries to introduce a theme, a hurdle the main protagonist had to jump through to reach her goal of being elected as the Chief Executive. However, as the series went on, issues were either resolved a similar way, or ‘by subtitles’, so they just used words to describe what happened instead of unfolding it on screen. That was disappointing.
Although the story didn’t live up to the hype, the acting still makes this series worth a watch. Liu Kai Chi proves he can be convincing in any character he is given. I’m really looking forward to his TVB comeback. Angelica Lee is the headline here, but I found her to be a bit stiff at times, possibly because her Cantonese is not really that great which affects the way she’s coming across to the audience. There’re also some notable supporting characters, I have to mention Gregory Wong (of course – but he has a tendency to talk really fast and slurs his words together…), Isabel Chan, Alan Luk, Samuel Kwok etc…
Overall, The Election looked great and was a breath of fresh air for HK dramas. You can tell the production values are high although the story was a bit of a let down. It’s worth a watch if you like the political theme and/or the actors.
The Menu (2015)
Rating – 9/10
As you can tell from my ratings, both The Menu and To Be or Not To Be are two of my favourite HKTV dramas. Being a 24 episode series, The Menu had the opportunity to really develop a cohesive story, engaging characters and take the audience into a world of mystery, suspense, secrets… yes, I mean journalism! Through different stories the staff at Smart Post investigated, we get to see the sacrifices and compromises journalists make, balancing with more commercial reasons for whether a story can be published. Press freedom has been an area of concern in Hong Kong for a while now and The Menu successfully brought something new to the audience.
I personally rate To Be or Not To Be higher than The Menu because I thought The Menu had many different subplots (to cover each story they’re investigating) so it was difficult for me to really ‘feel’ each story. Also, the main overarching plot about Alma (Noel Leung) and Fong Ying (Catherine Chau)’s past – I thought there were too many (of the same) flashbacks and it was dragged out a bit too long. I loved the three main female characters though. I’m iffy about Kate Yeung but Noel Leung and Catherine Chau both shined. I will say it again – how can Catherine be neglected at TVB for so long? I’m glad she has proven she can be a leading lady.
Despite The Menu being one of those (we were planning for a season 2) endings, I thought it was acceptable under the circumstances. It didn’t ruin the series. Plus, they’re filming the movie version right now so I’m really looking forward to see this crew back on screen!
To Be or Not To Be
Rating – 9/10
Yes, I saved my favourite one until last! It was a tough decision between TBONTB and The Menu but in the end, this one won me over because it had some real highs (where I couldn’t stop ‘chasing’ the next episode) which negated some of the lows (where the plot got a bit illogical). If I were to recommend a HKTV series to someone who normally watches TVB, I will definitely recommend this one because it’s what you would expect from this type of story… but it offers so much more.
The story about 2 sisters who grew up in different environments (one in China and one in Hong Kong), their paths crossing again, bringing back old grudges and new conflicts is not really a new story. But the female leads Prudence Liew and Maggie Cheung were both superb in their roles. I especially loved Prudence’s character which was really unexpected. On the other hand, the relationship between Maggie Cheung and Poon Chan Leung’s characters had me glued to the screen from beginning to end – they’re just a pair that seems so wrong for each other, and yet, eventually you know they will get back together. I have to particularly mention Poon Chan Leung here because he’s a stage actor and this was his first TV series. Wow – he wasn’t overshadowed by the strong female leads at all and I wish he does more TV so we can see more of him!
But what really made TBONTB stood out was its ability to incorporate social issues to an otherwise C9 (aka housewives aka the type of series housewives normally watch) series. It probably could’ve been done in a better way (since it was all concentrated on the younger pairing) but at the end of it, I appreciated the writers doing that which took this series to the next level.
HKTV is uploading all of their dramas to YouTube!
- The Election (選戰) – completed [Cantonese version]
- Love in Time (還來得及再愛你) – completed [Cantonese version] [Mandarin version]
- Night Shift (夜班) – completed [Cantonese version] [Mandarin version]
- To Be or Not To Be (來生不做香港人) – completed [Cantonese version] [Mandarin version]
- The Borderline (警界線) – uploading in progress [Cantonese version] [Mandarin version]
- The Menu (導火新聞線) – uploading in progress [Cantonese version] [Mandarin version]
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