A must read, if you don't already know ...

Written by Funn Lim

"I think that is an important criteria, whoever plays Foon Jie must have a friendly disposition and must look soft and kind. Everything that Flora Chan isn't which is why I said casting her in this series is an interesting choice."


Set at the turn of the century (I think early 1900?) at China and Hong Kong, comedy plus drama with loads of investigative and detective work scenes.

Cantonese Title
"Keh Leh Dai Jong" which basically means "The Bumbling Solicitor" which not a very nice thing to say because it denotes that the person isn't very good at what they do.

William So Wing Hong - Chan Tai Hei
Flora Chan Wai Shan - Tai Foon (Foon Jie)
Cheung Chi Kwong - Ng Sam Sing
Wong Lam - Yung Yung
Stephen Au Kam Tong - Mo Loong
Kwok Fung - Master Yung
Derek Kwok Jing Hung - Law Bor

The adventures, trial and tribulations of a lazy but brilliant lawyer and his sidekick, the brainy and compassionate woman whom he inadvertently caused much hardship to.

Foon Jie's husband, Law Bor was arrested and accused of murder. Having little money, she sought the help of the grandson of the famed lawyer, Chan Mong Kat by thename of Chan Tai Hei who is assisted by his ever faithful and simple minded assistant, Ng Sam Sing. Offering his service at a very high price in a way to deter Foon Jie from hiring him, Foon Jie did all she could to borrow the amount requested, only to find out that Tai Hei though the grandson of the famed lawyer who is also blessed with a brilliant mind was actually a lazy bum who was never a lawyer in the class of his predecessors not for the lack of brains but for the lack of motivation and dedication. As a result of his half hearted defence, Foon Jie's husband, a poor and lowly man named Law Bor was found guilty and sentenced to serve his lifetime at the border, which means loads of hardship. Foon Jie was understandably angered by Tai Hei who brushed off his failure as nothing more than simply an unavoidable failure. As Tai Hei moved to Hong Kong to seek greener pasture under the care of a family friend, Master Yung whose daughter, the spoilt Yung Yung was madly in love with Tai Hei, he was being given the position of a JP, where the position was obtained with some help by Master Yung, one of Hong Kong's richest man. Tai Hei settled in his life as a useless lazy bum and then Foon Jie reappeared and inadvertently became his maid when Yung Yung took a liking to Foon Jie's dedication and hard working nature. Whilst Tai Hei and Foon Jie took some time to adjust to each other's presence in the same household, Foon Jie soon realised there was much potential in Tai Hei just as his grandfather and his father as a lawyer and took it upon herself and with the guidance and help of Tai Hei's grandfather's famous Book Of Cases tried with all her might to motivate Tai Hei to learn and hopefully to reopen her husband's case whom she believed to be innocent with any doubt whatsoever. However, whilst Tai Hei was slowly learning and motivated due to Foon Jie, the many victim and his influential position as a JP, Tai Hei was often assisted by Foon Jie, whose brilliant mind helped solved many cases.

After some time, Tai Hei became very involved in all his cases and was slowly becoming more and more attracted to Foon Jie when suddenly one day Law Bor came back, bruised and rumoured to have murdered a few inmates to escape. Whilst Foon Jie was overcame with joy, something was amiss. It was during such time she realised Law Bor was guilty of the crime he was being punished for and Tai Hei immediately stepped him, offered Law Bor some money and made sure Foon Jie became a free woman. But Law Bor was not an easy influence to shake as on the night of his wedding to Yung Yung whom he did not love but felt compelled to marry due to her father's may help in his career and life, he ran away and left Yung Yung as a broken hearted bride to be, he also witnessed the death of Law Bor who was actually murdered by Master Yung. Instead of Master Yung being arrested, Tai Hei was arrested for murder of Law Bor and the reason was because he was having an illicit love affair with Foon Jie and out of jealousy killed Law Bor. None was further from the truth and Foon Jie stood by Tai Hei through thick and thin. At the meantime Yung Yung became strangely aware of the truth of Law Bor's death whilst Master Yung was wrecked with guilt but his guilt was overridden by his greed and his fear of imprisonment and he decided Tai Hei should die for him. One man, Mo Loong who was Tai Hei's friend and a police who had a fallout with Tai Hei when Tai Hei walked out of Yung Yung (as he was actually madly in love with Yung Yung himself) began to suspect the truth and before he could reveal the truth to save Tai Hei, Master Yung ensured Mo Loong would be in coma.

But Foon Jie could not let Tai Hei die for a crime he did not and could not commit and so she devised a plan as she suspected Yung Yung knew something. When Yung Yung was torn between her love for her father and her guilt that Tai Hei was truly innocent, Foon Jie convinced Yung Yung to play a part which caused the death of Master Yung and the release of Tai Hei. The plan almost failed when Master Yung brandished a gun but Mo Loong woke up in the nick of time to save the day and Master Yung laid dying from a gunshot wound he had accidentally inflicted on himself when struggling with Mo Loong. Master Yung confessed his guilt and Yung Yung tearfully saw her only living relative die.

Yung Yung was later persuaded to stay in Hong Kong by Mo Loong and she accepted his love for her whilst Tai Hei became even more dedicated to his job as a JP after he realised he was almost killed by a false conviction. Foon Jie remained by his side as his ever faithful sidekick and towards the end there was a hint of a romance developing between these two individuals from the opposites side of the pole in personalities and in background but united by one misadventure and many more cases.


What is a JP?
Justices of the Peace, or in other words, Magistrates, the lowest in the ranking of judges who can be legally trained (like Tai Hei) or could be ordinary Tom Dick and Harry. In other words, judges.

Chan Mong Kat's name is so familiar!
I am sure this name was mentioned in many TV series and some movies, like the name Fong Tong Keng, reputed to be brilliant lawyers. Some portrayed them as greedy, evil but brilliant or like this series, a brilliant compassionate fighter for the poor. Fact or fiction? I do not know.

So Law Bor was all along a baddie?
Sorry to say, yes. Of course he must be either bad or dead, if not how can Foon Jie and Tai Hei ever get together?

So in the end Foon Jie and Tai Hei got together?
In a way, no. There is a hint of romance, but not outright. Give them a sequel and you will have a romance.

So there is a sequel?!
No, nothing in the works. But since this series was so successful who knows?

Why was Foon Jie's makeup so modern-ish?
Ask TVB.

After enduring the utterly boring Eternal Happiness I was happy to watch a comedy, with some logic in it. I didn't follow this series as in episode by episode but from what I saw I would say outright this series is entertaining. It may not be thought provoking and definitely not a cut above Justice Sung or other similar lawyer-themed series set in such an era (I suspect at the turn of the century), but from many other series of other genres, this series is by itself good enough to entertain. But I wouldn't say this series was brilliant in every aspect.

The cases as usual are either far fetched, too simple or too illogical. Don't expect the cases to be the main reasons to watch this series. The main reason should always be the characters and sometimes the performances.

The Characters
I like the character of Chan Tai Hei despite the fact that he is one lazy bum in the beginning. If you look more closely Tai Hei is actually a very humble man, as being a rich man coming from a very respectable family, oddly he sits with his servants when he is eating and he prefers simple food. His assistant, Ng Sam Seng and Foon Jie sits with him and he talks to them without so much as a voice of authority but as a voice of a friend. And he can be reasoned with and he actually listens. The best of all is he couldn't make himself marry Yung Yung because he doesn't love her and frankly he is grateful for Yung Yung's concern and Master Yung's help but their vast fortune and money could not make him say yes on the day of the wedding because he is not a greedy man. His only flaw is laziness, and sometimes pettiness. And the enters Foon Jie, a character I like immensely for the reason because she is so dedicated in making Tai Hei be dedicated. Maybe she may have had an ulterior motive in the beginning but she genuinely believes Tai Hei is capable of so much more and she even stands by him during the worst of time, amidst accusations of infidelity with Tai Hei. I admire her guts and her single minded dedication in reforming Tai Hei.

The Best Scene(s)
Aren't many but I would say those unexpected ones, like the banters between Tai Hei, Foon Jie and also Sam Seng. But one stood out was when Foon Jie was cornered and insulted by everybody for her suspected illicit affair with Tai Hei and she stood there, refusing to leave like she's guilty and defended her honour and Tai Hei's integrity. That was quite a good scene.

The Worst Scene(s)
Aren't many either but I would say the pacing is a bit slow but other that, nothing very glaring.

The Weird Factor
William So was Flora Chan's brother in Healing Hands. Which is really weird because now she's like his potential girlfriend, but then her Foon Jie was more like a mom to his Tai Hei, always baby-ing him and making sure he did his "homework".

The Performances
I think generally the performances was quite good but there are quite a few caricatures-like performances in here.

William So
An interesting casting decision but not the perfect one. I think he gave an adequate and humble performance of an extraordinarily humble ordinary man, if there is such a man. But my choice would have been Ronald Cheng would could have made me laugh so hard I would be in tears. Somehow William So may be effective as an actor but not very funny as a comedian and funny antics.

Flora Chan
This is an even more interesting and surprising casting decision. Certainly it was a big gamble but frankly Foon Jie is one character any older actress would have played as decently or even better than Flora Chan, as long as they're likeable. I think that is an important criteria, whoever plays Foon Jie must have a friendly disposition and must look soft and kind. Everything that Flora Chan isn't which is why I said casting her in this series is an interesting choice.

This is Flora's first costume period drama/comedy series. You may ask, was she ok?

My answer is she's more than ok but slightly less than great. In other words, average. But considering she took the extra effort to give such clear diction to her otherwise accented Cantonese, I would say she's more towards great than near just average. Her acting is not flawless, she is quite predictable and she isn't exactly drop dead gorgeous. Her hair is always slightly out of place and her makeup looks like MAC and very unrealistic as she is poor, she can't afford to look so clean and well made up all the time irrespective of her hair which conveniently falls perfectly into place instead out of it.

But that is the beauty of the character of Foon Jie. She isn't that pretty but there is something about her. Flora Chan has that quality, the camera loves her and the audiences can't get enough of her. Why? She has charisma and Foon Jie has plenty of attitude, loads of personality and like Flora's other roles, very determined but not as bitchy as all other characters she has played. There is nothing pretentious about her Foon Jie and for that I think Flora did a wonderful job but alas, her acting needs a bit of improvement. Again, her Cantonese was amazingly great. I don't see her as Kung Fu chick though, this series is as far back as I can see her in. She looks way too modern and sometimes based solely on her looks, she looks out of place.

And how was she as a comedian? Bad. Not funny at all. Luckily Foon Jie is not a funny type of character.

Wong Lam
I felt so tortured with her monogamous delivery of lines in Return of the Cuckoo. I never quite liked her in other series she has acted in but in here, like her character in Lok Sun, she was spoilt to the bone, but at least Yung Yung is actually a very nice girl, spoilt but can be reasoned with. However she failed to make an impact in the acting department, at best average at worst tolerable.

Kwok Fung
He played Master Yung, and this is one versatile actor. However in here he played the cowards greedy petty Master Yung to the hilt, with exaggerated funny expressions, trembling voice and all. I find his character such a caricature and his acting very cartoon-ish, so much so I disliked his character and I disliked his performance. Coming from such an experienced actor, I expected more, not over the top acting.

Cheung Chi Kwong
This is also one of the most versatile actor in TVB, not handsome but nevertheless decent looking. Because of his ordinariness in looks, which lies I suspect one thinking man, he could play professionals and non-professionals, modern or period dramas, comedy or purely dramas. In here he is the comic relief asthe dead panned Ng Sam Sing who has such a name that suggests this is one "blur" character. Again he plays the sidekick, but he almost steals the scene everytime he appears. I was pretty annoyed with his very olden day ways of delivering his lines, a bit dead panned, a bit expressionless but I think I understand why he did it the way he did, because perhaps his character is in the olden days, a bit like those old soap operas where people talk like they're not stressing on any point, like they're giving a speech they didn't quite care about. I would say a bit toneless but I got used to it and I thought his performance was excellent.

Stephen Au
From ATV he's here in TVB. Famed for playing Bruce Lee I think and he was very famous in ATV and here he's second fiddle but better so. Sometimes lead characters have nothing much to offer anyway. Frankly I find his acting so-so, but then better than most TVB actors. In here he plays a cop who really hasn't much to do except to look amazed, surprised, curious, happy, hurt and relieved, all in that order. Can't quite comment much about him.

And finally ...

Derek Kwok Jing Hung
Finally I knew his name. This veteran actor of TVB, always second fiddle, always there in a series of all kinds, always speaks like he is about to vomit blood. I almost vomitted blood with his performance as the rival of Monkey King in JTTW II, he was really really bad in there. In all other series, comedies or otherwise, he looks way too serious that it is almost funny. But give him credit. He may not be the most exciting actor around, not the most charismatic and not the best but he is consistent, in the sense he is a capable and experienced actor, but nothing more. What can you ask for you may wonder? Plenty. Which explains why he is second fiddle, never the hero.

My Verdict
Entertaining but not really original or even earth shattering. Good for a boring day when you have absolutely nothing to do or maybe curiosity will get the better of you; after all how does Flora Chan fare in period drama?


Interesting Observations
You may wonder a few things like why the men's front lobe of their heads aren't shaven? Why the girls' look like models for MAC? Why William So look so thin? Why we have brown, red, purple highlights in hairs in an era there aren't such things yet? And why there are coroners, JPs and a gwailo in the court?

These are indeed serious questions and I often asked that myself. I guess I shall attempt to answer my own questions to satisfy my own curiosity for your benefit...

1. Not shaven because William So ain't going to shave his head. And it is crime then to live in China under the Qing rule without the bad hairstyle. I tell you, the Manchurians came out with the best fashion and the worst hairstyle.

2. Don't know, maybe MAC could be a sponsor.

3. William So was suspected to be a druggie, but well he served his time for possessing some pills I think. Since then he looked thin to me and I began to see him in a whole new light. But then everybody in HK must be addicted to some pills, because everybody is so thin, especially the girls. Really there is some truth in the saying that bad publicity kills a star. I think he will survive but I just can't see him as wholesome anymore.

4. Maybe there is peroxide something during that era? Or maybe full headed wig may cost a bomb so TVB tries to cut cost but covering some part of the hair? Or simply nowadays nobody who has seen a hair colouring thingy will ever have their original hair colour anymore? Myself included. I can't remember my natural hair colour anymore.

5. I am not even sure there are CSIs, coroners during that era. A bit of fiction and many strange references to some other characters. As for JPs, British Legal System has them, HK was once under the British rule and so I would assume there are JPs, who are Chinese back then. As for gwailo in court, well Britain ruled Hong Kong. What do you expect?

Perhaps you might have a better answer to the above questions?


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