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Written by Funn Lim


"And then there's Joe Ma as a bona fide leading man in this series. Can he carry a series on his broad strong shoulders on his own? I am sorry to say, no."




SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!







Cantonese Title
"Mou Hao But Sing Yuen Ka"

Genre
Modern day series set in Hong Kong

Released In
2002


Episodes
Amazingly, 20

Cast-Character
Maggie Cheung Hor Yee - Cally
Joe Ma
Chin Ka Lok
Kok Fung - Mr Tham
Natalie Wong - Ching Suet Ngoi
Yuen Keng Dan
Lisa Wang - Tham Ho Yung Yi / Ho Pik Yi
Rainbow Ching
Wong Ka Lok
Tai Chi Wai
Mok Ka Yiu

Summary
Ordinary folks facing tests with various and rib tickling results ... NOT. Just a family/friends drama about ordinary folks, more about life and various tests in various forms rather than just well, 20 episodes about a whole family sitting for SPM or PMR or some university exam. Nothing much.

Review
This series is only 20 episodes long but by episode 5, it felt like 10 episodes. It is really not because it's a very boring series; quite the contrary, I find it witty, funny and full of warmth. The entire story is about the Tham family, consisting of an ever helpful but ditzy, Madam Tham (Lisa Wang), her chauvinistic English teacher husband Mr Tham (Kok Fung), their 3 grown sons the eldest still studying in university afraid of seeking employment who has a very understanding girlfriend who is a kindergarten teacher named Ching Suet Ngoi (Natalie Wong), the second a dedicated mechanic (Joe Ma) who is actually very smart and giving with a very rich lazy best friend (Chin Ka Lok) and a spoilt brat for a youngest son who panics in every major exam though he is actually quite smart. There's the obligatory nosy relatives, neighbours and of course, Madam Tham has a twin sister (played by Lisa Wang again), an internationally renowned cellist ala Yoyo Ma. The whole series basically revolved around the Tham family, how they stuck together, how each of the sons overcame difficulties of sorts, etc. This series at the end of the day is mainly about family, and it is a comedy.

Frankly the plot of this story is same old stuff but with very interesting casting decision.

For one, Chin Ka Lok as a rich man's son. Unbelievable and yet very good casting decision because his character is a lazy bum. Only Chin Ka Lok can be both frustratingly dumb and adoringly cute at the same time. He may not look nor behave like an educated rich man's son, but he is so good at playing the "bimbo" and the clown in this series, I almost forgot his acting is just average when it comes to drama but A1 when it comes to comedy. The scenes he shared with Joe Ma were classic in their own right; the way they hugged one another, I am sure the actors had fun intimating a somewhat homosexual relationship between the two to the extent that perhaps these two guys are made for each other but of course they were just the best of friends. In fact at times I felt Joe Ma had no sense of humour because Chin would be joking around like he usually do and it was so funny to watch, which meant he wasn't very serious in his acting and there Joe Ma trying to act very serious, oblivious to Chin who was actually joking around. Not much sponteneity but Chin Ka Lok is on his way to become the best actor in a supporting buddy-buddy type of role.

Then there's Lisa Wang as two roles, one whom I believe is more like the real her and the other not quite. As the more bitchy and professional successful Miss Ho (the cellist) she looked strict, formidable and yet as she cooled towards the affection showered towards her and wished she too chose the path her sister has chosen years before that is to have a family instead of a career, I find myself liking this Miss Ho, a woman who has wisdom and who could order the three useless Thams around. Three useless Thams is the nickname their mother gave to the 3 sons when they became too attached to Miss Tham and Mrs Tham felt left out. And yet as Mrs Tham, Lisa Wang looked rather dowdy, with her bad perm and less than glamarous clothes, she gave a very convincing performance of a woman too occupied with her family she simply pushed away her own dreams of becoming a dancer. I find her performance of two very distinct personalities very satisfying because I can see two very distinct characters. Very few could do that and I must say for once Lisa Wang convinces me she is an actress who lives up to the accolades showered on her. And I would like to say in every family there is a Mrs Tham (usually your mom) and a Miss Ho, who reminds me of my very strict (unreasonably so) Aunt who is highly educated and therefore takes every opportunity to show off her intellect to many people who aren't interested, me for one. But Miss Ho has one redeeming quality; she truly loves her sister and she is very graceful.

And then there's Joe Ma as a bona fide leading man in this series. Can he carry a series on his broad strong shoulder on his own? I am sorry to say, no. His acting is quite ok, he is good looking (better looking in real life), a man who looks like a man, very tall and in a way brings out the innocence and the niceness of his character effectively. And yet there's something missing. I am sure he must have many lady fans, and many more would wish he is the lead in many more series. After the disappointing Eternal Happiness, my feelings for him remained unchanged, I still like him. But I realise that this actor, blessed with height, a good body, good looks, strong voice and a youthful face somehow did not strike me as a leading man material. It's not his acting capabilities but he lacks charisma and screen presence. I do not mind seeing him but I can't concentrate and look at him for all 20 episodes. Somehow he didn't appeal to me and I dare to say he is not a leading man material. Which is why as he is cast as the lead in here, Chin Ka Lok who oozes plenty of charisma (though a very bad actor in the dramatic department as he never look serious enough for any serious scene and always the joker) had to be cast as his sidekick. When Joe Ma is alone in a scene (which is very rare) I didn't like the scenes. But when he shares it with Chin Ka Lok, the scenes are just too funny and things became alive. Of course one may ask what about Maggie Cheung then? Did she liven up the scenes?

She is a very beautiful actress, but in here she has a very bad hairstyle. In fact she should consider removing the mole on her upper lip which is very distracting and spoils her beautiful features. Her character is basically the same as she had played every other ones after her highly successful debut in Old Time Buddy; overly ambitious and very independent. The difference in here is her Cally is really very very annoying. I dislike her from the first scene and I still dislike her in the last scene. The only thing that I admire about Cally is her determination, sometimes blind determination. I can't quite see what the character played by Joe Ma sees in her except perhaps admiring her determination, ambition, her "never say die" attitude. She is the positive thinker, and over achiever. I do not even understand why the character of Chin Ka Lok was so in love with her that he was willing to become from a lazy bum to a promising young lawyer because her Cally is so easy to dislike. But that doesn't mean Maggie Cheung was bad. Quite the contrary, she is becoming typecast in such roles, I long to see her play a very soft person, something akin to what Anne Heung or Charmaine Sheh is used to playing, early in their character. Can she do it without jerking her head and moving her hands too much and too fast? It's very interesting to note that when I was watching this series I was also watching Burning Flame II and there was Maggie Cheung, more mature, more subdued but still ambitious; ambitious in the sense she demands so much of herself, at times ignoring the feelings of others. In other words Kiasu. But I liked her in BF II, not in this series. Again, when she is alone, I don't quite like watching her. When she is many other people, I enjoyed her performance, because I was often distracted by the funny antics of others I did not notice her annoying character.

There are of course good performances in here but again I am very disappointed by Kok Fung's performance, who is more cartoonish with his exaggerated facial expressions than with serious or even remotely funny. He is supposed to be a very chauvinistic or rather cold husband but I don't see that.

But it is the performances of the ke-le-fes which salvaged this series from being doomed to oblivion (sorry, I really had to use these words, the title of Wong Hei's tragic series of a painter in Qing Dynasty) such as well, I really do not know their names but I know them by their faces and reputation. The one who stands out amongst the ke-le-fes is of course the actor who plays Gianno, who himself has played such varied roles, it is very easy to imagine him as a gay artist. In here his scenes flirting with Chin Ka Lok and Joe Ma are really funny and do notice the way he rubs their chests, their thighs, talking very intimately to the bewildered men. Brilliant performance. Pity I do not know his name.

Which is why this series is a fun series but nothing serious. There are a few gems in this series and the best of the best had to the scene where Mrs Tham was so frustrated of being ignored and her sons/husbands all showered their attention to Miss Ho, that for once the timid Mrs Tham blew her top. It was such a funny scene and so true, Useless three Thams and useless husband as she screamed and screamed.

Another good scene or combined scenes was when the character played by Chin Ka Lok was disowned and his uncle taking all his money. He was so poor, so down and out. When he found his niche in the law under the guidance of guest starring Chu Mi Mi, he became a better man. And then the uncle appeared, claiming it was all lies, his dead father wanted Chin to be a better man and the only way is to take away everything and make him suffer. It ended with a very happy reunion and it was such a nice scene, but much too short and therefore devoid of any expected emotional whatever. I of course like everyone else would have predicted that ending, but it's still nice to see what a nice uncle this formerly useless bum had.

All in all, I find this series entertaining, but nothing spectacular. I laughed at most scenes because this is a comedy and it is meant to be funny. But it lacks star power, it lacks a coherent storyline and basically this series has a plot that is all too familiar, all too simple, all too predictable and all too unrealistic. I like it for its moments of comic genius but alas, it's draggy and takes too long a time to talk about issues that requires half the length of time to talk. If you feel bored, give this series a try. But if you're in for something more fulfilling, well only the most die hard fans of Maggie Cheung will proclaim this as her best ever. Fans of Joe Ma will want to watch this as he is the lead in here however ineffectively so. As for those who enjoys a few good laughs, this is the one for you. For me, I want something lighthearted but not featherweight type. So this series which I enjoyed watching does not make me wish it never end. I wanted it to end, really fast because by episode 6 I feel there's nothing more to tell in this series.

Rating


Interesting Observation
I do like the play of words in this series.

Ho Yung Yi marries a man with the surname Tham. So her name is Tham Ho Yung Yi. It's brilliant! I am sure you would know what that means. It means "It's really not very easy".

Cheng Suet Ngoi marries a man surnamed Tham and so her name is Tham Cheng Suet Ngoi which is also so funny. It basically means "Dating" or "Being In Love".

Ah, brilliant play of words, very witty.


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