"She's really very narcissistic you know, it's all about me, Charlie Yuk Choi Ling, everybody else can just bugger off."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Chinese Title Deciphered
In Cantonese, Hung Yi Sau Gei which basically means (I think) The Diary Of A Nurse, which I feel is a much better title than The White Flame, which in itself is like an oxymoron.
Modern day series set in Hong Kong
Cast ... Character
Lots of unknowns with a few veterans and one super duper mega star and I am not talking about Charmaine Sheh who is clearly the main actress in this series. And the cast list below is from Jeanne's review of the same series, and since I am not acquainted with 90% of the actors and actresses in this series, I would assume the names are correct at the time of posting.
Charmaine Sheh ... Charlie Yuk Choi Ling
Sammull Chan...Yung Tak Kei
Hong Chi Nei ... Crystal Ko Hiu Lam
Chan Hoi Yee ... Lo Bo Bo
Claire Yiu ... Ah Leng
Ling Chi Hin ... Chan Ka Lok
Gregory Lee ... Man Kin Fai
Yuen King Dan ... Khoo Mei Lan (Ku ku)
Chu Mei Mei ... Rosemary
Chan Ka Yee ... Crystal’s Mom
And guest starring Maggie Siu and Cho Weng Lam who reprised their roles made famous in Healing Hands II.
Basically, this whole series explains in detail why we should never ever be sick and land ourselves in a hospital with pink coloured student nurses running around.
Charlie is young, perky, idealistic and ever helpful when she wants to be. And she wants to dedicate her life to a job that dedicates itself to helping those in need and nope, not a doctor because admittedly she isn't exactly smart so she aims to be a nurse. In the nursing school she meets various other people of different character, such as a really dedicated male nursing student by the name of Yung Tak Kei who later fell for Charlie, Ah Fai who is actually a final year male nursing student who is serious and ever helpful who also fell for Charlie in an unrequited love, Crystal the smartest and the longest faced student nurse ever to grace the screen who has an issue with the idea of being a nurse and also her overachiever doctor-family, Bo Bo who joined the school because no other profession accepted her and of course, Ah Leng who spends her days courting a doctor.
Life isn't so great under the strict but careful guidance of the nursing teacher and also Ku Ku, who herself was happily married to a gynecologist, until an affair by her hubby with his assistant which basically destroyed her marriage. Things became harder each day as each student faced many different tests towards their goal of graduating as a licensed nurse, from fear of blood to fear of death to losing a patient they all cared about to personal losses and more, they all graduated at last to be what the title of series is, White Flame in the tradition of Florence Nightingale.
A fellow contributor, Jeanne in what was known as E-Buzz commented this series was essentially dumb. Yet I have read glowing reviews in many sites, especially SPCNET where 4 stars were given, which was quite a revelation. After watching this series, I came to 2 conclusion; I am getting old and the reviewers are getting younger and younger. I went through a period of self denial, that I am still the top of series-watching, that I am still number one in voicing my opinion, that Charmaine Sheh is likeable, improving as an actress and always the rude but nice girl in most of her series. I came to a startling conclusion that perhaps I may not be that opinionated anymore, or at least not very unbiased biased or whatever you call it. Whatever I may say, at the end of the day I realise to my great dismay most of my recent opinion of certain series is not even remotely close to the other opinions by the masses on the same series. And why am I telling you all this?
I love to like this series, because frankly Charmaine Sheh is very pretty in her, very expressive and has improved so much, it's hard for me to even criticise her anymore because I really like her, as a person, as a personality and nowadays, a bit of her as an actress but not quite. But this series in itself is like a major catastrophe in the making. Make that already made. Why? If Hong Kong is ever to use a series to promote a certain profession, like Healing Hands for medical practitioners, Burning Flame for firemen or whatever, then The White Flame should never ever be used to promote the nursing profession. Why you may ask? Why such a sweeping statement?
Well, I have to agree with my fellow contributor, this series' portrayal of nurses is at best dumb, at worst, bimbos. I see so many bimbos running around this series, luckily there's Maggie Siu as a very intelligent looking doctor (and a surprising character since she's from Healing Hands II and I was half expecting Lawrence Ng to turn up somewhere) and the magnificent Yuen King Dan's brilliant portrayal of a very professional and compassionate nurse. Charlie Yuk Choi Ling type of nurses should be banned from the hospitals, because I predict negligence lawsuits every 2 hours.
Remember the scene where she just stood there, refusing to assist a doctor since she's quitting anyway because she couldn't do it, because of one baby's death when it wasn't even her fault? The doctor scolded her what kind of a nurse she is and she happily declared, "That's why I am quitting!". Talk about professionalism, dedication, integrity, upholding the Nightingale spirit, none whatsoever. There she was standing there like a spoiled brat, waiting to be fed. I felt like slapping her.
There's so much of such scenes. Am I supposed to feel sorry for her and her ordeal? GROW UP! Who wrote this script? WHO? Why such degradation of such a noble profession?
Ok, so it's not that noble. I have been to hospitals, and frankly lots of the nurses act like Charlie did during her times of confusion, basically lazy, rude and stoned. What I find very accurate about this series is the portrayal of doctors. Rarely seen (how true! I have been to 3 hospitals, never have I seen a doctor, young old wrinkly or buffed, maybe they're frozen somewhere and will only be defrosted when needed?) and they look like they're listening to the patient but actually doing small talks. Brilliant. Nurses??
OH MY GOD.
I couldn't believe how stupid this series could get, until I saw this scene early into this series and I realise this series ain't going to be earth shattering in the promotion of the nurses. In fact after this scene my opinion of them became far worse. You see the young nurses, after a few months of classes were sent to the A&E to assist the doctors after one mega serious emergency situation. Naturally they panicked, big time but that's fine with me. The next day the students having supposedly learnt so much from real life experiences wanted to ask the teacher loads of question, and well, I was quite delighted to see finally a scene of some intelligence you know. And then came the very first question;
"What does bp mean?"
Hey, I am never a doctor, never been a medical student or nursing student but I know what BP means. I mean first day of school they learned about hearts, organs and diseases and they did not know what bp means?! I was like shocked! My God! Blood Pressure you idiots! And they're student nurses and the very basic of that term they do not know??? The scriptwriter must have thought it was brilliant to allow such an idiotic scene to show so late into the series and the credibility of this series when it comes to portrayal of nurses and the nursing profession was totally lost at that point of time. Can this series get any worse? Not really, since I do not expect accuracy when it comes to depictions of those involved in the medical profession so I guess I continued watching this series because I thought perhaps the characters might be interesting. In a way I was right but not quite.
Characters, card board characters
The characters in here are so caricature like, so unreal that this series became I do not know how to describe it so I guess I'll paint a mental picture for you.
Let's talk a bit about Crystal first. I think she's a very real person, very smart but I was confused; why is she studying nursing if she wants to be a doctor? Not to waste time? Ok, then her private life is a bit confusing. She thinks her family (mom's a senator, dad and brothers are doctors) looks down on her, because she failed to make it into medical school. She thinks they think she's not good enough. She blames them for blaming her. See the trend? She thinks, but actually her parents and brothers, all successful and all very busy are very supportive of her decision. They think very highly of her, no matter what. It's she feeling sorry for herself. Glad to know she changed to a much more opened person, thanks in part to Charlie's over perkiness and in part to her willingness to look around her, that she's surrounded by so much love. I like her character.
And then there's Yung Tak Kei. Really dedicated fellow, soft spoken and very nice guy who became a nurse for all the right reason. I find no fault with this character, except that the actor who played him isn't exactly manly and a tad too young for the seasoned Charmaine Sheh.
Finally, my favourite character Ku Ku. Encouraging, nice, helpful and every student's nurse dream mentor, she has been through so much and yet she remained calm. Many may called it denial, but I call it a realisation of what's top priority (and that is her patients and her oath to her profession) and what's not (that is herself). Very selfless woman and the scene she shared with her dying father was poignant to say the least, though I find it weird why everybody must forgive somebody at death beds? Can't we just see the enemy, feel sorry for them but still unable to forgive?
There were moments of genius in here, and one of my very favourite scene was when Maggie Siu's character (I think her name was Anson?) gave Charlie her piece of mind after the baby's death;
"Do you think I do not feel sad for the baby's death, that I do grieve just like you? I was the one who saw him grow in the womb, I was the one who delivered him and cut his cord. I was the first to hold him and look at him. I feel sad too, but instead of pouring my grief over one baby I might as well turn my grief into helping more babies, other patients because they need me too."
Rightly said and shame on Charlie.
Of course as usual, all's well must end with a life threatening disease or two. Since this is a nurse's series, we will see loads of pain and recoveries, and most of them happened to the leads' members of the family, like Charlie's father (liver problem), Ku Ku's husband (was it accident? I missed that part), Ku Ku's father and Crystal herself (kidney problems). Some died, many lived and I couldn't help but curse this series. You see, Crystal finally decided to stay on as a nurse because people, doctors need nurses too you see. Being a doctor isn't that a big deal. I find that insulting. Being a doctor AND a nurse is as big deal as one's ambition. Crystal is a determined girl, she wants to be a doctor so please Mr TVB Scriptwriter, let her be a doctor! But no, she must be a nurse, because this is not Healing Hands you see. Which is so stupid. Why can't she be a doctor who respects nurses? Wouldn't she be in the position to know nurses are important element in a doctor's and patient's life? The doctors in here aren't all a friendly bunch, they think nurses are stupid. Wouldn't it be nice that Crystal becomes the nicest and most appreciative doctor working alongside Charlie and friends as equals and not one boss and one assistant? Nope, she must be a nurse, because she must be if not the whole series wouldn't make any sense. This I feel spoilt the whole darn series which was already rotten anyway. I was spared from the last episode but I knew the ending thanks to the many reviews and one brief look at the final episode. Can they remake this series? I don't think I can withstand a second helping of this piece of junk.
If I Were The Scriptwriter, I would Change ...
Old People In Young Roles
I guess the most obvious one, perhaps Charmaine Sheh herself. I mean I think she has improved tremendously and her Charlie is such a pain in the neck but you will like her, pretty and bimbo but surrounded by so many young people, she tends to look seasoned, in fact that is a nicer way to say that she looks old. Of course nowadays she looks haggard but in this series, pretty as she was, she was a tad too old. Ok, so I would assume her Charlie is older, in her early 20s whilst everybody else is like late teens. There are some things I would love to change in this series...
Personality, Too Much
The characterisation of certain key players is horrific to say the least.
For example, Charlie who is not smart and not even hard working but she has a heart. Great, but really, is heart enough to be the best nurse? I have never ever seen such an unprofessional nurse before. There is a thin line between professional nurse and compassionate nurse. The former can be the latter but as Charlie illustrates, she can only be the latter but not the former. One of the worst scene I have had the unfortunate privilege to witness in this series was when a baby of a few days old died. Pitiful, understandably Charlie was sad, very sad since she helped the mother through the difficult pregnancy. But when she faced the parents, her head was down, the parents frantically asking "How's my baby?" and she just stood there and cried. Shouldn't she be stronger, and giving words of comfort in times of grief? Nope, she caused more grief. Then thereafter she reasoned her reasons for quitting as such; "I couldn't face the death of the baby, I didn't expect babies to die". I feel this is such a dumb line. Did she do anything to cause the patient's death? No. I would have wished she thought she did but without the vital link, her actions thereafter further confirmed that she did not have the Nightingale in her. Imagine during the SARS epidemic? She would be the first to quit!
And there's Charlie again and again during her period of uncertainty, crying, feeling oh so sorry for herself when the baby died and all. It's all about Charlie. Hey Charlie! What about the baby's parents? She was such a compassionate nurse that she took such a long time to console herself that she forgot that consoling should be towards other people. She's really very narcissistic you know, it's all about me, Charlie Yuk Choi Ling, everybody else can just bugger off.
Then there's the nurses always happy, running around. Which was great, but right in the hospital? Aren't they accidents waiting to happen? You know bump into a pregnant lady or something?
There's one more scene worth condemning for the illogical part of it; Fai faced with a difficult patient who wasn't sick but was enjoying free lodging, free food and free rest in the hospital. None of the upper management could kick this useless patient out who was tormenting other patients. If this happened in Malaysia, this patient can only last one hour because he will be booted out of the hospital. I always thought there aren't enough bed in hospital to accommodate such cheats, apparently in Hong Kong there are more beds than patient.
And then there's one minor little scene of not much importance but apparently a lot for TVB was when Charlie, after a very long thought decided to stay back. Some friends of hers were so happy went running to patients declaring Charlie shall be staying back as a nurse. Yippee! Yeah right, then patients were smiling happily and all. I know she must be well liked but loved so dearly by all in one mutual agreement, patients, nurses, students and doctors? Oh, puhhhhhh-leassseeee.
And I was told Charlie graduated as one of the best students? Really? Must she be the best student when I don't see her studying at all? Can't she be a mediocre student with the best bed side manners? Must we always justify happy endings with success for all and must success be equated with being number one in something which that character was so bad in in the beginning? Must we be so darn optimistic to the point of fake optimism? I don't expect reality but I do expect some credibility in the whole darn series!
It's like run of the mill series you know, perky girl, nice guy, serious guy, fun guy, timid girl, vamp girl, stuck up girl .... boring. Guy falls for a girl who doesn't quite love him and in the end he loves another but then original girl gets disease and suddenly realises she loves that guy after all and poor couple became bitter because guy is obligated to take care of her ...where have I seen this before? Yes, like every other TVB series produced for like since TVB opened door for business ... it's such a chore to watch such repetition.
But the least complaint I have is the performances itself. Few were quite ok, some stood out amongst others and nope, it's not Charmaine Sheh, well not really.
Pretty, love her dressing in here, I think she improved a lot but I still feel An Herbalist Affair is her best work yet. In here she's again the rude, small minded, calculating one with one redeeming quality; she is nice. Is Charmaine a rude person in real life because most of her characters are mostly rude people? Add spoilt, perky and talk too loud. Her movements are still over the top, you know bigggg movements and pointing left right top and bottom and her acting is still scene per scene in this series but she's improving. Her fans will love her in here, since everybody loves cute Charmaine. I must say though she should stop posing in sexy dresses with tight or short clothings. She's still pretty in here but really she has no bum to show off. In recent pictures, with her untidy hair and really thin frame, her face looks long, she looks messy and very tired. I want her back to her old cute chubby self if I had my way. Hopefully her acting is not suffering from malnutrition like her body is.
Yuen Keng Dan
One word; excellent.
Sissy looking, horrible in Reaching Out (so darn wrong for the role) and in here? Likeable but not earth shattering. And very poorly paired with Charmaine Sheh who looks like his aunt to say the least.
I hope I got his name right and I hope he is the guy I think he is. Can't blame me for mistakes you know since it has been like what? A decade or so since I last saw him? Remember what I wrote at the top that there's one super duper mega star in here and I wasn't talking about Charmaine Sheh.
Can you recognise this handsome young man? I couldn't until someone reminded me and indeed he looked like my most favourite child actor from the great ATV days. Remember the series which starred Kong Wah and Jackie Lui? This young man who was a mere boy back then played Jackie Lui's character when he was a boy. Remember? What about Looking Back In Anger where he played Felix Wong's character when he was young? YES, this WAS THAT BOY GENIUS OF AN ACTOR! I was totally shocked. How time flies. His performance in here is so-so, you could see he is a fine actor in the making if only he is given a good complex character to play. Nothing much to do in here though. He could certainly teach Charmaine and friends a thing or two about acting as I think he is one of those few who can boast; "When I was in diapers, I was a child star! You? Where were you?!". Wonder what happened to his older and much fairer brother?
The rest of the cast? The sulky one was quite ok as the sulky one but when she smiles she looks rather uncomfortable whilst the rest of the young cast were exactly like their characters; noisy bunch without much talent.
Ok if you really want nothing too serious. Just don't take this series too seriously. Fans of Charmaine Sheh will definitely praise her like the goddess Venus reincarnated. Despite my criticisms, I actually enjoyed this brainless entertainment but my views of nurses in Hong Kong? Thanks to this series, I will now know never ever check into a hospital in Hong Kong since there may be such bimbos running around.
The themesong by the way, sung by Miriam Yeung who herself was trained as a nurse was quite ok lar.
I notice in the themesong near the lyrics there is a tiny logo, and that logo is the same as the last scene of the themesong. I would thing this logo perhaps is a medal awarded to best nursing student? Or a badge worn by nurses? A crest by the nursing organisation or something?