"If you're looking for predictability and light-hearted entertainment, this is for you."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
"Ching Cheut Yu Lam" (roughly translates to The Young Achievers)
No. of episodes
Sung by Hacken Lee
Bobby Au-Yeung Chun Wah as Ka Chai Choi (Principal Ka)
Michael To Dai Yu as Tsang Jing Leung (Tsang Sir)
Kenix Kwok Hor Ying as Wong Yeuk Si (Miss Wong)
Paul Chun Pui as Ka Man Biu (Uncle Biu)
Roy Chow as Au-Yeung San (Ah San, Ye San)
Yu Chiu Kong Yu as Chui Ho Yuet (Ah Sok)
Shirley Yeung Si Kei as Miss Lam
Wu Fung as Mr. Wun
Cerina da Graca as Ah Sum (school secretary)
Wan Ding Po Sui (WDPS) is a private school owned by Mr. Wun, who had it established in memory of his deceased parents. Despite being a successful businessman, Mr. Wun’s Grade B school suffers from low enrollment and low achievement from its students, who are mostly spoiled brats who care about nothing in particular. To compete against his business rival, Mr. Wun enlists the help of personal assistant Ka Chai Choi to rescue the school from its dire situation, appointing him as principal.
The series revolves around the teachers and students of WDPS who slowly gain ambition and learn communication under the leadership of Principal Ka, though initially he is only concerned with cutting the school’s budget (he works as some sort of mathematician/financial advisor at Mr. Wun’s company). As time passes by, however, the teachers (who were originally a set of selfish, unambitious adults) recognize the importance of their job and the amount of influence they have on students. The students, encouraged by their new principal and teachers, discover that they too have the potential to achieve something greater.
Against the backdrop of petty teenage vendettas, student-teacher crushes, and various school competitions, we have the main storyline among the main characters of the series, a love triangle (duh) between Principal Ka, Tsang Sir, and Miss Wong. In classic “may the best man win” style, Principal Ka and Tsang Sir compete to win Miss Wong’s heart, with Tsang Sir emerging as the victor. Prior to this, however, Miss Wong had a huge dilemma herself. Her ex-husband died and left his son (from his own ex-wife), Au-Yeung San, under her care. Her job proves difficult because Ah San has always mistook Miss Wong as the ‘third woman’ who caused the divorce of his parents. However, slowly he acknowledges Miss Wong’s good heart and their relationship warms up (they even end up living together, and he calls her ‘Mom’), and after his biological mother comes to see him, he discovers the truth: his biological mother was the one who had an affair first and drove his father away.
So everything is fine again… until Miss Wong discovers that Tsang Sir indirectly caused the death of her ex-husband. She gets peeved and dumps Tsang Sir. Principal Ka decides to go after Miss Wong again, but of course she can’t forget Tsang Sir and eventually forgives him while Principal Ka (duped again) gives them his blessings.
Evaluation of Cast and Characters
Both Bobby Au-Yeung and Michael To turn in stellar performances, balancing comedy with drama. Bobby has always been a master at this, and he makes Principal Ka a likeable, believable character while convincingly portraying his transition from a stingy, egotistical mathematician to an understanding, compassionate man. And doing it in a bowtie, no less! He also shares terrific odd-couple/friendship chemistry with Michael To. Michael To himself was something of a surprise though. From Detective Investigation Files I-III fame, Shine on You is his first work since returning to TVB. And what an understated comeback. Michael’s dramatic acting abilities were transparent in the DIF series, but in this series he displays brilliant comic timing, although the wrinkles on his face when he smiled could not hide the fact that his actor is definitely aging. Tsang Sir’s off-work half-Hawaiian shirts were atrocious though.
Kenix Kwok needs a breakthrough role. She comes off more as a power woman (that she is used to playing) as Miss Wong rather than an understanding teacher attentive to her students’ needs. In fact, her lines seem preachy instead of what they are meant to be: communicating with students. With that said, she shares amazing chemistry with Michael Tao (again, from DIF days) and they are probably one of the most genetically blessed onscreen couples TVB has ever churned out. Kenix also had great chemistry with Roy Chow, the biggest surprise of the series because this actress has never been known for her chemistry with younger/child actors (remember Legal Entanglement? It seemed like she didn’t even know the actor who played her young son). In fact, her best scenes were opposite Michael Tao and Roy Chow.
Roy Chow himself is no disappointment. Though he can hardly be described as handsome, he has a face with character and gives an absolutely winning performance. In fact, of the younger actors he is the best and he gives his role the kind of aching emotional intensity that Kenix can probably only dream of. Au-Yeung San’s rebellious, defiant nature and teenage angst were encapsulated by this young actor and if TVB takes notice, he could have quite a future in acting. It helps that this guy carries no TVB star baggage with him. Actually, I’m relieved TVB cast people who actually look their age for the students… imagine the horror if one of the ‘newcomers’ (but 25-year-olds) were cast in this role.
The supporting acting ranges from terrific to mediocre to downright crappy.
Paul Chun Pui is way up there at his usual best as the agreeable and endearing Uncle Biu, as was the older actress who plays the strict, unforgiving but compassionate Vice-Principal. Cerina da Graca is sweet enough in her minor role as the school’s secretary, though the ke-le-fe’s who play the other teachers come off as completely cartoonish. Wu Fung is the most painful to watch, a sad fact considering he’s a ‘veteran’. Shirley Yeung is basically annoying and forgettable, even if we conveniently forget the fact that her pairing with Michael Tao (nearly 20 years her senior) is beyond creepy. She looks more like one of the students here rather than one of the teachers.
As for the actors who play the students, again, the spectrum is wide. In general, however, the boys do better than the girls. Yu Chiu, a half-baked singer in Hong Kong’s music business, is only mediocre. She looks like an ugly, buck-toothed, 15-year-old version of singer-actress Sammi Cheng and seems more gawky and loud-mouthed rather than hot, which is what her character’s nickname – Ah Sok – means in Cantonese slang. I finally recall who the other 3 girls are who play the female students – Gloria Chan (as “Sun Por”), Helena Ma (as “Yun Ying Yun”), and Angela Au (as “Kong Lap Ying”). These 3 girls were part of the now disbanded Cookies, a 9-member girl group. They give monotone/overacting performances, and are a near-bore to watch. An exception is the girl who plays Ban Yeh, an unknown who has great comic instinct and energy in front of the camera. The boys, a bunch of unknowns, fared much better: a special mention to the actors who played Fun Bao and Sek Siu Pao.
The nicknames the students had amongst themselves were creative and fitting for each kid’s personality. Here is a list of those I can remember:
1. Sun Por – literally translates to “god grandmother”, but refers to one who is clairvoyant; fittingly, the girl loves tarot cards and the like, using it to ‘predict’ the outcome of various events at WDPS.
2. Ah Sok (real name: Chui Ho Yuet) – Cantonese slang for “hot”, usually refers to a hot girl and she is supposedly the prettiest girl at school, but I beg to differ.
3. Ye San (real name: Au-Yeung San) – literally translates to “wild mountain”, referring to the boy’s rebellious nature.
4. Pair Mui (real name: Pang Ting Ting) – “mui” meaning “little sister” or “little girl”, “pair” (pronounced more like “peh” in Cantonese) is slang for lazy or bummy.
5. Yum Kung (real name: Fung Yan Dung): Cantonese slang used to describe something or someone pitiful.
6. Fun Bao: literally, “sleeping bun”; the underachiever spends his lessons sleeping.
7. Ban Yeh: Cantonese slang which refers to someone who pretends or acts like someone/something he or she is not.
8. Yun Ying Yan: literally translates to “the invisible one”.
To Watch or not to Watch, That is the Question
Yes, for Bobby and Michael's performances, as well as for newcomer Roy Chow's. Bobby and Michael will crack you up, and the dialogue among the students will do so as well. Despite its premise and setting, the series still manages to avoid being overly preachy. If you're looking for predictability and light-hearted entertainment, this is for you.