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Written by Bridget Au

"Passable"



SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!



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Year
2005

Chinese Title
"Sum Fa Fong" (Chinese proverb that translates to blooming heart, blossoming hearts but means something like happy and content)

No. of episodes
30

Cast
The Lam Family
Michael Tao Dai Yu as Lam Yat Kong (1st son)
So Jee Wai as Lam Yi Yeung (2nd son)
Moses Chan as Lam Sam Hor (Ah Sui, 3rd son) / Sik Sui
Leong Lit Wai as Lam Sei Hoi (4th son)
Natalie Tong Si Wing as Lam Siu Wu (youngest daughter)

The Kei Family
Kenix Kwok Hor Ying as Kei Hoi Sum (1st daughter)
Bernice Liu Bik Yee as Kei Mei Lai (2nd daughter)
Fred Cheng Chun Wan as Kei Chung Ming (youngest son)
Paul Chun Pui as Kei Tin Man

Others
Wong Ka Lok as Tong Yan (Yan Jai)
Anne Heung Hoi Lam as Bik Fun
June Chan Kei as Money
Carlos Ng Ka Lok as Nicky
Akina Hong Wah as Rachel

Plot
Chef Yat Kong has returned to Hong Kong after being dumped by long-time girlfriend Bik Fun. Upon his return, he discovers that the young siblings he dotes on has each managed to screw up their life somehow. The second son's company is in debt, the fourth son has quit his promising job at a hotel and instead works as a pots and pans salesman, and the youngest daughter narrowly escapes a shoplifting conviction. After doing his best to solve the family's many problems, a situation arises to threaten the entire family core: the return of the third son, Ah Sui (born Sam Hor). The problem is, the younger, more immature siblings hated this guy before knowing his identity as their brother, and misunderstandings emerge while romantic relationships further confuse the whole situation. Ah Sui begins by dating Hoi Sum, who actually first loved Yat Kong. Then they break up, Ah Sui begins to date Hoi Sum's younger sister Mei Lei, while Hoi Sum and Yat Kong finally get together (there is something inherently wrong here in my opinion - siblings dating siblings?!). Hoi Sum and Yat Kong's happiness is short-lived, with the return of Bik Fun and ... a baby! Yat Kong, responsible man that he is, leaves Hoi Sum to create a happy family facade with Bik Fun and their child, until Bik Fun realizes Yat Kong still loves Hoi Sum and lies to him, saying that the baby isn't his. So Yat Kong and Hoi Sum marry, as do Ah Sui and Mei Lei. The best part in this otherwise average series is that it showcases post-marriage life. Both couples have children, Bik Fun returns briefly, and everyone else gets together with someone. Woooooohoo.

What else… flowers. Plenty of flowers because of the brothers’ company, which specializes in creating flower decorations for buildings. So expect lots of flowers and ‘fa yu’, meaning speeches about flowers and their various meanings. Really, I could care less. I hate flowers, and yes, I’m a girl. My boyfriend is very lucky.

Evaluation of Cast and Characters
Michael Tao
This has been one of my favourite actors since he starred in the uber-popular Detective Investigation Files trilogy. Here he delivers a likeable, believable, and controlled performance as the responsible oldest Lam brother, but I can't help but notice that he's gradually losing his touch and fire, taking on more subdued roles. However, I especially enjoyed his scenes with Natalie Tong; you can really understand and feel how his character dotes on this youngest sibling. Unfortunately, he has zero chemistry with Anne Heung, who played his ex-love, although he fares much better with Kenix (obviously). As well, there was something missing in the portrayal of the relationship between his character and Moses'; the importance of family/brotherhood between these two brothers is more preached than showed at the beginning but improved towards the end. In general, however, the relationship between Kong and the other brothers appeared more realistic. Another credible performance for this great actor, though his character was really annoying when he kept preaching the importance of family throughout the series. Seriously, shut up already.

Kenix Kwok
A near-breakthrough role for Kenix. Gone are the days where she plays the chic professional super-independent woman. Here she plays a number-crunching, outspoken and even somewhat mean and rude woman and Kenix displays some surprising comic timing here. I like this Kenix; it's fun, tomboyish and great to watch. And this series is also the first time in many years where a role has actually required Kenix to really cry and show emotion. I'm so used to her playing the no-nonsense career woman that I was surprised when I found myself truly touched by some of her emotional scenes, especially the one where she is sitting alone crying in the dark greenhouse after breaking up with Yat Kong. Here she has zero romantic chemistry with Moses, which I found strange because they were a great couple in Take My Word for It. Maybe they can be couples in dramas but not comedies? Very strange indeed. As usual Kenix looks painfully thin and malnourished here, someone treat her to a steak! Minus the bad body image though, she looks very pretty (as in face-wise) in here. And she had a great wardrobe too.

Moses Chan
I've always maintained that Moses is destined for comedy and not drama. Unfortunately, TVB disagrees with me and has given him endless dramatic roles (Riches and Stitches, Where the Legend Begins, Healing Hands II, Take My Word For It, etc.), whereas Love Bond is only his second comedic role to date (The Family Man being the other one). Here Moses once again proves that he is surprisingly an excellent comedic actor; he is funny without trying to be, and even his mannerisms and ways of delivering lines as the poor, little-educated, 'bros before hos' Ah Sui are downright hilarious. Though he is not a romantic lead by far, he has improved in the dramatic scenes; for example in the scenes where he tears up when his father-in-law offers him money for his new office and during the fight on the beach between him and his two brothers near the end of the series. He really fails at the serious romantic scenes, but is an actor with a certain charisma on the screen.

Bernice Liu
I truly hated her in Survivor's Law, but here she is absolutely adorable. She is very expressive in here, yet has managed to tone down some of the overacting that made me want to kick her in Survivor's Law. However, she still has a long way to go in terms of dramatic acting. She doesn't have the raw talent for dramatic acting, although she does have potential for romantic comedy-type roles. She made a great couple with Moses Chan, which is strange because I wouldn't have pictured the two as a pair. They're even more fun to watch than Michael and Kenix. Though she had wonderful chemistry with Moses, with Carlos Ng she looked liked his older sister, which I found weird since I believe Carlos is actually a few years older than Bernice. As well, she isn't only pretty here, I find her absolutely stunning. She looked geeky in SL but here showed her true colours: I honestly think that she's a million times more beautiful than any other young TVB actress; she is tall, has a great figure, and an exotically beautiful face. Of course, she is one of the worst actresses among TVB starlets, but she could always go into modelling. Minus the over-plucked eyebrows.

Paul Chun
One word: excellent.

Natalie Wong
She bored me to tears in Hearts of Fencing, but manages to have an onscreen personality in this series. She has improved, but she is simply a young girl playing a young girl. A better actress would have taken this role and run with it. Siu Wu is a spoiled brat, immature, and kind of rebellious. She is actually a very well-written character (albeit a minor one): she is spoiled because she is the youngest girl with four older brothers who adore her. She is incredibly immature in her refusal to complete her education to respect her parents' wishes and in the way she idolizes Bik Fun and is unwilling to give any other woman a chance as her oldest brother's love. Someone like Leila Tong or a younger version of Tavia Yeung would have excelled in this role. Natalie, however, is missing that extra something, though in general she managed to convey the emotions of the spoiled, hot-tempered Siu Wu, and she's even cute in some parts. She looks chubbier in here too.

Leong Lit Wai
I didn't know this actor's name when I wrote my review on Shine On You (he played student Fun Bao) and I'm glad I know his name now. He has charisma, but is kind of a pre-version of Johnson Lee - moldable, great actor, but not an A-list/lead actor. I predict that he will become a very good supporting actor.

Anne Heung
I really like her as a person, but she can't act. End of story.

The rest range from likable (So Jee Wai who is agreeable but uncharismatic) to boring (Wong Ka Lok) to forgettable (Carlos Ng).

Worthy Scene
The single funniest scene I've watched in recent TVB is definitely found in this series. It happens between Mei Lai and Ah Sui (Bernice and Moses) at the bus stop when Nicky's mom and her friends refer to the two as "gaan fu yum fu" (translates to adulterers). It's absolutely hilarious because Mei Lai and Ah Sui hear this and begin to call each other "gaan fu" (male adulterer) and "yum fu" (mistress/female adulterer) and act like adulterers in front of Nicky's mom to irritate her. My explanation here does no justice to the scene but watch out for it because I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt! It's just the way Bernice and Moses were delivering the lines as well as the dialogue itself. Great performance by both of them.

Unworthy Characters
Plenty. Money, the second brother's girlfriend, was petty, annoying, and a gold-digger. I wish the second brother didn't have to end up with her because he deserved someone much, much better. The youngest Kei child, Chung Ming, was also a terrible character at the beginning. Though half of it was due to him being spoiled by his father, he was really immature and selfish to the point of absurdity when it came to doing things for others. His transformation at the end of the series did nearly nothing to redeem this character. Martin, Hoi Sum's ex-boyfriend, who deserves to rot in hell for the women he uses. Then there is the woman that Martin dumped Hoi Sum for, who deserved what she got when Martin left her after stealing all her money. Rachel, Hoi Sum's nemesis, is another character who was downright irritating and mean, acted to surprising comic perfection by Akina Hong who is actually known for playing nice, soft-spoken women. Topping the list is definitely Nicky's mother, who absolutely defines petty and bitchy. Horrible woman and even the worst girl in the world did not deserve her as a mother-in-law.

To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
Passable. For Kenix, Bernice, Moses, and Michael fans. Others will possibly fall asleep at the mediocre plot.

Rating


Names
Leave it to TVB to come up with the most amusing names for family members ever. Do people still name their kids this way? The Kei family is a little more normal; their kids are named by personality/appearance descriptions, whereas the Lam family names are thoroughly bizarre - the parents must have been obsessed with bodies of water. Here I've translated all the names based on their literal meaning.

The Lam's
Yat Kong = "a river"
Yi Yeung = "two creeks"
Sam Hor = "three lakes"
Sei Hoi = "four oceans"
Siu Wu = "little river"

The Kei's
Kei Hoi Sum = "quite happy"
Kei Mei Lai = "quite beautiful"
Kei Chung Ming = "quite smart"

From the Grapevine
Rumours flew following this series that Bernice and Moses were romantically involved though both parties denied the allegations.


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