" The marching scenes. Way too many of them. And why does TVB refuse to give its actors English lessons?! "Squad, halt!" sounds more like "Skwaaah, hot!". "Squad, left view, march!" sounds like "Skwahhhh, leff voo, maach!". And do not get me started on how they pronounced "outward bound" - I cannot even phonetically describe it."
MAJOR SPOILERS ALERT!
"Hok Ging Hung Sum" (translates to the heroic heart of policemen-in-training)
No. of episodes
Michael Miu Kiu Wai as Lee Man Sing / Sunny (Lee Sir)
Ron Ng Cheuk Hei as Chung Lap Man (Man)
Sammul Chan Kin Fung as Wai Pak Kiu (Kiu)
Fiona Sit Hoi Kei as Lam (Fiona)
Michelle Mai Suet as Ivy (mother to Man)
Tavia Yeung Yee as Hor Fa (Ah Fa)
Chin Ka Lok as Kook Sir
Priscilla Koo Kei Kwan as Madam / Ann
Deep Ng Ho Hong as Ming (brother to Fa)
Eddie Lee Yu Yeung as Ryan
The story, as its title indicates, is basically about a bunch of younguns training to become policemen, although I'd want none of them to be policemen where I live (reasons later). First comes Chung Lap Man, the fiery, impulsive, confident self-proclaimed hotshot who enters Police Training School (PTS) on a deal with Lee Sir, who Man thinks is in a relationship with his mom thus preventing his parents from getting back together. Then comes Wai Pak Kiu, the quiet, reserved, extremely private and equally confident achiever who enters PTS because being a cop means a good, stable salary and responsibility. He has a frosty relationship with Lee as well because his dead mom was the neglected wife of Lee Sir many years ago. Let's not forget the ditzy Fiona, spoiled princess who idolizes Lee Sir and entered PTS because he once saved her from a car accident. Rounding out the classic TVB love square is Ah Fa, cashier/waitress at PTS' cafeteria and the youngest daughter of a family of thieves. Yes, you read that right, a family of thieves. Or more precisely, a family of pick-pockets. Although Ah Fa herself is as moral as can be.
Kiu is paired with Fiona, a classic rich girl/poor boy pairing who face numerous obstacles to their romance because of class difference. The relationship between Man and Ah Fa is a little more original, beginning as a friendship then challenged by family disapproval (from Ah Fa's family because Man was the prime witness in a trial that sent Ah Fa's gangster brother to jail). Other characters peppering the plot include Man's mother Ivy, a gentle, warm-hearted woman who later falls for Lee Sir, who is in love with her as well, teachers at PTS including Kook Sir who is also Lee Sir's best friend, and other family members of the cadets.
The young cadets at PTS begin by hating their instructor Lee Sir, who is strict and appears cold and unfeeling. However, as time passes by they learn that Lee Sir actually cares very much for their well-being. This is why they are heartbroken when Lee Sir dies in the final episode, but learn to support each other in their grief.
Evaluation of Cast and Characters
Michael Miu / Lee Sir
I made the mistake of reading reviews on this series (as I always do) and knew that Lee Sir would die at the end so I watched this guy with interest. I haven't seen Michael since TVB's Chor Lau Heung, which is, to put it mildly, quite awhile ago and I honestly remember nothing about his performance in there. Anyway, Michael did a very good job as the strict but inwardly caring Lee Sir. His 'romantic' scenes with Michelle Mai attempt more than they deliver, but he looks and behaves like a fit and capable policeman. You can't stand his stern, strict face at the beginning but you grow to love and respect how much he cares about his students, especially during the later parts when his face occasionally breaks into a smile. Very good performance.
When he died. Only because it managed to wring out genuine emotions from the entire cast, who seemed lost along with the plot that seemed to be going nowhere.
Ron Ng / Man
Hmm, he seems to be hated in the SPCnet forums. Why? He isn't that bad. Okay, so his character Man is petulant, annoying, and impulsive, which is a repeat of the role that made Ron, Isaac from Triumph in the Skies. But he looks the part in these roles (though his acting is pretty stiff). Granted, there's a limit to how great of an actor you can be if you can only do well in one kind of role, but Ron does have charisma on the screen. He needs a breakthrough performance, starting from accepting different roles. Anyway, he is the only cadet in here that physically looks like a policeman (minus Michael Miu) but his personality couldn't be more wrong. Irrational and immature - is this the kind of guy you want carrying a gun on the streets? Blech.
Any opposite Michelle Mai. I enjoyed watching the two as mother and son and Ron did well portraying the filial side of Man.
The kissing scene with Tavia Yeung. It was one of the best kisses in recent TVB, as in slow-motion, sweet, etc... but the problem is they look alike! As in they look like siblings, which makes their romantic scenes look oddly incestuous: they have the same face shape, the same lazy/sleepy eyes, the same big pointy nose. And since Tavia Yeung recently got darker, their skin tone is the same as well. Pretty scary actually.
Sammul Chan / Kiu
Physically wrong for the role of a policeman, even for one in training. He's so skinny and runs like a girl. But anyway, intriguing character and interesting performance. I've never thought much of Sammul as an actor; I mentioned that he was a shell of an actor in my review of Survivor's Law (as in one-dimensional performance). But his work in The Academy is different from his other works. There's a certain something in his portrayal of the mysterious, introverted Kiu and I find his performance very satisfying...although I think his success in depicting Kiu is more related to his woes of recently leaving TVB rather than real acting ability.
The scenes in the early part of the series as the mysterious, quiet Kiu.
The romantic scenes in the later part of the series opposite Fiona Sit. They made me cringe.
Fiona Sit / Fiona
Where shall I begin? For those of you who read my old review of Detective Investigation Files IV, you know how I felt about Charmaine Sheh's performance in there. Fiona is early-Charmaine-Sheh, version 2.0. Little Miss Chicken Voice. Listening to Fiona speak was like having Stuart Little shoved in my ear. If TVB dubs people who can't speak Cantonese properly, then they should dub people who speak like Fiona Sit as well. But you know what the irony is? Fiona Sit has the most annoying high-pitched voice, AND she can't speak Cantonese properly. Ha, ha, ha. So she needs Cantonese lessons and also needs to do what Charmaine did when she first started in the business - read aloud from newspapers to get rid of her chicken-with-its-head-cut-off voice. And she can't act here either. Awful performance. What's strange is, I remember liking her in 2 Young where she played a similar character but why is she so much more annoying in here? Oh well.
None. I am serious.
All? Hahaha, I guess I'd have to say the scene at Fiona's parents' party where she appears in a bright orange dress and that atrocious wig. She looked like she just walked off the set of Ju-on.
Tavia Yeung / Ah Fa
Poor Tavia, she's supposed to be a female lead but she's more like a wallpaper supporting role in here. She does an average job, but her character is annoyingly passive.
Nope, not with Ron Ng but with the actors who played Ah Fa's family members. Tavia did well in the scenes as the devoted daughter willing to sacrifice for her family.
When Ah Fa found out that Ryan actually likes Fiona and ran into the streets wailing her head off. Tavia is one of the worst/ugliest/over-dramatic criers in TVB. She really needs to tone down her crying scenes.
I absolutely loved Michelle Mai's Ivy, she was terrific all the way through and was definitely the best supporting actress in here. Chin Ka Lok was hilarious as usual as Kook Sir, and Priscilla Koo made a very convincing professional power woman. Deep Ng gave a credible performance as did Waise Lee as Man's father. Funniest performance goes to the actress who played Man's aunt.
The Loot Bag
1. Man's aunt/Ivy's sister. An extremely funny character portrayed with brilliant comic timing by the actress who played her.
2. The relationship between Kiu and Lee Sir. Very compelling.
3. Chin Ka Lok. As goofy as ever as Kook Sir in private but in PTS he plays a brilliant 'shooting god' and great teacher. His pairing with Priscilla Koo, ultimate female professional, is also quite entertaining.
4. The PTS students. Each with distinct personalities that are both endearing and irritating, played by a slew of ke-le-fes. For example, among the guys: an older dude whose lifelong dream was to become a cop, a younger one who is into tarot cards and ghosts, another younger one who thought it was his lifelong dream to become a cop until it's discovered that he was unconsciously influenced by his father and brother who are both policemen, and some other ones. Among the girls, one who is smart, nice and anti-chauvinist (played by the very effective but unknown young actress who portrayed Monica - Chin Ka Lok's daughter - in Life Begins at Forty), one who is smart but mean, and a flirty one who almost cried after getting her hair chopped off at the beginning of the series.
5. Nicknames. One of them is Man's nickname for Lee Sir - "Dau Ba Sing". It's Cantonese slang that means something like 'slap on the face' but actually sounds much funnier if you understand slang. Then Kook Sir's nickname for Kiu "Mm Seng Mm Seng" which directly translates to 'no noise no noise' and refers to Kiu's quiet nature.
6. The last episode. Read below.
The Barf Bag
1. The marching scenes. Way too many of them. And why does TVB refuse to give its actors English lessons?! "Squad, halt!" sounds more like "Skwaaah, hot!". "Squad, left view, march!" sounds like "Skwahhhh, leff voo, maach!". And don't get me started on how they pronounced "outward bound" - I can't even phonetically describe it.
2. Fiona - actress, character, and wig. See above.
3. Ah Fa's family. Poor girl. They glorify the thieving life and then reprimand her for not following in their shoes. Then they hate Man's guts just because he caused Ming, Fa's older brother, to go to jail (when he actually deserved it!). Horrible family with no sense of morals whatsoever.
4. Man scheming to get his parents back together. Seriously, grow up. Your parents are divorced and you're not 8 years old anymore. Accept it and move on.
5. The theme song. Who wrote this? It crams paragraphs of lyrics into one line of melody. Atrocious singing too...wait, I'm pretty sure I heard Ron Ng's voice in there somewhere as well. Oops.
6. Ryan and the actor who portrayed him, Eddie Lee. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Did I mention ugly?
7. Miki, Man's younger sister and the horrendously wooden actress who portrayed her, Rachel Poon. Miki is a selfish and vindictive spoiled brat. I sure as hell wouldn't want a sister like her.
Things That Make You Go "Huh?"
Fiona's pathetic pursuit of Kiu. Ok, he might secretly like you but he's not willing to admit it, so just let it go already! My jaw dropped at the scene when she tells the other female cades that she 'broke up' with Kiu. Um, you were never going out in the first place, how could you break up? This girl is a real piece of work. Unbelievable.
On that note, what the hell does Kiu see in Fiona? She's whiny and immature. If I were a guy I'd run the other way.
Why can't Class A march after 15 episodes of practising?
When Kiu and Fiona get kidnapped, and Lee Sir calls Kiu looking for him...after a whole night with kidnappers, you finally remember you have a cell phone? Stupid Kiu.
At the end of the series, Man and Fa's romance is left out in the open. What happened with them?
The Ultimate Best Episode
I was going to give this series only 2 stars (because of bad plot pacing), but the last episode convinced me to give it an extra half star. Many people found the scene where Kiu is sobbing at Lee Sir's grave to be the most touching, but for me it was the scene where the cadets meet for the first time after Lee Sir's death at PTS. Kiu begins singing Aaron Kwok's "Strong", and the rest of the male cadets join in. On another floor of the building, the girls hear and sing along, followed by the members of Class B. I was crying buckets during that scene, because it represented the unity that Lee Sir was demanding all along from the cadets. Not only that, but it showed the bond between the mourning cadets and just how pivotal Lee Sir was in their lives.
To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
If you really want to, I'd recommend watching the first 5 episodes and then the last 10 episodes or so. The plot gets lost in the middle. Passable series with average acting and some annoying characters.
From the Grapevine
The sequel to this series, Cadets on the Beat - is out! Yippee. Featuring the robotic Sonija Kwok. No yippee.