"Has there ever been a more overrated series?!"
SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS
"Tong Sum Fung Bo" (literally translates to sweet-centered storm)
No. of episodes
Lee Si Kei as Ling Hao
Ha Yu as Tong Yan Gai (nicknamed Dai Bao)
Susana Kwan Kook Ying as Kam
Michelle Mai Suit as Ling Lei
Moses Chan Ho as Tong Zhi On (nicknamed Dak Dak Dei - literally, "pretty good")
Bosco Wong Jung Jak as Tong Zhi Yat (Gilbert)
Tavia Yeung Yee as Jackie
Linda Chung Ka Yan as Seung Joi Sum
Raymond Lam Fung as Ching Leung (Alfred)
Yoyo Mung Ka Wai as Sui Ming Ha (nicknamed Sui Mang Mang)
Fala Chan Fat Lai as Tong Zhi Yan
Chris Lai Lok Yi as Tong Zhi Foon
Louis Lee as Uncle Bor
Has there ever been a more overrated series?! Does it deserve the pages and pages of media coverage it got since it premiered? Ehh... I'd say no. My recent reviews may make it seem like I'm the most jaded reviewer on the planet (I basically damned the seriously overrated War of In-Laws to the depths of hell - one fellow reviewer likened it to a 'murder' of a review) but you know what, I have enjoyed overrated series before. Triumph in the Skies, The Dance of Passion, War and Beauty are all examples. So please don't think I hate everything that TVB produces. In fact, I do have my guilty pleasures (which I am more than ashamed of and thus will not divulge here). So I went into watching this series - the series with the highest ratings in TVB history, in fact - with big, big expectations. And unfortunately, I seriously did not like this series. I wouldn't go so far as saying I hate it, but I definitely don't like it. The acting is generally amazing, the characters are well-written, but the glue of a series - the plot - is over-dramatized and illogical to the point of ridicule. Don't shoot me.
I want to get to the review quickly so I'm going to zip through the story. The Tong family, local front-runner in Hong Kong's abalone business, lives in a great big house and has a $6 billion dollar net worth to pass onto its next generation once the parents kick. The next generation consists of On (nicknamed 'Dak Dak Dei' and 'Sai Bao'), Gilbert, Foon, and Yan. Of course, nothing can go wrong, right? I mean, they have 31 abalone stores, they have too much money, they have a great big house with a pool, the kids don't fight, yadee yadda yadda. There is just one small problem: there are two Tong wives.
That's right, folks! Heart of Greed gives you the modern look at polygamy, except it's not really polygamy. You see, years ago, Hao, the legitimate Tong wife, was diagnosed with cancer and thought she didn't have long to live, and thus arranged for god-sister Kam to marry into the family to take care of her husband and children. But alas - Hao was 'cured' of her cancer (or at least, from the immediate danger of it) and (according to the series), the government passed a law to ban polygamy at the exact time that Hao was about to marry Kam into the family as a "second wife". And so, years later, the Tong family now has a 'real' matriarch (Hao), along with an illegitimate second wife (Kam)... who, yes, all live together. Foon is Kam's biological son, by the way... although from the way Kam treats him, you'd never be able to tell.
Things are as happy happy joy joy as an after-school special until Kam's dissatisfaction from being the always-forgotten/belittled-illegitimate-second wife takes a nasty turn as she tries to secure a bigger piece of the Tong financial pie. Hao discovers her underhanded-ness, which results in the prompt eviction of Kam from the Tong household. Kam's temporary repent is all for show, and when both Hao and Gai bite the dust, a nasty inheritance fight ensues.
To be found in the greater inheritance-battling plotline is a bunch of fights, disagreements, arguments, and tears. First comes Gilbert, who falls in love with Jacky, whose reputation/status as the drinking/smoking/fashion model/former wife of a gang leader doesn't sit well with the rest of the Tong family, who wanted someone sweet, innocent, and single for the eldest and most educated Tong son. They marry when their family finally supports them, but a few weeks into the marriage, they squabble over the return of Jackie's ex-husband to the point of considering divorce, until the sickly Hao convinces them to do otherwise.
A bigger subplot is the love square between Dak Dak Dei (who I will refer to in this review as Triple D), aspiring lawyer Seung Joi Sum, ambitious lawyer / jerk of the century Alfred, and air hostess / bitch of the century Sui Mang Mang (real name Sui Ming Ha). Triple D has a huge crush on Sum, though he quietly watches on the sidelines while Alfred successfully courts her. The relationship is a rocky one, as their values and beliefs prove to be rather polarized. They try to work things out, but not before Sum's best friend SMM comes along to seduce Alfred away. When Sum finds out that Alfred has cheated, she dumps him in a flash. They get back together momentarily until Sum discovers that it is her best friend that Alfred cheated with, and the relationship ends for good. Though Alfred realizes that it is Sum that he truly loves and breaks it off with Sui Mang Mang, Sum keeps him at arms length as friends. However, when Alfred dies in a car accident, Sum regrets not telling him that she's forgiven him.
The Loot Bag
The only thing that makes this series so addictive is the characters - a huge array of them that are very well-written. I love watching all of the younger characters (with some major exceptions).
Seung Joi Sum
I really like her. She has a good heart, knows what she wants in life, and treats her family and friends well. She is decisive, yet a romantic at heart - if I were a guy, I'd fall for her too! I love her name, which translates to "always in one's heart", in this case, in both Alfred and Triple D's hearts forever. I don't think she should have gotten together with Triple D at the end though - I just want TVB, for once, to show us that being friends is possible between men and women. I would have liked the ending a lot better if she just remained what she was originally with Triple D - a bond that goes beyond lovers, like Belle and Sam's relationship at the end of Triumph in the Skies.
He's just too, too funny and I love his devotion to his family. He is also so gentlemanly in his intentions towards Sum. He backs off when he realizes she loves Alfred and when their relationship hit the rocks, Triple D never tried to take advantage of the vulnerable, hurting Sum and tried to help them get back together. A good man to the core!
Ok, ok, I didn't forget that Alfred is the cheating b_stard who broke Sum's heart. But he is a very well-written character in that everything he does and says makes total sense. He grew up in a broken family with a gambling mother and had to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age, which is why he worked super hard to become a well-known lawyer. He is intelligent, ambitious, confident, and he comes off as arrogant because he knows he is good at what he does. He is a good boyfriend in the sense that he loves Sum and wants the best for her, but he is a bad boyfriend in the way he goes about trying to help his girlfriend only ends up hurting her (when he called her stupid for helping her useless older brother). I quite like that he truly repented after his cheating but I hated the fact that he chose to cheat with a woman that he knew was Sum's best friend, and even protected the woman's identity afterwards at the risk of losing Sum forever. I loved him in the end though, when he took a page out of Triple D's book and quietly loved Sum from afar. It's sad that the good die young.
Tavia did a great job making the most out of her limited screen time, and I thought Jackie was a character who showed some very interesting traits that were sadly way too under-developed.
I feel sorry for him. With a mother like that, who could be happy? It was a good thing that Foon had other good influences like Triple D and his aunt because he was so impressionable in this series that Kam could have had a very destructive effect on him.
Evaluation of Cast Performances
She is girly, she is sweet - I like her. She has improved heaps from Always Ready, and there are signs in this series that indicate she may just be able to escape the pretentious, non-existent "acting" that has befallen many a beauty pageanter-actress. I think Sum will be a defining character for Linda's career as she is so well-written and Linda did very well for a newcomer. Those who disagree can go ahead and rewatch the break-up scenes and hospital scene where Sum discovers Alfred is dead - Linda's performance there was nothing short of fantastic. That's not to say her performance was perfect; Linda definitely needs to work on her romantic scenes. She always looked so reluctant to kiss Raymond Lam, when her character is supposed to be head over heels in love with the guy. She did much better in the scenes where she secretly loved Raymond.
Probably my favourite performance from Moses since his work from The Family Man. He is so loveable here as the devoted, goofy Triple D. In my eyes no one else could do Triple D as well as Moses. Moses nailed him to a T.
Ugh, what is with TVB and pairing this guy up with actresses old enough to be his aunt? I am tired of watching him with actresses who may not be that much older than him in years... but for some reason are looking more and more haggard by the day (I am dreading watching The Drive of Life, where Ray is paired with Charmaine). Watching Ray with Yoyo wasn't as sickening as watching him with Sonija Kwok in Lethal Weapons of Love and Passion, but it still gave me the creeps. He and Linda, on the other hand, are probably the most genetically blessed TVB coupling since Louis Koo and Jessica Hsuan... though their offscreen chemistry is much stronger than onscreen.
Anyway, the ever-dependable Raymond outshines his first lead counterparts in here. I find his acting excellent for someone his age, mostly because he is able to give a sense of wholeness to all of his characters. He's a second lead here but his performance in Alfred's post-mom-death scene alone is worth every minute. Give this young man a Best Actor award! Too bad Alfred was such a jerk in the beginning... poor Seung Joi Sum.
I barely recognized her when she first appeared, but I love her image in here. She smokes, she drinks, and she has a haircut that screams 'high fashion', but my belief that her character was a model stopped as soon as I saw her 'catwalk' somewhere around episode 25. I laughed. What I love about her in here is that she finally learned to cry without wailing in this series. Very good performance.
He physically fits into this role as he actually carries himself like an educated, determined, at times arrogant rich kid but his performance was beyond inadequate. When he needs to be angry, he's not angry enough. When he needs to be sad, he's not sad enough. The one scene that sealed the deal was the scene when Hao dies. His mother is dying and all Bosco could manage was a furrowed brow (he should have studied Raymond Lam's post-mother's-death scene). He's worse than Ron Ng at times. He has chemistry with Tavia but Tavia's performance here was so good that Bosco looked really, really bad in comparison.
I couldn't stand his cartoonish, silly portrayal of the 'happy' side of Dai Bao, although his dramatic acting is definitely up to par. But whenever he did his crazy hyena laugh in the happy family scenes, I thought he looked more like a pervert/creep than a content family man. He is definitely one of my least favourite veteran actors.
Lee Si Kei
Has there ever been a more preachy character in a TVB series? I seriously disliked her character though Lee Si Kei was excellent.
Annoying as hell with her Myolie Wu a la War of In-Laws performance i.e. her face, eyes, nose, mouth were always rolling from side to side in her 'scheming' scenes. Honestly, at one point I thought her eyes were going to roll off her face. Her screeching technique was on par with Korean actresses who try to act like tomboys. She and Lee Si Kei should have switched roles. Lee could have done the evil, sinister, scheming Kam brilliantly, whereas Susana just made her seem like a useless, ditsy, petty housewife with nothing to do. If Kam is supposed to be a classless no-gooder, I suppose Susana was adequate. However, I'd like to think that Kam was a bit more intelligent than how Susana portrayed her to be.
Her accent is weird, but she wasn't bad for a newcomer. I wouldn't hand her a Best New Artist for this performance though.
A decent performance for one of the most pitiful characters of the series.
Are You Kidding Me?
The characters are generally well-written, identifiable and their behavior is never illogical. What is illogical about this series, and what ultimately kills it, is the fact that the plot and premise are ridiculous.
1) Who would believe that two women sharing the same man could ever get along as they were portrayed to in the happy family scenes in this series?! I sure as hell didn't. It just made absolutely no sense to me.
2) Even a saint could not forgive a best friend for stealing and cheating with her boyfriend. I cannot believe that Seung Joi Sum would become friends again with Sui Mang Mang and still not get back together with Alfred.
3) Dai Bao is an idiot for thinking that two women living under his roof sharing everything including a man could get along.
4) Jackie should have totally cut off her family for being such useless, greedy, materialistic morons.
5) I cringed every time the theme song came on. Susana Kwan is a great singer but the theme song was exactly like the plot of this series - overly dramatic with its thundering, operatic chords on the piano. Every time the theme song came on I had to turn down the volume. TVB was trying way too hard to be like ATV in this series.
Through the Grapevine
This series sweeped the floor at this year's TVB Awards. Moses Chan won Most Favourite Male Character and Best Actor. Lee Si Kei won Best Actress, Susana Kwan won Most Favourite Female Character and Fala Chen won Best Supporting Actress (...please). Louis Yuen won Best Supporting Actor... and yes, HoG won Best Series.
Don't look at me. The TVB awards have been dead to me since 2006 when they crowned Kevin Cheng and Charmaine Sheh as Best Actor/Actress. Their judges make me sick.
There will be a sequel to this series. Did you expect any less?! I didn't. It will be about a store that sells mooncakes. At least Michelle Mai Suet will play a villain in this one.