Showbiz Tycoon

Reviewed by: spcnet

November 05, 2003

Rating: one-point-five

"Showbiz Tycoon" was ATV's latest "weapon" against TVB ratings but unfortunately could not even withstand against the mild attacks that TVB fired back. Like many big ATV productions, the cast was very promising with Michael Tao Dai Yu and Kathy Chow Hoi Mei who previously co-starred together in the successful "Flaming Brothers". Other notable stars include Carina Lau Ka Ling, Alex Fong Chong Suern, Lai Yui Chueng (as the Pig in TVB's Journey to the West I-II), Astrid Chan Zhi Ching, Stephen Au ( "Ten Tigers of Guangdong"), and Lam Wai ("Knife Song II").

There are two main reasons why ATV series usually lose in the ratings war:
(1) Just for being an ATV production: the majority of viewers are too familiar and loyal to TVB productions to switch over--especially when TVB has just finished releasing a successful series, viewers tend to stick with the next production. Aside from that, actors from TVB are household names while notable ATV actors are not even known.
(2) The publicity for ATV films are often done poorly and inadequately. Many actors (i.e. Amy Chan Sau Man in "The Heroine of the Yang") have complained about ATV promotions done wrong.

Every ATV series that comes out then, must first overcome this deficit with a script executed right. However, despite a popular cast--many imported from TVB--known by many viewers, "Showbiz" lacked the element that many ATV films also did--a compelling enough story.

"Showbiz", recounts the life of movie tycoon Wan Yu Ting played by Michael Tao, but unlike his role in "Flaming Brothers", Wan is a pretty boring character who is all good and drab. Michael Tao is seen in every scene with the same facial expression, same tone of voice, hands folded behind his back--all which equate into a monotonous character who we really can not (and frankly don't want to) relate to. Wan is the forever good husband, good boss, good friend, and good businessman--any one else gagging here?

The plot goes like this: Wan Yu Ting started his movie business, Wan Si, with two buddies played by Alex Fong and Lai Yui Chueng years ago. Dissatisfied with the fact that Wan holds the reins in the company, Alex Fong conspires with their competition, Dai Kwok Company, to earn some side cash by sabotaging Wan Si's chances in winning movie awards, contracting potential actors, and other such acts related to the movie business. Murder, arson, and theft is thrown in for good measure later on, and the battle between these two splits their friendship.

The romantic plot tells of Wan Yu Ting pining for his wife who dies in the story. Kathy Chow holds a flame for Wan, despite the fact that he's a married man while Carina Lau is the woman who stands besides Wan through all his woes. Alex Fong is paired with Astrid Chan early in the story while Lai Yui Chueng also carries a torch for Astrid.

The main problem with "Showbiz" is that the series is all talk and almost no action. There was just no sense of suspense in the series that makes one want to watch on to the next episode--and if there was, the series dragged on and on with too much talk in between that it got dampened down. The buildup was too long and the wait was not worth it. Some of the only interesting scenes include the flashbacks of how Wan Yu Ting met his wife and eloped with her (Quite unbelievable is that Lam Wai plays Wan's step-son).

The characters in "Showbiz" attempt at humor (Carina's loud mother and aunt) and fail. ATV also seemed to have wasted potential talent by not exploiting on Lai Yui Chueng's humor and Alex Fong's charisma as a woman's man. Instead, Lai Yui Chueng's role is not too significant and was developed almost like Roger Kwok's role in TVB's "At the Threshold of an Era" as the middleman caught between two warring friends. Potential love chase between Astrid Chan and Alex Fong is quickly passed through and the feeling left behind is a sense of "what this series could have been."

Carina Lau's performance as Lu Mung Wah was also dulled down with her just reacting to most of the action in the story and flitting around everyone. The actress playing Wan Yu Ting's wife--call me biased--either can not act or is just casted in a very bad role. Her voice and dialogues give the impression that her character is physically ill all the time. Next up the line, we have Astrid Chan's role as Ching Bor who mostly hangs around in the background as Alex's mistress.

The only brownie points that "Showbiz" can earn is with its sets and beautiful costumes that some of the women--especially Kathy Chow--wore through the series. It was said that Michael Tao lost quite some pounds for this series in trying to look the part of Wan Yu Ting as the iconic TVB head. Too bad a poor script killed his efforts. Overall, "Showbiz" was plain too long and too boring.

ATV strengths are generally in their kung-fu/martial arts genre while TVB is more geared in modern series. It is unfortunate for viewers that they can't stop their petty ratings war and combine talent like they used to in the old days.


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