The Good Old Days


Reviewed by: sukting

December 23, 2008

Rating: three

How long
105 episodes!

Foreword

This is the first drama that Ma Jing Tao and Chan Sau Mun act as a couple. Do you wish to find out why they become the best screen ATV couple in the 90s? It is not easy to see the same cast acting again as many return to TVB. How are the three women from the Fong household going to face the dawn without fear?

Story/Introduction on characters

1.Tse Sau Hau – Chan Sau Mun

She comes from a family of 3 daughters and the last one is a brother. She works as a maid in the Fong family. Her parents are supportive of her marrying Ho Sang as they feel that she deserves happiness. Little do they know that Ho Sang gives her a hard time in the beginning stage of their marriage.

She is a traditional woman who supports whatever Ho Sang does. She allows him to become a soldier while Mun Fung opposes to it. She becomes the head of the household - in and outside home to win the whole family's recognition.

She discovers that she is pregnant after his departure. The same happens to Mun Fung. Sau Hau accepts her into the family as the second wife. She believes that it is also Ho Sand's own flesh and blood.

Ho Mun and the two women make the family business prosper. Sau Hau learns of Ho Sang’s death from Ping. She still stays with his family and is devoted to him even though Ping and Ho Mun hint their love to her.

Ho Sang returns to her alive and finally recalling his past through her hard work. Sau Mun is great in the role. There is a part where Sau Hau feeds an injured soldier. She shows how tormented she is, feeling for him as her eyes turn red. Excellent scene.

The only shortcoming is she looks too fair and elegant as a country woman. Her hands really look smooth from far. The make-up department should have done more touch-up.

2. Fong Ho Sang – Ma Jing Tao

He is the elder son who is wise and rich. His first lover dies while trying to save him from the soldiers. He meets Mun Fung, who looks exactly as his first lover. So he falls for her. That is only infauriation on his side as he misses her too much.

His mother is ill and tricks him to marry Sau Hau. He is a filial son who doesn't wish to go against her wishes so he marries Sau Hau. At first, he treats her very badly as he still has Mun Fung in mind but realizes that Sau Hau is the perfect wife for him. So he accepts her.

He loses his memory in the war to fall in love with a nurse, Mun. After the war, they try to find back his past. Ho Sang can't recall that he is married with 2 wives and has a daughter. He can't recall any moment with Sau Hau together to treat her hostilely.

He even clings to Mun who comes to look for him. He suddenly remembers through his mother’s death and gets himself drunk. He doesn't know how to face the three women. Seeing him feeling so trapped, Sau Hau slashes her wrist to wish to die with him.

From then on, he recalls everything to become the nice person we know again. He marries Mun as the second wife and grants Mun Fung a divorce. But Mun also leaves him after Mun Fung. He finally becomes happy with Sau Hau as she bores him a son.

Jing Tao overacts in many Taiwanese dramas but is splendid in Hong Kong productions – stable, sincere and natural. This is strange as he blends so well with the Hong Kong cast. This is certainly not what I expect.

3. Cheung Mun Fung – Tang Shui Mun

Ho Sang is treating her as his ex-lover's shadow. He doesn’t even bother to tell her that he is going to the army. They fall out because of this.

Mun Fung is also a country girl like Sau Hau. She is found pregnant and is going to be punished by the villagers. Being stubborn, she refuses to reveal a word about her lover but Sau Hau rescues her. Mun Fung is grateful but also jealous of her. Sau Hau gets miscarried because of her. That disperses their rilvary to become as close as sisters.

Her daughter is born but she learns that Ho Sang never has her in his mind. After Ho Sang is found and brought home, Mun Fung feels the injustice so she is divorced from him. She is happily married for a short while and becomes a widow again when her husband is murdered.

Now we know how Shui Mun climbs up the highest step in TVB. She shines her although her role is hardly likeable. In contrast to Sau Mun’s calm personality, she is a tigress indeed.

4. Fong Ho Mun – Lam Wai San

Ho Mun is the second son bore by Sai Fan's second wife. He doesn’t have a good relationship with Ho Sang since he is often neglected. He is also not a good son as he hardly cares what happens at home till the war comes.

He doesn't dare to tell Sau Hau that he likes her. He wishes to replace Ho Sang but fails even after a long time so he leaves the sad place, hoping she can forget about her.

Ho Mun returns after Ho Sang's return. His feelings are unchanged but seeing how she helps his brother, he helps ho Sang to recover instead.

Ho Mun gets to know Sai Lai and has a happy marriage with her. Wai San is terrific. He is given a meat role and he treasures this chance to give an excellent performance.

5. Wai Sai Bong – Lam Wai

Mun Fung falls for this mean businessman in Beijing. He is in charge of a textile business and is eager to buy over Fong company. He loves Mun Fung's daughter as his own so they get married. But his jealous counterparts frame him to be in cahoots with the Japanese so he gets killed. Like Sai Bong, Mun Fung uses her wealth to help the poor and spies for her country but her fellows don’t know it and still call her a traitor.

It is sad that Wai isn’t promoted well in TVB or ATV. He did a fine job but too bad his scenes were very limited.

6. Ding Mun – Siu Mei Kei

She is a military nurse who takes care of Ho Sang when he loses his memory during the war. When they bump into Sau Hau, she learns that Ho Sang only loves Sau Hau after reading the diary. So after their failed marriage, she leaves him without hesitation to come to Shanghai. She becomes comrades with Ping to fight against the Japanese. Later, both become a couple. Strong-willed as she was cast in most dramas, I hardly see any change in her here.

7. Lok Ping – Huang Chong Kun

He is Ho Sang’s comrade who comes to the Fongs to inform of Ho Sang’s death. Ho Sang’s diary that he brings - only tells how he is in love with Sau Hau. Ping loves Sau Hau during his stay to know why Ho Sang falls for her. But he knows that he will never get her so he leaves the Fongs. He becomes a reporter and likes Mun later.

Like Jin Tao, he also mixes well with the cast. We hardly see any uneasiness between him and Mei Kei although they worked for the first time.

8. Sek Pui Pui – Seung Tin Ngor

She is Sau Hau’s friend who is in love with Sau Hau’s uncle. She comes from a rich family and is weak. She later marries a general as his second wife to have a son. She is ditched during the war and seeks refuge with the Fongs with Sau Hau’s help. She often gets bullied but Sai Fan helps her. So she becomes Sai Fan’s third wife as she falls for him despite their age gap. She helps Sau Hau to manage the household. Tin Ngor was also another powerhouse for acting well.

9. Tse Sau Lai – Lee Siu Wai

She is the youngest daughter to be sent away for adoption as they are too poor. She returns as a rebellious person to become a prostitute. She falls for Ho Mun but he is still in love with Sau Hau. Her insistence pays off later. This drama shows why this actress can’t stay long in showbizz. She did a terrible job.

10. Yeung Hok Hin – Mo Kei

He is Sau Hau’s uncle. But he is very soft and timid. Although he is in love with Pui Pui, both can’t be together because of their differences in status so he gives up on her. I feel like looking at a puppet when seeing him act. Moreover, Tin Ngor is much older than him. Both are a complete mismatch. They don’t look like elder sister –younger brother but aunt-nephew instead.

11. Fong Sai Fan – Chun Pui

He dotes on Sau Hau as she manages the family well after Ho Sang gets into the army. But he isn’t happy with her decision to accept Mun Fung as she is a disgrace. What can we say about him getting Pui Pui too? He only knows how to comment on others but shuts up when it comes to himself. Who can be better than him to be the matriarch of the family?

12. Gam Fung Ji – Lee Heung Kum

She is Sai Bong’s mother but he hates her for being a prostitute.

13. Mrs Fong – Nam Hung

Just because she is sick and eager to get well, she tricks Ho Sang home to force him to marry Sau Hau. But her foresight is good as she makes such a good daughter-in-law.

14. Fa Yim Ha – Bao Hei Jing

She keeps telling her daughter-in-law, Mun Fung to bear with her identity as she is a servant’s daughter. That is why she hates her so much. Really coincidental with the way Sai Bong hates his mother too.

15. Tse Cheung – Kam San

He treats his daughters the same way he treats his son. That is why Sau Lee never blames him but blames her mother instead.

Favourite character
Sau Hau – she is perfect. That is why 3 men love her.

Most hated character
Mun Fung, she is irresponsible – nearly drowning her daughter and causing Sau Hau’s miscarriage.

Song
The title is "Sun" by Sau Mun. One sub theme "Behind a Woman" is by her. Both are excellent. Mou Kei also sings "It’s Better Not To Meet". He should have stuck to singing alone.

Interesting scenes
The most compatible couple for ATV gives so many scenes that I will not elaborate in detail. Their reputation is not unfounded. You will love the scenes of them together - from hate to love.

You will need to watch it to find out how they do it. The best will be Ho Sang telling Sau Hau how he loves her. I watched the Mandarin version on TV so only his and Zhong Kun’s voices are not dubbed. I am definitely melted by his earnest and touching voice! The two look as good as they act.

Interesting facts

It was formerly 60 episodes but it increased to 105 episodes. It changed Sau Mun’s plans in promoting her album. So she did not even have time to choose her clothes. She went to China to shoot this drama and crazy fans even ran after her in the toilet. Her biggest challenge came when controlling the buffalo. When she turned up for a charity function for ATV, 100 fans mobbed the shopping mall and she was touched.

Many have said that TVB artistes would lose their value when they joined ATV. It was not the case for Sau Mun. Many fans would wait at ATV entrance for her but this never happened to her when she was with TVB. After shooting this drama, she did not feel like doing anything.

Sau Mun went to Taiwan to promote this drama. She joined a programme and the host asked her to drink some milk. She was not told which animal milk it came from. After drinking, she opened the cage and was shocked to see a mouse in it! She was initially stunned and later wept. It was just a hoax for her but she had a big fright of her life. Although she wasn’t told of the real answer, she guessed it could be goat’s milk.

Jin Tao’s pricing was thrice of hers. He has thought that he was only shooting 3 episodes free of charge but it became 12 episodes more later. How? The story was like a drama indeed. Jin Tao only had 10 days in Hong Kong so he only slept for 3 hours daily. He had a shock to know that he had 12 episodes – 200 scenes.

His guest star appearance became a chief appearance. He still did not mind it and stayed on. I must say that he was an amazing genius. He was so outstanding in the beginning despite little rest. All his emotions were shown so clearly. How did he manage to maintain such a high standard?!

Many fans wrote to ATV wanting Ho Sang to be alive, not to upset Sau Hau. The initial plan was to have him killed at war. ATV deliberately had a scene of Sau Hau farming lonely at the farm to look so pitiful. That will be the worst ending for housewives. It added this line – is this how Sau Hau deals with loneliness for the rest of her life? Of course not, ATV plans a happy ending to please all of them.

They had it in mind, just waiting for fans to write in their requests. They even made sure that Pui Pui returned home, Mun Fung visited the family with her daughter to make the Fong family prosper again. ATV had planned a perfect ending for them. It was initially 60 episodes – but later became 100. In the end, they chalked up 105 episodes, creating a history.

ATV invited Jin Tao to return after he completed his shoot for his Taiwanese drama. Even ATV boss’s wife, Mrs Lam was a faithful fan of the drama. She was the one who planned for the cast’s celebration dinner. She declared that there would be a sequel. Thus it came true to increase the episodes. They even got him a car and chauffeur. They even rented a bungalow for HK$20,000 monthly for him to stay.

Shui Mun and Mei Kei helped a Singapore charity to raise funds for kidney patients when this drama was shown. They claimed that they would never like Ho Sang in real life as he was too indecisive.

ATV dramas never reached more than 10 points for many years but this drama created this miracle. It also had their own anniversary awards. As expected, Jin Tao and Sau Mun won the best actor and actress awards.

Conclusion

The society’s pressure is great so all love to watch happy endings for many dramas. If they get to see the roles they love die, they will feel pressurized. Thus this drama gets the ending requested by the audience. Sau Hau and Ho Sang are finally together when they grow old. Both went Tai Ping mountain to wait for 1997’s arrival.

ATV had succeeded in tailor making Sau Hau for Sau Mun. The drama spans through 40 years. That means that Sau Hau goes through 4 major changes in life and she was 60 years old in 1997. She is diligent, strong and can do anything for her husband or family. It is hard not to like this role.

Sau Hau has scaled to greater heights since ‘再見亦是老婆 ‘ (coincidentally, she works with Shui Mun in that drama too but as friends.) and ‘Files of justice’ . By given the chance to sing the theme and subtheme songs, she was the biggest winner.

Was the drama flawless? Extending the drama creates many loopholes. No, the era proceeded too fast but the characters don’t seem to grow old. How can they not grow old in 15 years? Luckily, the cast’s excellent acting will make us overlook this. The drama, surprisingly, has no villain at all. Thus you will feel the warmth of kinship, love and also friendship when watching it.

The assignment of Ho Sang reappearing with Mun should be engaging. But Ho Sang’s encounter tells all men to just be happy with one wife. Too many wives - especially with 3 of them spell trouble. See how Mun Fung creates hell for SAu Hau and also Mun to become another unwilling party is sad. Ho Sang doesn’t seem to enjoy their attention or affections at all. He frowns most of the time - as if he is the one suffering instead of them. I find Jin Tao faltering towards the end. It might not be a wise decision to have him appear again as he looks tired.

So many twists and turns to make him have Ho Sang’s official and only wife back – it’s good for all of us. Probably if the actor isn’t Ma Jing Tao, he might be stoned on the street. Having good looks and acting still cuts an edge – many still love his role after all as Ho Sang knows that he is no angel and is willing to change for the better.

ATV should have given us a shorter story. The first half is enchanting on farming but loses steam within 30 episodes. It is not focused on Sau Hau as too many characters come in and my head goes groggy. So many parts are repetitive. But it is a good thing they rope in 2 Taiwanese actors or we will grow sick watching the same faces all the time.

I will strongly recommend this drama to all as it has a good storyline. It is worth your time as it not only talks about love and also covers the history during the Japanese occupation. It is rare to come across such a good story these days.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)

On songs : **** (Scale of 5)


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