How long? 51 episodes= 17 tapes
Features an all-star cast including Gallen Lo, Sunny Chan, Kenix Kwok, Roger Kwok, Flora Chan, Maggie Siu, Nicky Wu, Lisa Wong, Paul Chun Pui, Joe Ma, Michael Fitzgerald, Grace Yip, Hawick Lau and introducing Ada Choi and Louis Koo.
At first, I didn't have high hopes for this grand production: I had the impression that it would be a long drawn-out affair and thus be extremely tedious. But I was more than pleasantly surprised at what it turned out to be. It truly fulfills its status of being a big production: filled with drama, suspense, tragedy and romance. TVB has never to date made a series with such well thought out and exciting corporate battles, by this I mean the selling of shares and takeovers of large companies. This series has it all: rivalry between friends, romance and murder, all set around a corporate environment where in order to make it big in Hong Kong, one must resort to dirty tactics.
THE BUSINESS TYCOONS
The two business tycoons are Paul Chun and Flora's dad Kwok Fung. Their respective empires are large and they have an ancient rivalry, made worse by their competition for the love of a woman: Lisa Wong.
Lisa's character is one of strength and intelligence. She portrays this very well as the generous and clear-minded woman who helped build her husband's empire. Extremely loyal to her family, she withstood many years of knowing about her husband's promiscuous life, determined to stay true to her vows. But an event causes her to lose faith in the marriage as her husband betrays her in the cruelest way, by sleeping with her best friend. After her divorce, she marries Paul Chun relatively quickly, because they had been lovers in the past. She begins anew with him.
Gallen's character does not fall into distinct categories of white or black. Rather as a stroke of TVB's creative genius, Gallen is a grey character. By this I mean that he is willing to use dirty tactics in the corporate world, he knows how to make it big and is willing to do anything to achieve success, but at the same time he has a conscience and doesn't want to hurt innocent people. Thus, this creates much excitement and his character is more realistic and likeable: frankly I was bored out of my wits with his saintly character in Golden Faith who devoted his life trying to please everybody.
As would be expected, the main character of a major TVB production would have minimal flaws, but in a rare TVB twist, Gallen's character has numerous flaws which are often emphasised. He wants everything to be done his way, and encourages Sunny to accept bribes, causing much friction in their friendship as Sunny has always lived an honest life. Thus it is Gallen who causes Sunny to go down a tragic path, and it is Gallen who must accept responsibility of trying to help Sunny realise that he has been blinded by wealth. A well-written storyline.
Definitely a brave experiment for Sunny to attempt a villainous role. I didn't know what to expect, but I was extremely impressed by Sunny's performance. I think the way to judge whether an actor who plays a villain has been successful or not is by measuring audience empathy and fondness towards the character. I completely empathised with Sunny and his motives. Sunny gave the most likeable performance of the whole cast. I have never supported a villain so enthusiastically in my lifetime of watching TVB. It is very hard to portray a likeable villain, and Sunny has done a great job.
Sunny's character is considerate to the point of being unrealistic. In the scene where he is holding hands with Kenix and she lets go when she sees Gallen, he is not the least bit angry with her and in contrast, is completely understanding. As a female viewer, I was extremely angry with Kenix for doing that, so it is very unrealistic to believe that a man in Sunny's position would not feel angry. That said, this is effective in creating audience fondness for Sunny and support for their love story.
Of course all TVB series have flaws and nothing is perfect, but sometimes minute flaws can be overlooked. However, although I liked this series very much, it has a number of flaws which cannot be overlooked (regardless of how hard I try to do it). That is why I am giving it 4 stars instead of 5. I will discuss the flaws later on, but the biggest flaw is definitely:
THE FLORA FACTOR:
Not a talented actress, and her character is very irritating. "The Flora Factor" is the main reason why this series could've been better. If she had been scrapped then it would surely receive close to 5 stars.
THE LOVE STORIES
GALLEN and KENIX
Definitely lacking chemistry, they didn't engage me for one second. Gallen's "I dont want to start a relationship because my first priority is my career" and Kenix's "I dont care about that, I just want to be with you" is very lack-lustre and not the least bit romantic. Kenix makes the right choice when she chooses Sunny and I was so glad that she and Gallen didn't have a romantic story anymore. (phew!)
SUNNY and KENIX
A very sweet couple with chemistry. Sunny's motives for being ruthless and wanting to make money is because he wants to provide the woman he loves with a comfortable life. His devotion to Kenix is obvious, and it is evident that his love for her is truly deep. A common TVB saying is that regardless of what crime a man has done, there is always a woman who will chase after him as he is led away to prison. Kenix and Sunny's love story is of this kind. Although Sunny is brutal to others, he never so much as utters a harsh word to Kenix, even when Gallen pushes him to the end. It is very intriguing to see this contrast.
Kenix's performance is likeable, but she fails to display heartbreaking sadness. By this I mean that her crying skills need to be improved. In the scene where she sees Sunny's dead body (which has much potential to provoke audience tears), the audience fails to feel her sadness. She just never succeeds in looking deeply devastated or sad, thus her performance is not as good as it needs to be for the female lead of a major production. But her character is very well written as she fully commits herself to Sunny and truly gets over Gallen. This is the least that Sunny deserves since he is so devoted to her.
FLORA and GALLEN
Very irritating are the best words to describe this horrible and tedious relationship. Flora is in love with Gallen, but he spends the whole of 51 episodes trying to get over Kenix, and numerous times he sleeps with Flora because he is reeling from his jealousy/sadness at seeing Kenix so happy with Sunny. Obviously Flora is devastated each time she realises that Gallen does not love her, and she begins a relationship with another man to try to forget Gallen.
FLORA and BARRY
Flora is the most dislikeable character. In her selfishness she agrees to marry Barry (Michael Fitzgerald) after she sees Gallen with another woman, thus simultaneously ruining her own happiness and more importantly, Barry's. This is the most irresponsible thing a woman can do: she basically marries Barry out of anger. Even after her marriage she still tries to spend time with Gallen, forgetting her responsibility to her husband. Flora's performance is also nothing special. As always she struggles to cry and to display strong emotions. An extremely dislikeable character and performance, I found myself detesting every scene with her in it.
Michael plays Barry, a half-Chinese lawyer newly returned from Britain. He is very sweet and slightly naïve, and there are many funny scenes where he asks Flora the meaning of certain colloquial phrases in Cantonese. At the beginning, this romance looked promising as Barry is more than deserving of Flora's love, and viewers wish that Flora would finally get over Gallen and end that tedious relationship, but soon viewers are disappointed as Flora cannot get over Gallen and thus support for Barry grows as he has been mistreated by his wife and inevitably, audience dislike of Flora reaches its maximum level during their break up and subsequent divorce.
Although Michael is obviously a newcomer in acting (in many scenes he looks very lifeless and seems to utter his lines like a robot, intent on getting the words to sound right rather than attempt meaningful emotional expressions), he is very charming and likeable.
Roger portrays a sweet, naïve and soft-hearted person very well. Possibly the best scene of his career and of this whole series is when he realises it was his two best friends who inadvertently caused his parents' deaths. The most dramatic and touching scene is when he breaks down in anger, sadness and devastation at the realisation. Roger is also very forgiving (slightly unrealistic), as he finds it in himself to forgive Sunny for murdering his parents. All in all a very likeable character.
ROGER, GALLEN and SUNNY
Three childhood friends with different personalities, although Gallen and Sunny are both very strong-willed and determined in everything they do and how they choose to live their lives. Thus, Roger always finds himself in the middle of the other two, acting as the mediator. Roger's weakness compared to his two friends is emphasised throughout the series, but towards the end Roger displays such noble qualities in forgiving Sunny, which causes the audience to realise that it is Roger who has the qualities which the other two should learn from, and thus he is not just a passive insignificant member of the trio.
THE WHAT THE HELL? POINTS WHICH CAUSE EXTREME AUDIENCE FRUSTRATION
1. After learning of Sunny's crimes, Kenix is so devastated that she wants to leave him, without even attempting to help him realise his mistakes. This shows that perhaps her love for him is not as strong as his love for her, as she never sits down and tries to talk to him. She would've gotten up and ran away if it weren't for Gallen, who comes up with a ridiculous plan to try to bring Sunny back to the good side.
2. THE RIDICULOUS PLAN
Gallen's plan is to make Sunny lose all his money, lose the dream city he tries to build, get chased by loan sharks and basically lose everything he's worked so hard to achieve, then dealing him the last blow by telling Kenix to give him an ultimatum: choose her or choose money/riches. A very ambitious plan that obviously creates more drama, but ridiculous in that Gallen and Kenix don't even attempt to talk to Sunny about what he's done wrong. Kenix is the person who could've made Sunny realise what is truly important in life besides money, but the frustrating thing is she never tries to truly help Sunny. The tragedy that follows could've been easily avoided if they had thought about the simple solution, but this would've been uncharacteristic of Gallen's character as he always seems to choose the most elaborate path leading to the destruction of people around him, one of the major flaws in his character.
3. SUNNYS DEATH SCENE
As he is falling off the mountain, Sunny sees his life flashing before his eyes. The most frustrating part of all this is that all the clips he sees consist of himself, Gallen and Roger. There is not one scene of him and Kenix. This is a major flaw of the series as Kenix is the love of his life, she is the reason why he did what he did, but he has apparently forgotten about her in his final moments.
4. SUNNYS CHILD
Another frustrating and sad point is that Sunny never knew he had a child. Kenix unfairly tells Sunny that she had a miscarriage, apparently not wanting the child to be as evil as him. The saddest scene is where he spots her in the park with their child and goes to pick up his son, without even realising that the child is his. Kenix has done an extremely selfish thing. What's the use of bringing the baby to him when he's lying in the morgue? It's too late, you should've told him before, you stupid woman!
THE WELL WRITTEN POINTS
1. The cause of Sunnys death: It turns out that Sunny dies of an allergic reaction to some antibiotics that Roger gives him to drink (they both didn't realise this at the time). Thus it is Roger who inadvertently kills Sunny. This is a great twist in the story as the audience is not left feeling that Sunny has been done a great injustice. Roger is perfectly justified in taking Sunny's life because Sunny took his parents' lives (although Roger had no intention of exacting revenge). Thus it all comes together satisfactorily, and Sunny supporters are not left feeling too sad as his brain had stopped functioning before he hit the ground, so he didn't feel any pain in death at all.
2. Sunny's death: Although I was a huge supporter of Sunny's character I believe TVB made a good decision in letting him die. He had to die because: Since he had already returned to the good side then it would have been unrealistic if he lived on happily with Kenix and his son, without actually paying for his crimes (a common cultural belief in Asian viewers of retribution and karma), and without his own remorse plaguing him every minute of his future life. Also, it would be extremely tedious if part 2 consisted of Sunny living in regret and struggling to deal with his conscience. If this had happened then the series would have taken a turn for the worse. Luckily, it didn't.
3. Kenix's death: Kenix had to die because: If she had lived on, considering her past with Gallen and her weak temperament, she would definitely have rekindled her love affair with Gallen, thus causing Sunny supporters to hate her with a vengeance as that would be the most disloyal act. A well written, though tragic, end to such a sweet couple, but well written because their supporters can fancy them as reuniting in heaven or in another world.
NICKY and MAGGIE as JOE and TINA
A likeable but obviously amateurish performance as the rich boy who is always looking for a good time but who changes when he falls for Maggie, his business partner.
An impressive performance as the career-driven woman who puts her career before her love life, but who is actually very weak emotionally in relationships. Thus she is another interesting multi-dimensional character. She is the ex-girlfriend of Sunny, who finds it hard to get over him (much to her own surprise, as she perhaps didn't realise that love was such an important factor in her life). Sunny takes advantage of her and she blindly helps him gain the shares of Nicky's fathers company, thus inadvertently betraying Nicky. After she realises Sunny took advantage of her, she finally gets over him and falls for Nicky.
Surprisingly Nicky and Maggie have great chemistry. Both characters didn't see love as important at first but they both realise this at the end. This was one of my favourite love stories, but it could've been elaborated on.
THE AGE FACTOR
There is an obviously large age gap between Maggie and Nicky. Although it wasn't a problem to their chemistry, I just feel that this point should've been extended on and it would've made a great story, i.e, Maggie finds it hard to accept a younger man, Nicky assuring her that age doesn't matter etc. But I guess fitting in this story would have really extended the series and there is the risk that the whole series would become tedious.
Most of the songs in this series are sung by Gallen. The themesong is great and you get very attached to the subsongs. There is also a song by Nicky Wu, two by Bondy Chiu and one by Joey Yung, all good songs. The one criticism is that there is lack of a defining song for Sunny and Kenix's love, while there were two for the Gallen and Kenix's story and even one for Flora and Gallen's relationship. This is a major flaw as the most important story is left without a defining song.
One of the best TVB productions which sure beats the new no-substance productions of recent years. A must see! 4 stars!