Can't Buy Me Love

Reviewed by: juphelia

March 06, 2013

Rating: four-point-five

I have not watched a period comedy for a long time. The last one I watched was The Legendary Four Aces, and I really like that show. Can't Buy Me Love was my first period comedy in years, and I must say, I really enjoyed it! This is not just a funny show, but it also teaches good values. It has humour, palace politics, taming of shrews (the princesses), business ideas, love and family spirit all in one.

The Kam family kind of reminds me of the Tong family in Heart of Greed. I guess because there is Louis Yuen, Moses Chan and Susanna Kwan, so the family spirit is still there. I like the names of the three brothers - Fu, Lu, Shou.

The show started off with children singing about how prince consorts are doomed to death because the princesses are all shrews. Why is the children's song the same as the one in Beyond The Realm of Conscience? Moses Chan has to marry the Third Princess Charmaine Sheh in order to save his family gold business, and the princess married him to get out of marrying the Tibetan king. This was during the early Tang Dynasty, and in historical records, a Tang princess Wencheng really did marry the Tibetan king Songsan Gampo.

The usual plotline is that Moses and Charmaine couldn't stand the sight of each other at first, and from bickering and trials, they really fell for each other. He would do anything to protect her and she would do anything to protect him. Their love is played out so sweet and subtle that it was a joy watching them.

I really like Moses character in this show. Even though he does not bow down to the princess and he did not like her when he married her, still, he did not betray her nor had an affair. He fought off the courtesan who was paid to seduce him, stood up for Charmaine when she was bullied, ran to protect her when he thought she was in danger, and willing to sacrifice his life for her. Now is that not just a perfect guy? He may not be perfect and whatnot on the surface, but it is because of all these other qualities that the princess was so proud of him and that he shines above the other prince consorts.

This show is essentially about love. There are so many couples and so many love stories. For instance, the love between Moses and Charmaine. The love between Fala and Kenneth. The love between Linda and Raymond. The love between Selina and Louis. Even the love between Lee Kwok Lun and Mary Hon.

1st couple - Charmaine and Moses. They could not stand the sight of each other, but in the end they worked on their marriage. They knew what was required of a marriage, advised by the Emperor to each take a step back, so Moses, despite not marrying for love, did not fool around and protected his wife throughout. Charmaine, initally looked down on the family and wanted them to bow down to her, started learning how to be a wife, actually stood by his family throughout and became a virtuous and dutiful wife to him.

2nd couple - Louis and Selina. I find this a bit of a miscast because he obviously looks much much older than her. Selina is the typical daughter-in-law who is calculating and thinks her in-laws owe her. She egged Louis on for vying for the family business, but when he made a major blunder, it was the whole family who was behind him. They look more like much older brother and much younger sister actually rather than a couple. But when the Kam family ran into trouble, he chased Selina away so she could be safe, but when she realised he gave her all his money, she decied to return and stayed with the family.

3rd couple - Fala and Kenneth. Another typical bickering couple who later developed feelings for each other. She rather went to seek out the assassin on her own than to let Kenneth run into danger with her. Kenneth wanted to go with her so as to protect her but she asked his parents to bring him back and lock him up just so to protect him.

4th couple - Linda and Raymond. This is the only couple that did not start out bickering. In fact, Raymond and his brothers saved Linda from being sold to a brothel and since then, she worked as a maid for them. Even when Linda succumbed to the plot by the evil Imperial Concubine, he still wanted to be with her. When people started spreading rumours about her and Vincent, Raymond stood by her. I was so happy he finally got the girl!

5th couple - Lee Kwok Lun and Mary Hon. Even though this couple seemed to be the bad natured one, they were not really that bad, just greedy. The love they had for each other is also touching, that when Mary was kidnapped, her husband did everything he could to save her. When she almost died while giving birth and the baby died, in order not to let her be heartbroken, he agreed to buy the baby from the kidnapper just so Mary could have a son when she regained consciousness. If her husband did not truly love her, he would not have put her happiness above everything else. And I also find the matching costumes they wore pretty cute!

The drama also touched on the aspects of running a business, like how Raymond's character came out with strategies like commission-based pay for the staff, staff welfare, coupons, and discount vouchers for the customers in their gold shop.

There is also the matchmaking aspect, where Kenneth as the government matchmaker has to find someone suitable for the clients, and he not only handle that aspect of the work, he also handles the whole marriage process and divorce proceedings. When he spouted the Tang law for divorce, that really sounded like a scene from Jessica Hsuan's "Just Love"! It makes me wonder, is there really a law covering divorces during the Tang Dynasty?

Of course, there is also palace politics of fighting off the evil imperial concubine who got her just deserts in the end. The costumes and sets look very familiar too, as I guess it was re-used from Beyond The Realm of Conscience.

All in all, this is a really feel good and heartwarming comedy. I can see why it won Best Drama for the year, because it has a little of each - love, power, evil, family, marriage, commitment, humour. I hope TVB is able to make more period comedies, instead of just focusing on palace politics. It is so rare for TVB to make period comedies, and so far those they have made are pretty good, so I hope more of this kind of shows can be produced.

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