Old Time Buddy

Reviewed by: Karfai

January 28, 2008

Rating: four

20 episodes--- 10 tapes

Who is who:
Gallen Law Kar Leung ---- Lei Kei
Francis Ng Chan Yu--- Tse Yuen
Maggie Cheung Hor Yee---Cheng Po Chu
Hester Xuan---Siew Fong Fong
Lam Hiu Feng--- Kiu fong
And a number of familiar but not so famous tvb faces

Where and When:
Set in Hong Kong, during the roaring 1960s where many movie icons were created.

Old Time Buddy was very well received when it was aired in Hong Kong and subsequently became a hit in Malaysia and Singapore. It is not in the same league as other larger productions from TVB but was nevertheless a classic in in its own right for its simple, both hilarious and touching storyline. And just for some extra info, this was also the show that gave Gallen Lo the status of "Ah-Kor" ( meaning leading man ) in TVB. Will we get to see Gallen subsequently as the leading man in "Secret of the heart" or as Yip Weng Tim in "At the threshold of an era" if not for his portrayal of Lei Kei here? Basically a story about the struggle of two buddies, who braved the storms and tribulations of the 60s film industry, in the hope of becoming a big time star. The friendship between the pair, their respective love relations and their character are put to test in the process.

Main Characters:
Lei Kei:
He is supposed to be one fashionable man of his time---his hair was always slicked back with lots of gel and had very long sideburns ( Asian Elvis Presley?? ), his suit was always two size smaller and he talked like his nose got pinched. The story starts off with him going to stay with Tse yuen and he was sort of a loafer---living at Tse's house without paying rent, have free meals at Tse's place, borrowed money and suits from Tse. His aspirations is to join the film industry and be a famous star. His first encounter with "stardom" turned out to be bogus---he was talent scouted by a man who claimed to be a director that could offer him a role. The self claimed director turned out to be a part time con man who also stays in Tse' house. There was this funny scene where Lei chased the con man all the way back to Tse's house and realised to his surprise that the con man was actually a tenant who rented a room from Tse. The con man, however, do work in a film company but as a junior staff. In compensation for cheating Lei, he recommends Lei a job in his company. Together with Tse, Lei begins his career in the world of acting as tv extras.

Tse Yuen:
He was a simple man, not as smart, as streetwise, or as fashionable as his buddy. The story begins with him working as a waiter in a small chinese coffeeshop and the fat daughter of his boss is very interested in him. Tse, in turn, is hopelessly infatuated with Ah chan, the girl selling herbal tea near his house. Tse was rather unlucky in the early part of the story---He got fired from his waiter job and joined Lei to work as extras. Just as his relation with Ah chan was working out, the greedy father of Ah chan sold her to the Philippines. When he finally found her, she was already married and pregnant.

His luck, however, changed for the better in the later part of the story and he got really famous. Ironically and unfortunately, his much more talented buddy, Lei, who could act and sing better than him didn't become as famous and became quite pitiful. There was another twist to the story however in the ending part where the pair of buddies meet back after many years. Lei, though never made it in his acting career was very rich and Tse, despite becoming a famous star was actually quite poor---he spent all his money on medical fees as he had cancer and was doing facials to keep himself young. It was really cute in the last two episodes where everyone has more or less aged except Tse. In fact, from acting as a couple with his wife Siew Fong Fong in their early days to Siew eventually acting as Tse's mother in their later years.

Siew Fong Fong:
She was already a famous actress (I think she began as a child actress) at the beginning of the story. She had a dual identity--dressing like a country bumpkin with her short hair and old fashioned spec as Ah ping who helped out at her uncle's noodles shop. She didn't like Tse in the first place and even played mean tricks on him several times. But though Tse didn't like Siew, he fell in love with Ah Ping, not knowing they were the same person.

Cheng Po Chu:
Like Siew, she was already a famous actress when the story begins. She and Siew were like the two hottest actress at that time and Cheng had this very strict mother who controlled her live. She like Lei but he avoided her like the plague as it seems like unpleasant things happen to Lei every time Cheng is near. But it was just pure coincidence and they eventually fell in love. But Lei left her when his career and popularity took a nosedive later and the couple only met after many years. Cheung Hor Yee was really sweet looking here and a friend told me that she was told by her mother that Cheung did looked liked the real Chan Po Chu and they speak in the same way.

Kiew Fung: Together with Lei and Tse, the trio begin their acting career as extras. Many of the funniest moments comes from the part where they played colourfares (Ke-Le-Fei)--they played everything from soldiers in period costumes to a tree! It was really both funny and heartening to watch them get into all sort of troubles and injuries in the process of their job as extras--it showed that showbiz business was not all glamorous and fun.

Reel life vs Real life:
The four main characters in the show, as many already know, are rip offs of four famous movie stars in the 60s. Just how well our leading men and ladies have portrayed their role..

Lei Kei vs Lui Kei:
As Lui Kei was far from my time and he has not acted for a long time, I do not have much knowledge of this legendary actor to compare with. My first "encounter" with Lui Kei was the portrayal by Tony Leung Kar Fai in a comedy long time ago. Same as Gallen here, his hair is slicked with lots of gel, wears tight suits and talk in a weird manner. So I gathered that this must be the screen image of Lui Kei in his movies.

But according to a friend who in turn got her information from her grandmother, Lui Kei was really what Gallen had portrayed in the serial. And on his own, Gallen did acted very well in this serial.

Tse Yuen vs Tse Yin:
Tse Yin, as many would also have known, is the famous daddy of super idol Nicholas Tse or otherwise known by others as "Sei Kor" (fourth brother). Although not an excellent actor, he was well known for the charisma and style he oozes every time he comes on screen. Famous for his role as the king of gambler Law Sei Hoi in TVB classic "The Shell Game", Tse Yin has also retired from acting and his latest appearance was guest starring as a villain in Stephen Chow's "Shaolin Soccer".

It was definitely no mean feat acting as someone so well known for his mannerism and style. Francis Ng is an undeniably good actor as seen from his previous works how he switches with ease from acting both good and villain roles but who would have thought that he could carry the role of Sei Kor so well here.

The hard work and effort of Francis Ng was visible from the way he mimicked his predecessor mannerism so accurately, the robotic-like way he walks, the almost sinister laughter..Gosh..I think Francis deserves a Best Actor Award for his effort here.

Siew Fong Fong vs Siu Fong fong:
Josephine Siu is the only one amongst the four to be still actively acting till today. Many would know that Siu started acting in her teens and she is a well known and well respected actress today. Some of her latest achievements includes winning a Best Actress award for her role in Summer Snow. One interesting fact is that Josephine never did married Tse Yin like in the show; in fact, I doubt there was any romantic involvements between the two. A pity though as Hester was actually nothing much like the real Siu, both in looks or mannerisms.

Cheng Po Chu vs Chan Po chu:
As mentioned earlier, I was told that Cheung Hor Yee really resembled the real Chan. Also retired from acting like Tse and Lui, Chan Po Chu only appears occasionally on tv for some charity shows. But she took part recently in a musical which co-stars, ironically, Tony Leung Kar Fai, the first generation Lui Kei's impersonator.

Additional info:
The show was so popular that there was a movie version and also a sequel by TVB. The movie version starred three of the original leads, with Shu Qi replacing Hester Xuan. I couldn't remember much of the movie version, except that it was quite comical and nonsensical. As for the sequel, it has basically no connections to the show except for having the same title and some of leading actors from the original. Part 2 had a bigger cast, with new faces like Lam Ka Dong, Ah Hoi from A Kindred Spirit (dun know his real name) but I think it was nowhere to be compared with the original. Save your money for other better productions.

Personal comments:
As mentioned by the reviewer of "Legend: A Dream Named Desire", in an attempt to win the rating war against TVB, ATV sometimes goes to great length such as working with other television stations and employing famous movie stars to appear in their serials. Other tv stations, TCS (changed its name to Media Corp recently) of Singapore for one, would usually invite famous HK tv actors and going to various countries for outdoor shots in a bid to boost the appeal of it serials. More often than not, however, these "gimmicks" don't really work and what you get is merely a hollow and poorly scripted serial that showcase exotic locations and some popular actors. They seldom gather high viewership anyway and definitely don't leave much of an impression in the mind of viewers.

The outstanding tv station in Asia has to be TVB (...No I am not doing any advertisements here) .... for its many highly entertaining and memorable serials, many of which was produced at low costs. Serials like " Time before Time", "Looking back in Anger" are examples of what excellent works one can get despite low production costs and using not so famous actors; the moral of the story here is... A well written script and credible acting are the essential ingredients to a good serial rather than spending unnecessary money on employing big-time stars and generating computer effects.

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