Survivor's Law


Reviewed by: Em

August 30, 2003

Rating: four-point-five


Producer: Leung Ka Shu

Cast:
Lok Ban (Ben) – Raymond Lam
Chung Ching Ling (Ling) – Myolie Wu
Cheuk Wai Ming (Vincent) – Sammul Chan
Cheung Si Ka (Jessica) – Bernice Liu
Hung Ding Wei (Homer) – Lok Ying Kwan
Kwok Yim Na (Angela) – Ruby Wong
Lee Mei Li (Money) – Tam Yuk Ying
Ma Ching Gin (Ah Leng) – Juno Mak
Lee Ming Kit (Marco) – Lee Kwok Lun

Introduction

To start with, I must admit that this series did not strike me as one to look out for. The four fresh leading artistes fooled me into thinking that this was another half-hearted attempt to bring them into the limelight by thrusting them into bigger roles that they wouldn’t be able to handle. I did not have very high expectations initially as the series did not seem, on the surface at least, impressive enough. Maybe it was this lack of anticipation that contributed to the surprise that awaited me as I watched the show, and I was delighted by the level of enjoyment I derived from it. This is truly a quality production and in this review, I will attempt to dissect the reasoning behind this.

The Story

Four young lawyers are brought together through various circumstances to work for Homer Hung, a suspended solicitor who is on the verge of bankruptcy and looking for a miracle to help rescue his firm. Ben Lok is a wily lawyer who hails from a family of Good Samaritans and after qualifying as a barrister, he has dedicated his life to offering opportunities to those less fortunate than him. During one of these cases, his unorthodox methods win him the case, but lose him his job, and he is left with nowhere to turn to as no other firm will take him on board.

Ling Chung is an emotional soul who finds it hard to come to terms with the exploitation of women in many of her cases. Stubborn in her beliefs and often unable to control her emotions, she annoys her boss and is left with no choice but to find another employer.

Vincent Cheuk has been successful since appearing on the scene, but as a small fish in a big pond, he feels he will never be noticed. He resigns from a large major firm to try and become greater than his mentor and prove he is capable of making a name for himself. Intelligent, suave and very arrogant, Vincent has a strong desire to win at everything. This presents him with an extra set of moral dilemmas as his will battles with his conscience.

Jessica Cheung is a rather nervous and innocent newcomer who idolises Vincent and is best friends with Ben. Her decision to join the firm is based entirely on her admiration for Vincent as she tries earnestly to catch his attention and his affections.

Under the guidance of Homer and his ex-lover and ex-partner Angela, the four new arrivals face a steep learning curve as they are presented with the nitty-gritty of the legal world and the many lessons in the courtrooms, ranging from the smaller day-to-day affairs and leading up to the serious criminal cases. At the same time, their personal affairs also need addressing and they find themselves having to dig deep into their hearts to find the solutions.

My thoughts

When faced with a courtroom drama from TVB, the first thoughts that struck me were memories of ‘Files of Justice’ and the mundane, predictable cases that the later episodes of this series depicted. However, the freshness of the subject matter in ‘Survivor’s Law’ covering more tangible, more realistic cases made the storyline more believable and endeared the viewer to the characters more easily. Divorce settlements, small claims and matters of intellectual property all helped to introduce the lower levels of the legal organisation, and showed the less dramatised side and possibly more mundane side of life in the legal profession. Coupled with the hands-on approach to seeking business (for example, Homer taking his new recruits out to the red-light district to look for likely clients) and the in-depth investigations and search for evidence that need to be carried out for each and every case, the de-glamorisation of the profession is established as the young lawyers have to work hard to gain their successes or face their failures. Moreover the other elements such as running a business, raising the capital to pay rent, insurance, buying tea and coffee are nice touches that add to the realism of the series.

Producer Leung Ka Shu has had plenty of experience in bringing new stars to the limelight in the past and in a real life ‘Homer’ role, he has certainly brought out the potential in each of his four leads. By injecting each one with a brilliant animation and defining the strengths and weaknesses of each character so well, their humanity, relative innocence and naivety capture the support and empathy of the viewer in a strong way. Ben’s humanity, Ling’s shadow of her past, Vincent’s yearning for success and Jessica’s innocence all offer elements that can be found to some extent in every one of us and through this simple presentation, we can relate to each character in some way.

The dedication of the four leading artistes - Raymond, Myolie, Sammul and Bernice, were manifested through their performances, which were all outstanding as they cemented a level of professionalism and talent in their work that far surpassed their relative years in the industry. In a variety of contrasting scenes, they are able to bring out the seriousness and reverence of the courtroom cases and the legal profession whilst also injecting their own brand of youthful vitality and fun into the equation, but not to the extent where the acting became tiresome or exaggerated. Whether it is Raymond whizzing around in his skates or Bernice offering some insights into boxing, the balance of the stories between life, work, colleagues, family, love and conflict is controlled and maintained. This culminates in a show that is both comfortable to watch and has smooth continuation between the separate stories.

One of my favourite scenes in the show was the rather sweet story of Raymond’s character Ben, who whilst trying to win the affections of Ling, learns to knit. The sight of a grown man sitting in a barrister’s office with a pair of knitting needles and a couple of balls of wool is certainly one to treasure. I can imagine the response of many a female viewer upon watching this scene; they would probably smile to themselves and think: “I hope/wish my other half could do that for me!” Another of my favourites was the rather ‘alternative’ method unintentionally used by Homer and Angela to resolve a divorce case between guest stars Mok Ka Yiu and Bel Lau, which I felt was a rather nice piece of lateral thinking by the writers.

My main criticism of this show is that as usual, the script and character development barely scratched the surface and once again, the potential of a great show with excellent actors and crew is wasted by the weakness of the production that is so typical of the mass-production ethos displayed by TVB nowadays. Some scenes and cases were rushed through and verged on the ridiculous – an example of which was the case about the marriage breakdown of a bald Lee Ka Sing and the woman with an aversion to wigs. Either omitting or developing these scenes would have resulted in an improvement, but leaving them in as what seemed to be an afterthought really did little for the show.

Altogether, I enjoyed the series and once again I feel that despite the limitations, it has brought me a good many hours of uplifting entertainment. It has also helped the main leads to mature and develop their skills, and I am certainly looking forward to seeing more of them. It has the potential to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, but TVB will need to invest more time and money into it if they want to see it reach five series.


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