The Family Man

Reviewed by: Bridget

November 05, 2003

Rating: four-point-five

Chinese Name: "Jute Sai Ho Ba"
Year: 2002
Theme Songs:
Flora Chan & William So "Flow of Warmth" (opening)
Flora Chan "Fate and People" (Interlude #1)
Flora Chan "Clay Doll" (Interlude #2)

# of Episodes: 20

Chun Pui as Ko Hoi (father)
Jay Lau Kam Ling as Ko Yuk Yee (Wasabi, oldest sister - "Dai Mui")
Flora Chan Wai San as Ko Pui Yee (Tracy, 2nd sister - "Yee Mui")
Sonija Kwok Sin Yee as Ko Bo Yee (Bobo, 3rd sister - "Sam Mui")
Myolie Wu Hung Yee as Ko Chui Yee (Polly, youngest sister - "Sai Mui")
Moses Chan Ho as Siu Hin Wah (Kelvin)
Michael Tong Man Long as Dai Gwong Ming
So Jee Wai (from old-school HK band Grasshoppers) as Wong Jun Kit ("Kit Lo", husband of Wasabi)
Supporting Cast:
Cheng Jee Sing as Lui Lik (Nick)
Tsang Wai Kuen as Hui Sing Chi (Ken)

Plot Summary:

Ko Hoi is first saxophonist in the police band, with a happy and warm family. He is the father of four daughters (Wasabi, Tracy, Bobo, and Polly), whom he regards as complete treasures. As a young policeman, he impressed his supervisor and had the chance of being promoted. Unfortunately, his wife passed away during this time and Ko Hoi then rejected the offer of promotion, knowing that he could have a dangerous job, since he must now play both the father and mother roles in the lives of his young daughters. Ko Hoi has raised his daughters to adulthood, but still adores them and treats them as children. The young women have always appreciated their father and refer to him as "jute sai ho ba" (something along the lines of "the greatest father of all time").

Aside from taking care of his daughters, Ko Hoi also worries incessantly about the future of their romantic possibilities, love lives, and general happiness. The oldest daughter Wasabi is slightly unreasonable and has a quick temper, constantly arguing with her husband Kit Lo who does not make a lot of money but nonetheless loves Wasabi very much. Second daughter Tracy has been dating boyfriend Ken for several years, and is even working in a company jointly owned by them. Due to ambition and being a workaholic, Ken has not considered marriage as a future with Tracy, much to her chagrin and even more so her father's. Third sister Bobo has extremely high standards for men, is extremely picky and this is why the man by her side constantly changes. Youngest sister Polly is in university, and being pretty and cute, has a whole flock of guys constantly after her.

Enter Kelvin and Ming, who are best friends but completely different. Kelvin is a smooth-talker with excellent human relations skills due to his experience as a sales manager. Ming is soft-spoken, earnest, and honest. He is ambitious but unlucky in the career field, only working as a simple office worker. These two young men enter the lives of the Ko women early on in the series. Kelvin happens to be the cousin of Ken, and becomes a shareholder in the company that Ken and Tracy own. Shortly after, however, Ken disappears off the face of the earth, leaving Tracy and Kelvin with an enormous debt that they must pay off! Tracy and Kelvin initially are not fond of each other, as Tracy is not impressed with Kelvin's smooth-talking and seemingly player-boy style, and Kelvin is intimidated by Tracy's rare straightforwardness. Ming, in a stroke of luck, ends up at the press company where Bobo works, and those two also do not have good first impressions of each other. Ming's supervisor is Nick, a chauvinist columnist who is constantly butting heads with Bobo, the head columnist of the "female" columns of the magazine. Ming is not fond of Bobo's quick temper and apparent hatred of men, and Bobo misunderstands Ming for being a chauvinistic pig like Nick.

Out of coincidence, Kelvin and Ming are evicted and end up moving into the apartment unit that just happens to be across from the Ko family's! The four sisters are not happy about this, and refer to the two as "keh leh gwai" (something along the lines of "old and clumsy weirdos"). Kelvin and Ming are not thrilled either, nicknaming Tracy and Bobo "maah laat pow jeung fa" (which means something close to "unreasonable and quick-tempered dynamite flowers"). Kelvin tries to back out of the company and leave Tracy with the debt, but is unable to. Through sticking it out together, they finally get a contract which puts their company back on track. Through this process, Tracy and Kelvin also learn a lot more about each other and begin to develop feelings for each other. Ming and Bobo also become friends after working out some differences and misunderstandings, and Ming even begins to fall in love with Bobo. However, Bobo has fallen in love with Kelvin and declares her love for him. Confused and also dejected by Ken's return, Kelvin accepts Bobo's love and they begin a relationship, much to the disappointment of Ming, who keeps his feelings quiet.

Meanwhile, Wasabi constantly argues with Kit Lo, claiming that he is inferior and does not make enough money to support her. Their marriage is on the rocks, and at this time Kit Lo meets a seemingly perfect and caring woman. Wasabi and Kit Lo get a divorce. Kit Lo realizes, to his horror, that the "perfect" woman he met before is a clingy woman who threatens to beat him up when he disobeys her, and Wasabi realizes that she does indeed love Kit Lo very much. After tricking Nick into being with the clingy woman, Kit Lo and Wasabi get back together. In the meantime, Kelvin and Bobo break up, and Kelvin sets out to pursue Tracy, who is unsure of her feelings. However, when she leaves on a plane to England, Kelvin boards the plane also and tells her that "the timing isn't right" isn't an excuse to run away from her feelings. Bobo also admits that she has developed feelings for Ming, who is ecstatic.

The father, having worried and worried and done everything in his power to make his four precious daughters happy, is diagnosed with a heart disease and must undergo extremely risky bypass surgery. The daughters are both horrified and terrified for their father, who insists on the operation because this is his only chance at life and continuing to watch after the four girls. However, his operation is successful and the father is healthy again. But the girls must now go their separate ways. Wasabi and Kit Lo go to Mainland China to work on Kit Lo's expanding delivery business. Tracy and Kelvin head to England to work on an important project for their toy company, and Bobo and Ming leave to Shanghai to work for a new press company. Polly also leaves to participate in a student exchange program.

Fast forward one year. The family is together in a backyard enjoying a barbecue. Wasabi and Kit Lo have twins, and Tracy and Kelvin have a son. Bobo is pregnant with Ming's child, and Polly has returned after having completed a Master's degree. Happy happy ending.

Evaluation of Cast and Characters

Chun Pui as Ko Hoi
A truly brilliant performance from a true veteran. Chun Pui did an absolutely phenomenal job as the caring and constantly -worrying "greatest father of all time" in this series. Every expression and every line was delivered to perfection, from the comic overprotectiveness his character has for the daughters, to the heartbreakingly poignant speech he gives at the end when he insists that he must undergo this operation. Every single actor or actress can learn something from this veteran. An excellent portrayal of a completely likeable character - which girl wouldn't want a daddy like him? The best performance of the series.

Jay Lau as Wasabi
An underaverage performance but not totally terrible. She does appear to be truly like the character she plays (bossy, loud-mouthed, materialistic) which I'm not sure is a compliment - either she did such a fabulous job that her character is very believably unlikeable, or the actress' personality in real life is like this too. Jay Lau has never struck me as a great actress or even a memorable one, which is why her performance seems a bit "so... what?" to me. The problem with her is that she has no true screen presence. Like Sammul Chan, she seems to be a shell of an actress - someone who just plays her character without any real emotion or thought put into the character.

Flora Chan as Tracy
Okay... so, straightforward career woman who is duped by a man. What else is different for Flora Chan? She's played these kinds of roles thousands of times (Cat in Files of Justice, Annie in Healing Hands) so there isn't much to say about her. No improvement and no deterioration either. I must say that Flora is the worst crier out of the four actresses who play the daughters; her crying is so fake it's almost comic. However, her performance was decent enough, and although she plays a character she's played a million times, the idea of her as a daughter is quite refreshing. Her past roles as a direct career woman have seen her virtually parent-less, having to answer to no true higher authority. An interesting twist and her pairing with Moses Chan is also quite appropriate. They do have some decent chemistry. Couldn't they have found a better guy than the actor who plays Ken to play her first boyfriend? Flora Chan could do so much better than that actor, plus they had zero chemistry.

Sonija Kwok as Bobo
The first time I saw her was in A Step into the Past (her first work) and I was not impressed. Here she fares slightly better, having to play a character who has more oomph in her personality; a young woman who is straightforward, direct, and has a quick temper. Her performance was decent enough, although not outstanding in any respect. She does not look good with Moses Chan. She looks slightly better with Michael Tong, but for some reason she strikes me as the sort of actress who doesn't look good with any actor (at least, no actors I can think of off the top of my head). In general, Sonija Kwok needs to let herself go a little more in her performances, she seems uptight most of the time.

Myolie Wu as Polly
We do not see much of Myolie at all in this series; she has the least screen time of all the "main characters". All I can say is that she is pretty cute in this role and very likeable as the slightly spoiled but charming youngest sister Polly. A good casting decision.

*Note: Although my opinions of the actresses consist of their performances being mediocre, when placed together in the series they made it an entertaining and touching one. What I'm trying to say is, their individual performances were lacklustre, but when acting together in group or family scenes, they brought out each character's distinct personalities. Their interaction with veteran actor Chun Pui also seemed to bring out their strong points in terms of acting out each sister's character.

Moses Chan as Kelvin
A hilarious performance as the sweet-talking player-boy style Kelvin! A solid performance by Moses Chan and I am impressed with the way he handles such varied roles (for example as the doctor in Healing Hands II - what was his name again? - and as the emperor in Where the Legend Begins). His scenes with Ming were comic and his serious ones with Tracy were also solid. A great job and this role for seemingly cool and aloof Moses Chan is surprisingly appropriate and he handed it very well.

Michael Tong as Ming
Another comic performance! Michael Tong usually plays the good-looking and more masculine guy (Edward, Suki's boyfriend in Healing Hands II, for example). We do not see him much as the slightly passive, earnest, honest, and even somewhat shy young man that Ming is. A good job by Michael Tong, although he pales a bit compared to Moses Chan. His new hairstyle also suits the character. However, I do not think that Michael Tong is an actor who has enough presence to carry the weight of a series on his shoulders, which is why we probably don't see him at all in male lead roles. He has yet to give a "breakthrough" performance, I believe, although his portrayal of the secretly super-intelligent Ming is interesting.

So Jee Wai as Kit Lo
Not much to say either about him. So Jee Wai does not have presence on the screen either, but pairing him up with Jay Lau was a good idea. They really do appear to be husband-and-wife, and their chemistry was also decent enough. A mediocre performance in general with some entertaining moments.

The best scene is...
Hands down, the conversation between the four young women and their father under the tree outside the hospital when their father tries to explain to the four girls why he feels he must undergo this operation. As he tells the story of the old tree and the little boy, the four daughters start crying as they realize the meaning behind the metaphoric story; their father expresses his aspirations for and adoration of each of them through this touching story. A heartbreakingly bittersweet scene; I cried buckets while watching it!

Some Final Words and Final Consensus

No true complaints, aside from the really annoying lullaby that represented Tracy and Ken's relationship and some of the lacklustre performances from the ke-le-fe. The Family Man is a heartwarming series, a series definitely worth watching, not for action or comedy or drama, but for a drama that truly explores and presents the unconditional love and sacrifices that parents have and can make for their children. It is an excellent and charming representation of family affairs, and proves that above all, family will always be there, as cheesy as that sounds. The lyrics to the theme song are also touching and an excellent interpretation of the appreciation the daughters have for their father (something like "who blessed me with the best father of all time... we'll sing for you..."). There is not only one daddy's girl in here, there are four. Chun Pui did a fabulous job portraying the father who somehow had enough (and then some) love and patience in him to fuss over four daughters, not only as a father, but also as the mother figure in their lives. A wonderfully heartwarming series that thankfully does not have over-the-top drama or confusing hijinks in some of the recent series, which is why I believe this is one of the best series cooked by TVB in 2002. The relationships between Tracy and Kelvin and between Bobo and Ming are nothing new, but Chun Pui's performance as the caring and selfless father definitely is the backbone of this series and what makes it worth watching. Rent also if you're a fan of Moses Chan, but stay away if you're TV-lactose-intolerant and can't stomach cheesy plots.


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