Beauty or Beast


Reviewed by: sukting

January 02, 2004

Rating: three-point-five

How long
11 episodes

Foreword
This is the first time that Masahau Fukuyama and Nanako Matsushima pair up together. You may be interested to find out whether they have chemistry in this serial. Unlike other dramas, it is a serious drama on how two people of different educational backgrounds work towards the same goal of achieving higher viewership for the television station.

Story

1. Zhen’s powerful face at work

Ying Gong Zhen (Nanako Matsushima) is requested by a Japanese station JBC to work for them. After serious consideration, she leaves the French station and returns to Japan. She is educated in Harvard University and knows her work very well. The staff who is supposed to get her from the airport mistakens the small producer Yong Lai (Masahau Fukuyama) as her because both arrive at the same time. The mistake is only corrected when both meet at the office.

On her first day of work, Zhen stresses that news is like a commercial product and the only route of survival is to raise its viewership. She meets each colleague individually and they feel her authority. At night, she doesn’t turn up early at the welcome celebration that they have planned for her. She attends another party organised by the commercial companies instead and keep them waiting for others. The poor people only get to toast to her and she tells them to pack the food home to ruin their day. Many find that she is too proud to abuse her authority.

Zhen invites Yong Lai out to drink at a pub. Yong Lai thinks that she wants to talk about old times but is disappointed that she only talks about work. Yong Lai suggests to get a pretty girl as a weather reporter. It works when the first day’s viewership goes up.

It is close to the election day and every station is reporting it. Strangely, JBC don’t report it for this night because they don’t have the candidates’ details. One of them gets more support because she goes for nature conservation. Yong Lai suddenly remembers that one colleague has shot many documentaries on the topic so he quickly brings them out. This saves the show for the day. Zhen is touched to know that although she is not leading the best, they are no doubt hardworking.

2. The soccer conspiracy

There isn’t anyone who can attend the sports council meeting for the moment so Zhen decides to bring Yong Lai along. Yong Lai is in cold sweat because he hasn’t worn a tie or suit for years since his high school graduation. It is so hilarious when he borrows them from the clothes unit! Seeing that his tie is ugly, Zhen buys a new one for him. There is a case of a soccer match which involves bribery. Yong Lai doesn’t have links with the soccer circle. So he is often pushed out when trying to compete with the other stations. He is not disheartened and goes to the quiet changing room. He discovers a player there and gets the first hand news of a dirty secret. Zhen wants to reveal it but the top stops her from doing that.

To protect their own benefits, Zhen cancels the segment. When the programme ends, she can’t even convince herself why she is doing it. Yong Lai is so mad that he throws the tie into a heap of clothes in the clothes unit. However, he is not discouraged. He goes to the soccer training field, hoping to find out the truth. He meets Zhen there. Both see the children supporters at the viewing gallery. So they decide that it is not right to hide the ugly truth from the innocent children. Zhen decides to play the tape. The top forces them to stop and a commotion is caused in the newsroom.

Yong Lai brings all to breathe deeply till the news finishes its playing. After the news is played, it causes an earthquake in the newsroom. Many are touched that Zhen handles the pressure for them. So this is the first time that all clap for her in gratitude. Zhen is much sort after by many stations after her return.

3. Is covering news more important than saving lives?

Diamond station is unable to get her so they declare a news war. Although she seems unmoved on the exterior, Zhen’s confidence is shaken when she compares her team with the rival’s team. There is winter in the night. Yong Lai encourages her to perform her best and not to care about the competition. His colleague, Hu Du always remembers the wrong places for covering news and gets caught in the traffic jams. As a result he is often unsuccessful in covering news.

Can you believe that to save him, his cameraman colleague even asks his junior from Diamond Station to copy their tape to him? Zhen insults him upon knowing it. Thus he buys a DV and roams the streets because he vows to make an amazing report one day. He doesn’t wish to miss any scene for any moment.

One evening, he walks past a construction site and sees injured workers there. He chooses to save them instead of doing the first hand report. He puts his DV aside instead of filming the scene. Although Hu Du manages to reach the scene first, Diamond station films the whole scene and insults him. Zhen is very angry with Hu Du but Yong Lai decides to edit the programme although it is unclear to present as the news. He even wants to participate in the yearly ‘best news award’ competition. He even bets with Zhen that if Hu Du wins, she will have to treat the whole staff to a well-known restaurant in Ginza.

Yong Lai is in the editing room with his colleague to improve the image and sound. His cameraman colleague comes in as he is equally concerned. He gives suggestions when he sits together with them. Yong Lai ignores Zhen’s protest to play the ‘so-called’ unprofessional scene’ over the news. The others have not watched it so they are stunned and moved by Hu Du’s gesture. Even Zhen watches it with amazement. The studio crew and the news presenter are so captivated that Yong Lai has to signal to them to carry on!

Later in the night, Zhen watches news at the same time from both stations from her desktop computers. This scene gives a very striking contrast. One is showing how Yong Lai urges the injured to hang on. The other shows how ruthless Diamond station can be – showing the injured on the stretcher and also interviewing their families in hospital when they are already so distressed.

The injured’s wife requests Zhen to convey her thanks to Hu Du after her husband is out of danger. The Diamond station head boasts about their professionalism and sneers at Zhen for not being strict enough with her subordinates. However, she has straightened her thoughts and agrees with Yong Lai that they can win viewers using other methods. Zhen passes the message to Hu Du. She also tells Hu Du to cover news and do things according to his belief. Hu Du and Yong Lai are delighted to see a change in her.

Hu Du doesn’t win in the end. All their colleagues are so disappointed that they sit quietly at their own table. Yong Lai’s blood nearly boils and he drinks half a bottle of wine. The Diamond station head boasts of his success. All TV stations interview him but upon seeing Yong Lai in the news clip, they transfer their attention to Hu Du. Yong Lai is so delighted that he pulls Hu Du to sit in the centre of the ballroom so that they can interview him.

Hu Du’s bravery in saving others wins public support and he gets more attention than the winner, Diamond station. To Zhen and the others, this is already the same as winning the award. All colleagues are delighted for him. Suddenly Zhen walks out of the room, saying that she has something important to do. Yong Lai is disappointed, thinking that she is still so heartless. Actually, she makes a reservation at the well-known Ginza restaurant. Upon knowing it, Yong Lai is so confused – doesn’t he lose the bet earlier? But all colleagues are past caring about it and they run eagerly to the restaurant.

4. The weather girl’s attempt

The weather girl creates a lot of mistakes in her daily reports. All are displeased with her but Yong Lai is still patient with her to show her the ropes. Suddenly, the winter attacks the whole of Japan. Many normal activities are affected and thus all colleagues are all out to gather the news. Poor people, they are actually only in charge of the night news but because the morning crew has gone home, they stay behind.

The weather girl knits Yong Lai a sweater to thank him for his help. However, she is new at it and causes a hole. Zhen encourages her to give it to him. The crew find it difficult to adjust to the work as they don’t know that well on how their morning colleagues function the jobs. One colleague even laughs at Zhen for not knowing how to pull the camera over. Yong Lai laments that it is nerve-wrecking. It is like a life time to produce this 1 hour programme!

Laugh when they get everyone ready but the old announcer is nowhere to be found! The old man is trapped in one of the lifts because of the blackout. The whole crew search around the right lift to get him out. They are appalled to see him so composed and adjusting his tie. All are tongue-tied when he runs so quickly to the announcer’s seat before the news starts in 5 seconds despite his stiffen legs caused by the cold.

The weather is so bad that the newsroom can’t get the news from the reporters clearly. Many are worried when the news is about to begin and the worst can happen. The beautiful and weak weather girl suddenly has an idea. She risks the cold weather and rushes to the rooftop to pull the camera towards herself instead of delivering the news from different colleagues at different provinces. She stands in the snow, showing the snow scenes. The newsroom colleagues heave a sigh of relief and cheer for her for helping them.

After the work, all are so exhausted. Their faces are brightened when Zhen orders crabs for them. Yong Lai is touched when the weather girl gives him the scarf and wears it on immediately. All are about to head for home when Zhen still tells them to continue the night’s news. They sigh and stay again.

5. Should this be the way to cover the news?

To raise viewership, Zhen never stops using her personal relationships to get different news. Her father finds her a new boyfriend but is treated as a news target instead. The man happens to work for a high official. She gets Yong Lai to shadow a Member of Parliament’s daily activities because she suspects him of accepting bribes. But Yong Lai doesn’t get any news after many days. Zhen decides to go for the date alone. Can you believe that she can agree to go into a hotel room with the official to get the news???

Yong Lai finds out from other female reporters belonging to other stations that the MP is a low class man. They have suffered under his hands when they do video recording with him in hotel rooms alone with the DV. Yong Lai is alarmed that the same is happening to Zhen. He gets terrified, ransacking her office to look for clues to find out where she goes. The old news reader reminds him to get news from the station's chauffeur. Zhen has often looked down on a colleague who often plays mahjong to try to get first hand news but still fail repeatedly. The MP wants Zhen to remove her clothes. She only removes her coat and office jacket, baring her arms.

Yong Lai manages to get into the room to save her on time. Later, the police arrest the old man and Zhen manages to grab the DV. But she is not as fast as their colleague who is already ready with the camera crew right outside the door! He jokes to the two that they should never undermine the importance of mahjong. Yong Lai is unhappy with her and even forgets that he injures his hand. He tells her that work is supposed to make oneself happy. It defeats the purpose if she throws away her self esteem to get things done. He is so angry that he ignores her at work. She realises her mistake and apologises to him.

6. The experience counts

After a few months’ work, their efforts are paid off in showing improvement. However, it is still far from the top’s target. Zhen decides to change the old anchorman to a young one. The new anchorman is young and sits together with the old man. He is actually a popular variety show compere. You will be annoyed to see how he interrupts the old man from talking. And trying to ‘trap’ his colleagues by asking them questions on the spot by the viewers’ stand. All aren’t impressed except Zhen. His comical way wins support and the viewership goes high. He is so proud to tell Yong Lai that the focus should be on him because only he can’t be replaced. Yong Lai is angry with him but keeps his cool.

During the next day’s meeting, one colleague says tactlessly that the young anchorman contributes to the success. The young man arrogantly tells all to follow his style. Zhen decides to drop the old man and transfer him to the admin department. The old man says nothing upon knowing that this is her decision and not from the directors. He knows that he is not cut out for management so he resigns. A small station, Sunshine Broadcasting station expresses need for him and he decides to join them.

Zhen asks him why he wants to be an anchorman. He tells her that his first love likes his voice. She wrote a card to encourage him. She is now his wife. Yong Lai is annoyed to know that the old anchorman is quitting and questions on Zhen’s decision. He follows her instructions but if the young man still disrespects her, he will resign. Team work is important and they don’t need a hero.

The old man is preparing his final day in the dressing room and all wonder how his final coverage will be. They are all reluctant to see him leave. Suddenly, there is a serious bank robbery. The newsroom decides to prolong the news time to report this urgent news. The young news reader is taken aback and is at a loss on how to handle it. He has no experience at all and sits silently at the news table in shock. How can he hold out for 30 minutes when he has only 3 lines to refer to? He refuses to do it!

In the meantime, Zhen approaches the old man for help. The old man is already concerned when he has seen the little words forming on the side of the screen for the urgent news from the resting room. He agrees to help out. I really laugh at the scene when he walks steadily into the studio and all the rest tell the young man to leave the seat to the old man!

He goes unwillingly to the editing room with them. The reporter tries to search the net and has gotten the information about the history of the hold-ups. At the same time, the old news reader tells the exact history from the studio! All of them are so impressed by his fantastic memory although he only has 3 lines to think of what to elaborate. He can even detect minor details from the filmstrip that they just captured ‘live’ and give a clear description of how the police captures the robber.

The old man is about to announce his retirement after working for 30 years in the station but all tell him to do the proper closing. The young man protests but Zhen decides to fire him. She will answer to the directors and is not afraid of offending him since she is the producer. This wins respect from all and they stand behind her to give her support.

All praise the old man for being so professional. All the men are stunned to know that the old man is also known as ‘the legend’. Twenty years ago, there was another piece of important news but the old man did a 3 hour ‘live’ report. One comments that the old man is really a model legend now – why? Can you believe that he gets the most chocolates from ALL the young female colleagues on Valentine’s Day? One colleague is hoping that hi sweetheart can give him the chocolate but she tells him that she has already given to the old man! The overconfident Yong Lai gets nothing at all and is disappointed. Zhen gives him a small box of chocolate to cheer him up. He is overjoyed and tries to ask her out.

7. School monetary contributions through illegal means

A colleague’s daughter is to be enrolled in a good school but is asked to make a monetary contribution of 1 million yen for its expansion. It was Zhen’s alma mater but she is still determined to find the truth under Yong Lai’s persuasion. Yong Lai recalls the past. Zhen studied in Washington since elementary school and was back in Japan to study her high school here. Yong Lai’s boys’ high school happens to be nearby and he was among the guys who flocked to see her everyday. He has thought of her to be an introvert. He was stunned to find out that she learned tennis, horse riding and ballet.

Yong Lai and her look for her teacher and the principal. This case causes quarrels in the family and the poor schoolgirl comes out to look for Yong Lai and Zhen for help. Zhen asks the girl not to push herself too hard to please her parents since she is unwilling to part with her classmates.

During the checks, the school is found guilty. Zhen gives the microphone to the principal to apologise to the public for her mistake bravely. The girl decides to stay in her present school. She notices that Zhen still likes Yong Lai. She tells her that she should reveal her thoughts. If not, the other party will not understand. This is what Yong Lai has persuaded her earlier to make clear to her parents!

8. Scandal in the TV station

Finding news will imply that there is the need to find out the truth. Even the scandal happens in the station itself can’t be ignored. Yong Lai visits the injured but the injured wants him to close the case. He refuses to tell him more about it but he doesn’t give up. He tries to gather evidence but no one wants to help him. Why? The scandal might affect the programme that they are making and they have to stop it if the matter is published . Yong Lai discovers that the injury is caused by the popular TV host.

Yong Lai’s ex-boss questions Zhen on Yong Lai’s well being. A year ago, he has the chance to be promoted to producer. But he offends the same TV host and someone has to take the rap. Yong Lai forgoes his chance and to avoid conflict, he is transferred to the news unit. His ex-boss is worried that he might not get used to it and is relieved that he is working fine.

The programme’s producer is Yong Lai’s friend for years. He has worked hard for 10 over years to reach this position. Yong Lai is disturbed when watching his tape. If he reveals it, his friend will be affected. Seeing that Yong Lai is troubled, Zhen sacks him so that she can check the case on her own. But Yong Lai’s friend tells her not to intervene as it will create negative results. Yong Lai knows that Zhen does it to protect him but his love for the job is so great. He still returns to the newsroom daily after his colleagues leave. He is very confused on how to find a solution and often goes to the filming studio.

The old news reader tells him that reporting news doesn’t depend on feelings. He is in the news unit so he has a story to tell. Yong Lai wonders why his tone is so similar to Zhen’s. Zhen hopes to help him and she goes to the unit which creates the scandal to testify with the producer there. Finally, Yong Lai appears after persuading the injured to be the witness. The witness finally agrees to tell the truth.

His friend is initially angry with him. Is he bitter of him being promoted? Yong Lai explains that they should not defend such a person. The station shows the whole interview. His friend apologises for letting everyone down. Yong Lai feels bad and buys their favourite burgers to cheer them up. On the way, he meets Zhen and offers her one. She declines his offer and tells him to dig news at there again.

Although the case is closed, Yong Lai’s friend is forced to close his programme. However, the two are on closer terms after this incident. Yong Lai gives them the burgers and is surprised to know that Zhen buys for them too. He is touched to know that she has changed.

9. The poisoning incident

However hard they work, the viewership doesn’t improve much. Zhen undergoes a lot of pressure. If the evening news don’t get 13% for the week, it will be axed and Zhen will lose her job after March. Zhen accepts the challenge.

Zhen suggests a gourmet programme on Ramen noodles to target at the women audience and it receives good response. The colleagues are disappointed that they have to reduce airing on political natural and topics. Isn’t this turning news into a variety programme? Yong Lai says calmly that news is about giving information to the public. The others set out to start work.

Later, they try to interview a shop in a small village that produces delicious Ramen. This is supposed to be No. 1 in the list. They are stunned to know that the shop can’t produce it anymore because the stream water is contaminated by the factories nearby. The factories have thrown the chemical waste into the stream. The villagers beg JBC to voice their unhappiness but Zhen rejects them. The village head says that no one cares but when someone dies, it will be news then. Yong Lai pities their plight but he is also reluctant to part with the nice colleagues that he works with.

He tells the driver to stop to have a walk with Zhen in the woods. Zhen admires the scenery and discovers dead fish in the river. She then looks at a factory nearby and finds out that another new factory is going to be opened on Saturday. Zhen has initially refused to do it because she might offend many officials who own the factories. Moreover, her main task is to raise the viewership.

All taste all different kinds of Ramen. Some genuinely like them while others find them too oily. Still, they have to look pleased with the food. This is so pretentious. There is a storm when one colleague is shooting for the No. 1 shop. Yong Lai knows that no one will get out of home in the rain. He forces the truth out and knows that the crowd are paid to do the work so that the colleague can complete the shoot. Yong Lai is so angry that he commands the colleague to return to re-shoot again.

While editing the scenes to add in the special effects to show the explosive lure, Zhen blames herself for causing them to change like this. It pricks her conscience upon seeing her colleague sitting in the editing room looking through the tape on the case. He is still checking and claims that although he can’t act as well as others, he will still try his best.

Zhen returns to the office where everyone has left. Each colleague has tapes on their tables on their expertise on pollution, politics and natural conservation. She recalls one of them saying that they can’t hide truth as a newsperson. The villagers believe that TV stations can help them because lawsuits takes time and money. She visits the place again. After discovering that the chemical is going to affect mankind and nature.

So she sees the colleague there, taking the water sample from the stream. He wants to give the sample to his friend working in the university laboratory. That will take 10 days to know the contents. She takes it, saying that it will be done in 3 hours! She gets the laboratories to do the test to prove that the stream is poisoned. It even exceeds normal standards drastically by 10 times. She gets her group to discuss over the matter – should they publicized the matter and scrap their Ramen finale?

She can’t handle this alone as this is their programme. They can raise objections now but they must be fast as there is only 1 hour to go. All are silent – how can there by any? They even smile at her, saying that this is news after all. Zhen is touched but still says that they are a hopeless bunch.

All decide to go ahead with it and stops the factories to work. They get pollution experts and also cover the news ‘live’ on the spot. The factory owner can’t answer them. Their determination moves her. Only Yong Lai understands her and gives her a cool beer. The news is presented but the viewership is only 10.7%. all are disappointed but are glad that the factory isn’t opened and authorities are checking on them. The Ramen shop owner even offers to cook the first Ramen for the colleague when the water is clean again.

Zhen is upset that many viewers ignore serious issues but says that they have worked hard. Their programme is to be terminated at the end of the month. Her superiors ask her why the slot is replaced. She replies that high viewership is important but news is more important. Her co-workers have taught here that.

10. A political scandal

Zhen feels sore that her programme is going to end. Her father returns from work overseas and returns to Japan. His appearance lifts her spirits. He is going to be secretary to a Minister. Her staff loses the mood to work anymore. Yong Lai discusses with Zhen whether he should stay on the job. UNN has requested for Zhen’s services after her resignation.

All are so busy to care for themselves. They push responsibility to each other. No one is willing to check out the chain of fire incidents that happen recently. Yong Lai accepts the task reluctantly and by luck, he finds important clues. He remembers the culprit’s motorcycle number plate and arrests the arsonist right at his home. Many are impressed by him and joke that he can become a programme producer soon. Yong Lai thinks this is a lucky break for all to retire in glory. They can have seafood and eat sushi from naked women. All smile but are reluctant for the coming closure.

Yong Lai discovers another arsonist case. The culprit is a close relative of the Minister and is an entrepreneur’s son. The filming unit is prepared for another war again. Zhen asks her father for his opinion and he encourages her to pursue her beliefs. No matter how the other colleagues try to convince Yong Lai, he simply refuses to admit defeat to the evil and the influential. The others are touched and help him out to search for evidence. Zhen waits anxiously for their news in the office. Yong Lai returns with a boy witness 3 minutes before the programme is aired. They quickly shoot the interview in the studio.

The next day, the boy’s mother denies the statement and the boy happens to look at the photograph that Zhen takes with her father on her office table. He recognises him as the person who bribes him. Zhen visits her father at his office and is disturbed when he refuses to tell anything. Yong Lai doesn’t wish them to fall out because of him so he meets her father in private. He returns the money and toy car that the boy’s mother requests him to return to Zhen’s father. Yong Lai only poses a question to her – does she want her son to grow up like the arsonist or Zhen’s father?

Zhen’s father is not offended. He recalls that Zhen has no other boyfriend before and after Yong Lai. He has missed meeting him as he is too busy. He is thus glad to see him now. Yong Lai’s eyes sparkle with life.
Zhen sneaks into her father’s new home to get information from his laptop. He has given her the house key to his new home. She is torn when she finds that her father uses her name as the password to open all his locked files after trying other passwords – on his favourite food and place.

She sees Yong Lai with the evidence and decides to release the news. Yong Lai discovers her love for him and tries in vain to stop her. Zhen says that she must do it – despite the last second as a newsperson. Zhen’s father knows that Zhen obtains the information when he sees the photo that he takes with her is misplaced. He quietly takes out her childhood photographs to admire.

Her father discovers that his files are opened but he is relieved and proud to know that his daughter is righteous. Zhen announces in front of her colleagues that she decides to cover the news when Yong Lai wants to focus attention on another arson case to divert the others’ attention to protect her. Yong Lai een wishes to do the interview on her behalf but she puts him in charge of the control room. He tells all that they must continue in their usual style.

She interviews her father personally to uncover the bribery case. The crucial moment arrives when she faces her father. The air in the room seems to become stagnant. He wants her to reveal whether she gets them through illegal ways but she refuses to reveal her sources. Zhen tries hard to stop her tears from rolling down her cheeks when she interviews her father personally with her team. Her father is calm even though cameras shine on him. He admits doing it. All are stunned. This is a road of no return when he realises that there is no stopping to it.

Zhen’s father protects her from the Minister when he accuses her of coming with false evidence. Zhen is really his pride and joy. He has known that this day will come at last. Because the scandal is revealed, the case is to be investigated for 6 months. So the programme is retained. All the colleagues are overjoyed. However, Zhen’s dismissal still stays as she doesn’t behave what a chief producer should do to go against the board. All protest against it but she takes it calmly. It is her honour to work with them.

After the news, she decides to give herself a break as the television station brings forward her departure. She wants to work overseas as a free lance reporter. All other colleagues refuse to give Yong Lai assignments to give him the chance to send Zhen off at the airport. Yong Lai tries to make her stay in vain at the airport. He hugs her and the two can’t control their feelings anymore. He promises to stay on the job till she is back to see him again.

The next week, all discuss on another trouble case. They decide to stick to their belief – just like what Zhen has told them. All will follow the story. Yong Lai calls up Zhen and both are doing well. He tells her that he is tired and has no time for leisure. However, he is lying as he is with his friends, enjoying company of women at the nightclub. Zhen overhears him and knows the truth. She isn’t angry or jealous but even asks him to convey her well wishes to the women! Yong Lai is impressed with her wisdom. But he really misses her and wishes to see her again soon. However, Zhen is out with her Western crew to cover a story again.

Conclusion

This serial gets 21.6% as the highest viewership, being deemed as the closest rival to ‘Good Luck!!’. I wonder why it can’t go higher -– the story is actually very well written and praised by others. It shows the insight of the harsh working environment well. I find it very realistic when certain times, we work hard but the effort is just not appreciated by bosses. Probably the theme is very serious and thus, not many can accept it. But we can see that the producer has placed a lot of effort in showing us a well-written plot with each episode on a different case.

The two leads’ acting is quite okay. However, many may find that Nanako is being stereotyped to be a strong and aloof professional working woman in all dramas recently. She ends up looking very aloof and unfriendly in every serial. It is a bit difficult for her to find a breakthrough. Masahau looks inappropriate to act as a cheeky man –- he simply doesn’t fit the bill. I accept him better as a person serious at work. The two do have chemistry working together.

The supporting cast is good. Almost all are from the two outstanding series ‘Emergency Room 24 hours’ Part 1 and 2. So their experienced acting can convince you. They tell you happy and sad stories that they face in their work. Actually they are the stars that steal the show. However, I feel that the suspense and the lure is no longer there if you watch it more than once too frequently. It is like a detective story that is divided into different parts. It is better if you watch the serial only once in a while.

On acting : * * * 1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : * * * * (Scale of 5)


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