Is Channel 8's new production, Fantasy, worthy enough to be called an 'ou xiang ju' (idol drama)? Sadly, this Michelle Saram vehicle is more of an idle drama.
But familiar favorites such as Kopi-O Il are sure winners with viewers
By YVONNE KWOK
Source: STREATS TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2002
AFTER watching a week's worth of Channel 8' s new drama, Fantasy, I've come to the conclusion that the producers must have taken a very broad definition of the title.
In this drama about a blind girl, Qianqian (Michelle Saram), who becomes a famous singer, I can accept that some people do dream of becoming a star.
I can even accept the premise that she lost her sight as a child after crying buckets of tears (literally, I assume, for her to have gone blind) at losing her mother.
Never let it be said that I don't practise a little constructive suspension of belief at times. What I cannot accept is that this production billed itself as an "on xiang ju" and then gave us two male leads like Chen Hanwei and Tay Ping Hui.
When the trailer for this show was aired, my first thought was: "What ou xiang (idol)? In Singapore?"
Because, you see, idol dramas in Taiwan, like Meteor Garden and Kiss of Youth, are always populated by impossibly good-looking youths who look like they just crawled out of their diapers.
My scepticism was proven right about a second later when I saw Chen and Tay in the trailer.
To be sure, Saram is good-looking and young enough to fit the mould, but aren't Chen and Tay a little too old to be in an idol drama?
Furthermore, an ou xiang should look so swoon-worthy as to be able to cut a record immediately after one dramatic outing and have the album outsell various Heavenly Kings despite having vocals a duck wouldn't be proud of.
Before any Tay Ping Hui supporters out there curse me to kidney failure and a slow and painful death, I need to clarify that I'm not saying that he's ugly. It's just that he's not good-looking enough to be in an idol drama. There's a difference.
To Chen's credit, he's a seasoned actor who can take on any role with aplomb.
But Tay is still stuck in the executive-hunk role, at which he is blandly effectual.
Saram is sweet and likeable, but she just doesn't have that screen-eating quality that Fann Wong and Celest Chong have.
This is the main problem with Fantasy. The Cinderella story is common enough drama serials, but it takes exceptional charisma and/or acting ability to make a simplistic plot watchable
Or if the stars look like Cecilia Cheung or F4.
What really works for Mandarin dramas are characters and plots that every man on the street can relate to.
I was particularly impressed : by Vive La Famille which ran several months back and, to some extent, the recently concluded No Problem.
These dramas dealt with social issues such as old folks' disappointment with selfish children, young people wanting to move out and children's pressure with schoolwork.
Huang Biren and Chen Shucheng were particularly inspired choices as a modern young miss and a crusty patriarch in Vive.
Is it any wonder that, according to AC Nielsen, Vive garnered a whopping average of 451,000 viewers an episode against Fantasy's 323,000?
Equally good to watch on screen at the moment are familiar faces such as Liu Qiulian, Chen Tianxiang and Tracer Wong in Kopi-O 11.
Liu and Wong are particularly enjoyable as harridans with henpecked husbands.
In fact, any of the characters in Kopi-O could be regulars at your own neighbourhood cofteeshop.
A pity then that it's placed in the 7pm slot where it competes with that monstrous hit and every auntie's favourite A Kindred Spirit.
I'm sure it could do better than the average of 287,000 viewers per episode it's currently getting.
The moral of the story: Stay away from idol dramas and stick with the familiar. Unless you can put together a drop-dead gorgeous cast that Matilda Tao will want to date.
P/S Don't agreeing with all points in the review, but strongly agree with the highlighted comments. By not commenting on Hanwei's looks (in contrast with Ping Hui's), and praising him for his acting skills, isn't she in tacit agreement that he is a good choice for idol drama? Since she has watched the recent 3 shows Hanwei acted in, we trust she can make better assessment of his acting skills than most reporters who hardly watch TV yet write reviews. Also, Matilda Tao's idol is Fei Xiang, well into his 40s.
Added on 22/7/02
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