Wednesday, March 19, 2014

[O] Gilded Chopsticks / 食為奴 [TVB][2014]

This is a collection of various commentaries and opinions about this series under one post. If you see this at the top, this means it is updated. For more under this post, do click the Read More button. I welcome your comments and your thoughts as well so do use Post A Comment and do indicate which episode you're talking about. Since this is a threaded comment system, you can reply directly to any given comments you wish to reply to. When this is done, I will move this to Reviews Database.

SOME INFO
Synopsis/Cast/Everything
Here

Some news
Jaynestars

Similar series
Happy Ever After (1999)
Bu Bu Jing Xin (2011)
Duke Of Mount Deer (1998)
Secret Battle Of The Majesty (1995)
Duke Of Mount Deer (2000)
Royal Tramp (2008)
Yong Zheng Wang Chao (1999)

19.03.2014
EPISODE 25 : The end of all ends

8th dies and on his death he won. He got Mo Suet's heart and Mo Suet never loved 4th at all. She left, Tai Po also left, all left except for Lee Wai who true to history became a high ranking official some years later. I assume Yeuk Pik was well. No more was said of her. 4th continued to look for Mo Suet and when he saw her he ran after her. But Mo Suet will never love him like she loved 8th. Actually 8th death scene was quite sad; after all such a talent wasted on being angry, vengeful. Louis Cheung was brilliant in that last scene. In fact he got better as the series went along. Even Wong Cho Lam did very well towards the end and Ben is Ben. The actress that impresses me was the newcomer Stephanie Ho. She actually got more expressive as she went along and the scene when she thought Tin Po was going to kill her on the orders of 8th was a very well acted scene. Loads of potential and already can act very well in her own way. I find her very expressive which was interesting because in the beginning I didn't think she was expressive at all.

Overall a funny series (at times) mixed with very serious drama (at most times). I still think the series I listed above were better with Happy Ever After taking the lead in terms of connecting food with the imperial story. I find the food in Gilded Chopsticks didn't play too much importance and frankly I thought Yongzheng was insipid, especially by pining for a woman who doesn't love him. What makes this series works are the actors. Story wise, there are plenty better, but performance wise, they used new people or new faces or old faces but in different roles creating a fresh feeling. Whilst I doubt Louis as 8th, his performance at times shows the brilliance of this unexpected casting. A must watch for fans of this genre. I enjoyed it tremendously even if the story was predictable. The only two things unpredictable were;

1. Mo Suet's unchanging heart; and
2. Yongzheng's unchanging heart.

I expected Mo Suet to fall for Yongzheng, she never did. I expected Yongzheng to fall for Yeuk Pik, he never did. Which is refreshing even if frustrating.



13.03.2014
EPISODE 24 : Mo Suet ...still alive and still crazy in love with 8th

I don't think she has ever loved Yongzheng.

Poor Nin Gang Yew who died such a horrible death. Yeuk Pik lost her child, Tin Po lost his manhood... but is it as it is?

No I will say. I will say Yeuk Pik and Tin Po are both in the conspiracy with Yongzheng as we shall know in a few more episodes.

But does Mr Wu? If he doesn't, it shows Yongzheng has learned to plot and destroy without Mr Wu's guidance. The student has mastered the master.

Wait!! One more episode till the end?!

13.03.2014
EPISODE 23 : Mo Suet ...still alive, I guess

Obviously isn't it? I predict she will reappear to rescue the emperor from the devious 8th and become a concubine. Meanwhile in his sadness and being drunk our emperor slept with Yeuk Pik who became pregnant but now being accused of affair with Tin Po who has since moved on with Siu Yu, Emperor believes everything. How disappointing.

And why is Yongzheng still nice to that dastardly other wife whom he knew had repeatedly tried to harm Mo Suet?

One thing I love about Duke of Mount Deer is the emperor AND Siu Bo never ever fall for the same girl and all they talk is politics and in the end it wasn't politics that drove them apart but the necessity of being apart.

12.03.2014
EPISODE 22 : Mo Suet ... dies?!


Mo Suet dies, and I hope so. The entire scene reminds me of Happy Ever After when Nnadia Chan died being executed the same way but under a more tragic circumstances and Kong Wah was heartbroken leading to the series and one of TV's best moment and best acting moment ever; Kong Wah carrying Nnadia's dead body walking out of the room along the corridor and his mother (Suet Lei in her earlier bad acting moments) tried to stop him but Kong Wah gave this staring contest, tears, hurt, anger, hatred at his own mother and Suet Lei was so shocked he had to silently give way and he carried her out of the palace, and without saying 1 single word. Ben, you may be a wonderful actor but you're like 80% not there to Kong Wah's level and Kong Wah never won any TVB award in recognition for his body of work. This time Mo Suet doesn't deserve the death but in some ways she was stupid enough to believe 8th who proved to be a selfish jerk.

I am still quite bothered with Ben's 4th who can't seem to get anything right. He could have just told his mom or better yet his wife to just shut up and out of politics since what Mo Suet did was sorta political. This series at this point losses the intelligence of YZWC and borrowed a little sentimentality from Happy Ever After but could not reach that emotional arc that Happy Ever After provided. I did for a moment thought Mo Suet will return as a lookalike in disguise. But hey it is a comedy and there's still next episode so maybe there's hope she didn't really die.

Luckily there's Tin Po and Siu Yu providing the laughs, cute moments and oversexed moments as well.

And poor poor Yeuk Pik.


07.03.2014
EPISODE 20 : The sacrifice of Yeuk Pik and the treachery of Mo Suet


All confirmed in this episode. Suet indeed is 8th's spy for reasons I do not understand. She even tried to "hurt" the gentle kindly Yeuk Pik and the scene where Yongzheng almost slapped Yeuk Pik was harrowing. Strangely Tin Po never even argued or even shown coming to the rescue of Yeuk Pik, now the pawn in the fight between 8th and Yong Zheng. Suet is not a pawn; she is an idiot. Mr Wu disappointed that Yongzheng shouted at him, refusing to listen to his advice left. Good!!

Mr Wu is indeed the most ruthless most impartial man. Even if Suet was his student, he told Yongzheng the truth; that he thinks 8th is suing Suet to get to Yongzheng like how Xishi was sent to enemy land to seduce and befuddle the king so that the rival can win. Like beauty toppling a dynasty.

I am disappointed in this weakling Yongzheng, but not as maligned and defamed as was the Empresses In The Palace version. I don't get Suet's motive. All I can see is her treachery and it is sorta confirmed 8th is using her affection to use Yongzheng''s affection for her. I am sure it will end with Yongzheng forgiving her and either Suet falling for Yongzheng or leaving in extreme guilt. She should get lost!!

The 2nd half is very funny as Siu Yu tried to express her love for Tin Po who still thinks she is a man. Wong Cholam's reaction and Stephanie Ho's cuteness is really what makes this episode very funny amidst the very serious stuff.

06.03.2014
EPISODE 19 : The arrogance of Nin Gang Yew


No comment on Mo Suet's treachery. Surely she should see how selfish 8th is by now. No comment on Yeuk Pik as concubine. But damn it! Greatest scene in tonight's episode when Yongzheng and Nin Gang Yew was having lunch and Tin Po appears with BBQ lamb I think which Nin eats in the past but not this time and as Tin Po engaged in war of words with him, he suddenly leaped up and slapped Tin Po hard, TWICE and would have been third time if Yong Zheng shocked at Nin's arrogance, temper and obvious display of power shouted for him to stop and Nin suddenly realised he lost his temper. Poor Tin Po, two swollen cheeks!

Amazing scene but unfortunately Yong Zheng doesn't seem to be in control of anyone at all.

Must watch!! Even if just for that scene. Wong Cho Lam is doing very very well.


06.03.2014
EPISODE 18 : The greed of Nin Gang Yew, Mo Suet's treachery and Yeuk Pik's sacrifice


Some of my speculations in Episode 17 commentary came true. 
Mo Suet indeed is a spy for 8th for reasons only time will tell. Frankly if your most loved asks you to spy for him which entails sleeping with the enemy, how much does that say of your most loved's integrity? This series is setting up 8th as a hypocrite and power hungry ambitious ruthless selfish bastard. Ohhhhh very excited!

Yeuk Pik married Yongzheng, but neither Yongzheng nor Yeuk Pik wanted that. Yeuk Pik ran away with a very gutso Tin Po who dared to look into the eyes of General Nin and shouted General Nin is greedy and selfish. Not that General Nin can kill him since he is Yongzheng's favourite. To Yongzheng's credit he wanted to make Yeuk Pik his sister and give her hand in marriage to Tin Po but alas, Nin wanted to solidify his position as family with the emperor, Empress Dowager wanted Yongzheng to marry someone in better position that poorly lowly Mo Suet. So at the advice of Mr Wu he married both Yeuk Pik and Longkodo's niece or someone so as to balance two powers. I find that smart but also very silly when Yongzheng said he wanted to marry Suet and make her empress. I laughed. Real Yongzheng will see women as disposable assets, country is no. 1. Suet is not only a Han, she is also poor, not of nobility, family's executed (even if Kangxi came to regret that) and she is also once associated with 8th, all things mama doesn't want in a daughter in law. Yeuk Pik couldn't run away and was captured back. Lee Wai got pushed into the sea and is lost I think. Tin Po had to see her red sedan carried by him dramatically in the palace and he was screaming her name again and again. Very dramatic but seriously flawed because do concubines enter the palace that way? Anyway Yeuk Pik married Yongzheng on the condition her brother leaves Tin Po alone. I doubt he will. Yeuk Pik will never be empress because at that time I do believe Yongzheng has an empress but of course in this series he doesn't even have a concubine. When asked to take 2 at once he cried "How can any man take 2 concubines at once?". Oh TVB, you so disappoint me, when did you become Qiong Yao? WHEN? And I wonder who is playing Longkodo's niece or whoever?

Good for Tin Po though, he never ever blamed Yongzheng at all and good for Yongzheng who actually felt very very bad for him and at his own inadequacy. Well he was inadequate. I thought this Yongzheng is so lame.

You know who should be emperor? Mr Wu. Oh he was ruthless! You can say he is the most ruthless man in this series. He is friends with Tin Po, he even matched Tin Po and Yeuk Pik and yet he was the one who told Yongzheng he must marry Yeuk Pik to balance the power because politics and country is everything! Numero Uno! Nombor Satu! Dai yat!! Mr Wu is the unofficial advisor, which makes Cheung Ting Yuk the errr.. announcer? Just there? Mr Wu is the ultimate dude in this series.

Poor poor Tin Po but his one true love is Siu Yu who displayed great bravery when she defied General Nin when she told him she does not know where Tin Po and Yeuk Pik is and told him in his face that if he dares he can kill her but the royal kitchen is understaffed and try explaining to the emperor when he doesn't get his breakfast that morning. Woah!! What a woman! I really like Siu Yu! 

Anyway I pity Yongzheng more. The one he loves is bound to betray him. The ones he married, one he doesn't like and the other he feels extreme guilt for having taken her away from his best friend. Not an enviable position, more so when he has 2 in laws who are opposing one another and both are as important to him as the other.

So far very exciting series. In fact my nights now are complete with 2 very exciting series; this one and the very engaging and exciting Storm In A Cocoon. Hasn't been like this for a very long time.

 05.03.2014
EPISODE 17 : Of the battle between 4th and 8th and Ben's interpretation of Yongzheng

No doubt Ben Wong has graced every role there is to grace in TVB which is mainly villain (Safe Guards and he was delicious!), nice guy (the nicest there is that is in Kindred Spirit) and the middle guy who does things because he had to (Gilded Chopsticks).


Whilst Gilded Chopsticks is promoted as  Wong Cho Lam comedy series about food in the imperial palace, the more I watch this series the more I feel it is really about Yong Zheng. Food was just a sub topic and Wong Cho Lam merely there as comic relief. The entire series is more about the rise of Yong Zheng and perhaps the fall of the 8th prince. It is basically a simplified version of Yong Zheng Wang Chao. And anyone who watched that excellent CCTV series that is probably the first to portray Yong Zheng sympathetically without muting his harsh actions (as in showing him as a harsh emperor rather than a cruel emperor like they always do in the past and in history) will see many similar scenes. This is mainly because historically such things happened but more precisely, YZWC showed them the way they did in a grander bigger and more pressure cooker style whilst TVB, applauding their attempts to show imperial politics in a mature way took a more decidedly simpler route that still showcases Yong Zheng's dilemma and manages to convey his difficulties but not the immense pressure he was in. In fact there are many characters in here that in previous TVB imperial palace series never really did mention but now you will see Mr Wu, Cheung Ting Yuk, 8th prince, 9th prince, 10th prince, 14th prince, Lee Dak Chuen, Lee Wai and many more. I bet you know Nin Gang Yew because he was indespensible in the history of Yong Zheng, much like how you can't hear about Kangxi without hearing the name Aobai or Qianlung without hearing the name He Shen (eventhough TVB has never made any series with He Shen in it if I remember correctly) when depicting Qing emperors. The rest of the names are those you will hear when watching Bu Bu Jing Xin but frankly, it is obvious TVB is inspired heavily by YZWC for the politics, Duke of Mount Deer for the role of Ko Tin Po and his role in Yong Zheng's rule and also Happy Ever After for the theme of food.


The more I watch this series (at present it is almost at half way I think), the more I like it. It is the first of a very long time that TVB ever bothered with a story. The casting may be disputable. After all this is a smaller production so to speak, because if any bigger, Him Law and Vincent Wong will probably be one of those princes respectively. However I am getting use to the idea of certain actors in certain characters and how they're portrayed even if sometimes they're quite confusing. I always feel only if TVB does remake YZWC seriously, I feel the actors will feel very challenged. After all, how can anyone make a comedy out of Yong Zheng's story? Nothing funny at all unless you make it a situation comedy and throw Yong Zheng into the future (which TVB did to hilarious results). Other than that, can anyone laugh one minute at Ko Tin Po's antics which will almost certainly follow up with perhaps the devious tricks played by 8th prince or the likes?


Acting wise, this is where this series shines thus far.


Ben Wong is a decent actor, that everyone agrees. I thought he was a miscast as 4th prince but that was at the beginning. He has the look of an intelligent ruthless emperor and for that he suits my idea of Yong Zheng. He has a few moments to shine when in confrontation with Louis Cheung's 8th prince and many more. He looks good in the usually ugly Qing hairstyle and despite TVB's wardrobe department falling into coma over the wardrobe selection to which you will see those that people often wear for play-acting photoshoot (like myself when visiting Forbidden Palace), he looks good generally. But this is not BBJX. BBJX made the costume part of the character. As 4th prince was thrown into the succession battle and sucked into a vortex of deceit and trickery, his clothes changed. When he was in self imposed exile, he was dressed simply eventhough quite obviously the fabric is still luxurious. You don't see such fine attention to details in Gilded Chopsticks. They wear whatever they have and most often than not, only Ben, Louis and Wong Cho Lam have access to better clothes. The rest were quite hideous. Look at the crown (or emperor's hat) for example; at least brush the darn thing. Qing dynasty never looked so poor than in Gilded Chopticks and funny thing is Tin Po on his ordinary days dress more luxuriously than the princes. Such lack of attention is not doing this series any favour. As well as the uninspired hairstyles for the female actresses, it shows this is a production that is placing their money elsewhere other than what we can see on the actors.


Anyway back to Ben Wong. Costume is not helping him so as an actor he has to help himself. He is rather good at those scenes where he has to defend himself, has to argue his way out, incredulous sort of expressions and what nots. But so far I can't see him as Yong Zheng even if his reinterpretation is actually very decent. Somehow I feel his Yong Zheng is always waiting for Mr Wu to advise him, that he doesn't make a solid decision himself. One particular scene where General Nin returned from war victorious and he toasted General Nin but General Nin's soldiers refused to drink until General Nin told them to and cut to Ben's Yong Zheng, he looked bewildered, cautious and a little fearful at General Nin's influence over his men and his men's loyalty not to the emperor but to General Nin. In itself this is a great scene even if unsuitable for what is supposed to be a comedy. However same scene also in YZWC but grander scale and with more back story which you see a little in Gilded Chopsticks (where General Nin rode a horse into the palace having rudely whipped one of the ministers away - I believe also in YZWC), however in YZWC the actor as Yong Zheng was very skillful in portraying resentment for General Nin's action. After all, he is the emperor, his troops should owe allegiance to the throne and not to the general and so you get a sense that he is very very angry but had to suck it up because he needs General Nin. This is later reflected in a scene where he married Nin's sister and made her strip in front of him and then without touching her angrily walked away. He releases his anger and resentment on the sister since he can't do it on Nin as he has some wars he wants Nin to win. Much later when Nin was sentenced to death, as in after he died, Yong Zheng actually felt sorry for killing Nin because of the wars now the country faces without a capable general. Even how Nin died was peculiar. He seems rather loyal to the emperor (after all he was a servant in the 4th prince household) and yet he has this immense sense of pride, arrogance and self entitlement which ultimately led to his death. As opposed to Lee Wai who was loyal, street smart and knew his place, he never posed such a dilemma for Yong Zheng like Nin did. Now I wonder will I see all these in Gilded Chopsticks? Ben did very well but his Yong Zheng is at times too soft, too indecisive which I suppose is TVB's way of explaining how he was wrongly made a scape goat for some atrocities he supposedly did. I always feel Yong Zheng was not a cruel man; he was a practical man and he was a very disciplined man and he was an especially harsh man, as he was also harsh on himself. Ben has the looks of a harsh man but the script does not allow that side of him in Yong Zheng to be shown, maybe not yet. But in TVB's attempt to make Yongzheng the nice guy, I feel we will never see Ben given the free reign to interpret Yong Zheng like I know he could.


Louis Cheung is another one who impresses me as he goes along. I am sure his 8th is supposed to be noble, he has some grand ideas and he feels he is entitled to the throne because he thinks himself way smarter than everyone and way more capable than everyone and has the genuine support of major ministers and most of his fellow brothers. This is the interpretation Louis Cheung took and whilst he is not handsome enough, in scenes where he is lamenting or is devious, thus far I feel Louis Cheung is doing a splendid job. In fact there is a scene where Kangxi basically told 8th what he really thought of him (ambitious, devious, bad bad son) which is sorta like the one in YZWC except Elliot Ngok can never ever ever ever ever be Jiao Huang who is the definitive Kangxi. That scene was where Kangxi was on his deathbed and he explained why he felt 8th was not suitable to be Emperor. He basically said "He thinks he is most like me but the truth is he is least like me. Everything he does has an ulterior motive, that is for his own benefit and not for the people of this country". True! Well at least in YZWC's 8th that is true. Jiao Huang is to me the most elegant actor I have ever seen as an emperor. I can still remember him lamenting "I am all alone!!" to Zhang Tingyu (Cheung Ting Yuk). He basically made YZWC such an enjoyable series and he makes Kangxi such a skilled diplomat, sometimes a biased father and mostly a flawed leader because he is too nice and too entrenched in the establishment that at the end of his rule, he could not right the wrongs he did. But Yongzheng did, he owed no one for his succession except those few whom he later either demoted or sentenced to death. History tells us he was cruel, new perspective explains to us perhaps he had a very good reason and he was not a despot. Ahhh great memories of that series. Back to Louis.  I feel he should be 13th prince but he manages to show the complexity of the 8th prince except what is missing is the elegance. Every depiction of 8th prince is someone who has great taste, who knows how to enjoy life and who is kind hearted and a man who is walking nobility, literally and figuratively. Whether he is genuine or not is up to interpretation but there is no doubt he was ambitious. Louis Cheung showcased all that but a pity he lacks the looks and the gentlemanly elegance one expects from 8th prince. In that regard about showing the good side of 8th whilst being ambitious without being cruel intentionally, Kevin Cheng in BBJX was the ultimate. But I feel you can't show the good of 4th if you show 8th to be absolutely noble, something which BBJX almost failed spectacularly if not for the character of 13th prince who humanises the harsh 4th prince, both in BBJX and in YZWC as well the character of 14th prince who was steadfastly loyal to 8th prince which softens the whole ambitious ruthless 8th in a sense because he was genuinely affectionate to 14th prince. Gilded Chopsticks could do with a 13th prince mainly because poor Ben's indecisive scared fearful wooden 4th prince needs a true friend that is 13th prince. In fact he also needs an empress and I think he has one or at least a crown prince because when giving merits to General Nin, one of the stipulation was that General Nin becomes a teacher to the crown prince (this was written before Episode 18 where it was revealed Yongzheng does not even have a concubine - see how restrictive the imperial household is in TVB's world). Luckily in here, our 8th whilst is kinda ambigous is sometimes quite gentlemanly. I mean he need not tell Ah Suet that he wasn't the one who found the 7 colours fungus and that it was 4th who found it and yet he did. I find that such a strange moment but does show 8th in a good light. In all Louis Cheung interpretes 8th as someone ruthless, ambitious and self entitled but deep down if he wasn't born into the royal family, he might have been an artistic scholar liked by many. Quite a sad predicament for our 8th. Frankly I also think Louis Cheung will make a decent 4th prince and our Ben can play the noble 8th prince. It is to the credit of both actors that I can imagine them in various princes roles.


The plot thickens later on when Yongzheng marries Yeuk Pik and makes an enemy out of Tin Po but I feel Tin Po like Wai Siu Bo will always remain loyal to Yong Zheng and will fall for Siu Yu instead (this was written before Episode 18 and I was right as in Tin Po never quite blaming the emperor who was pushed into a marriage he did not want and foolishly wanted to marry Suet who is a commoner, a Han and later on obviously a spy of 8th Prince). Yeuk Pik herself in this version may also fall for Yong Zheng and likewise because right now Suet suddenly turns on the charm on Yong Zheng whilst 8th becomes a monk. My feeling is Suet agrees to assist 8th whom she feels is the rightful heir (she thinks Kangxi actually wanted 8th to be prince - she should have just asked Mr Wu and Tin Po for the real version of events) and she pretends to be with Yong Zheng to get information. I hope I am right because this will be exciting because if I am wrong, Suet is a very fickle minded woman (this was written before Episode 18 and I was right!! I think ...)


As for Tin Po being Wai Siu Bo, there were some scenes that directly relate to that such as when 4th was battling Songottu (correct my spelling please!) and Tin Po helped to subdue him much like how Wai Siu Bo helped Kangxi to subdue Aobai except Tin Po did it with a fish I think and Siu Bo with his small knife. The former funnier but more dignified, the latter quite devious and more sneaky.


Are you watching this series? If not, you must! It is rather funny and very dramatic. Put aside the whole historical inaccuracy and you will definitely be swept away by the whole palace intrigue. Just bear in mind, it is simplified. For a more attractive and heart breaking version with less politics but more beautiful people and out of this world gorgeous costume, watch BBJX. For more Yong Zheng centred story, you must not miss Yong Zheng Wang Chao and try and see if you can get a good English subtitled copy. The mandarin and the dialogue almost killed me, so very level 10 Mandarin.


04.03.2014
EPISODE 16 : Where Siu Yu realises she is in love with Tin Po and Yongzheng has a moustache

Whilst I criticised the actress playing Mai Siu Yu in the beginning, like episode 1, by now I am liking her more and more. As time goes by I find her settling into her role very well and whilst her acting is very raw, there is like something that I really like about her. I find her acting raw but natural, with enough to convey sincerely. Compared to Aimee Chan in Outbound Love, I find this actress' smiles and laughter more natural, more real. Somehow I feel Aimee was forcing herself in Outbound Love, I find her just someone acting as someone. As for Wong Cholam, he is also settling well into his Wai Siu Bo sort of role. Yes I do see the DOMD reference eventhough I am baffled how anyone can make a Yongzheng story a comedy at that sort of era. Ben Wong was fantastic except that isn't 4th prince. I find his 4th prince too simplistic, too "follow Mr Wu's advice" when I want my 4th prince to have more opinion of his own. What a way to wash away his responsibility and conscience isn't it? And look, he has got a moustache now. I wish Ko Tin Po would say "Sire you got a moustache after I came back from General Nin's camp?". No one did. So weird. Louis Cheung amazes me in a way that I find him fitting into the "he doesn't even know he himself is a hypocrite" sort of hypocrite. Especially 2 episodes ago when he faced to faced with Ben in a scene where 8th asked 4th what his punishment will be after Kangxi's death. Suddenly Louis Cheung's face changed, to someone more sinister. I wish there was a 13th prince. Because I was Louis to be 13th prince and maybe Roger Kwok to be 8th prince and Vincent Wong as perhaps 14th prince. Why don't TVB make a proper remake of Yong Zheng Wang Chao but you know, sex it up?

So far no romance yet for our Yongzheng. In fact I think he has quite forgotten about Suet. In fact right now I see him "romancing" Tin Po more. They're always together.

This series views the entire problem during his reign in a rainbow tinted glasses. They're simplified, as TVB always inadvertently do, which is a blessing to those who just want to laugh along and a frustration to those who perhaps feel TVB is trivialising history. I am enjoying this history but I wish TVB would for once make a really good fictional-historical drama instead of relying on stunts, gimmick or changing history from dire to so simplified.


27.02.2014
EPISODE 14 : The rise of Yongzheng and Ko Tin Po

I looooooooooooooove this episode!!!!!

26.02.2014
EPISODE 13 : The death of Kangxi and the power struggle for the throne
Wow. Not sure to call this episode a huge screw up or exciting or both. One scene where 8th questioned Kangxi why he can't be emperor with Kangxi giving some very valid excuses - entire dialogue if made in the past would certainly have been between 4th and Kangxi arguing about 14th getting the throne. Now, with sudden emergence of popularity in 8th, 8th became the villain. Lee Dequan the eunuch is such a wuss. The minister Zhang Tingyu is such a wuss. Suddenly Kangxi is like such a lonely old man hated by his sons, unloved by his people, betrayed by his most trusted eunuch. I find that all amazingly dramatic but also a huge screw up of everything. Basically 4th is faultless, 8th is a hypocrite, 10th and 14th both are idiots in judging people and 9th is a murderer. Yes 9th killed Kangxi as opposed to the popular depiction of 4th. In fact 8th imprisoned the emperor as opposed to 4th imprisoning the emperor, closing all communications to the emperor. So this is a twist to real history although one would argue 4th did not imprison, he was merely doing some news control. And the most unbelievable of all, the sons feel more for own brother 8th being kidnapped by 4th and even called 4th a hypocrite, a villain and an ungrateful git whilst interestingly no one feels the same towards 8, 9th, 10th and 14th imprisoning the Emperor and going against the old man's wishes. I don't get the logic. And our "Sei Leong" aka Mo Suet I think is Rachel of Brother's Keeper when it comes to 4th. She is blinded to 8th's hypocrisy, slapped 4th for using her to kidnap 8 when she clearly heard 4th's accusation that 8th imprisoned his own father for the throne. How can Mo Suet ever reconcile her dream prince with this reality power hungry hypocrite? Best line of the night was 8th saying he did what he had to do to secure his own throne when the father retorts only the emperor can choose his successor and clearly it isn't 8th. Then Kangxi died. Suddenly. I feel perhaps he should live a few episodes more because now he is dead, so next is what? 4th being vengeful? Since this depiction shows him as 100% innocent, I suppose he will have his good reasons to kill off his brothers. Frankly I would have started with the eunuch Li Dequan and then move to 9th, then 8th and some of the ministers and then 10th and finally 14th.

This series is clearly influenced by Yong Zheng Wang Chao for the basic storyline and some plot points (like "Father what did you say? Oh you mean you want 8th brother to be the emperor?" aka that Safe Guards scene where Ben Wong did to perfection. But of course the story is back to front, or opposites.

It's a very exciting episode but I just feel a bit heavy handed in making 8th the villain and 4th totally innocent.

25.02.2014
EPISODE 10 : The Duke Of Mount Deer, sure but it is more Happy Ever After part deux

EPISODE 11 : The emergence of "Lui Sei Leong"
Even at one point the instrumental music is from Happy Ever After. Another good episode but again out with epicness, in with small quarrel type of struggle.

This series is getting exciting because palace struggle which features Yongzheng is always exciting. I like this Yongzheng aka Yinzhen (Mandarin) aka Yan Zhan (Cantonese) more and more. He is shown as someone not ambitious, someone who does his duty without bending over his principles and works very very hard. He is in fact like  a log of wood. His father had to choose between 4th (who is isolated from his fellow ministers since he is not into sucking up to people) and 8th (who is the friendly prince and everyone likes him). For the father, 4th will have a difficult time as emperor in establishing his policies whilst 8th will have an easier time. But the father seems more eager to give to 4th than 8th. For me the reason is simple. 8th whilst popular is bound by his friendships and promises to whomever he promised to whilst 4th will have an easier time establishing his policies since he has no "debts" to repay. In real life I think Kangxi chose 4th for this reason; he was low profile, he looked like he cared deeply for his siblings, he spent every day delivering medical tonics to his father, he did his work tirelessly and with utmost dedication and he was ruthless; he hated corruption and at that time the country was in need of such ruthlessness. I believe Kangxi in this series will have the same reasons. However thanks to Mr Wu, 4th may have gotten himself a surprisingly ruthless advisor who told him to do great things and do great changes, he must be ruthless and set aside his compassion. Ahhhhhh.... I am sure you will see what is coming like miles way huh? Anyway Lui Sei Leong is Joey Meng except she is not called Lui Sei Leong but you get what I mean. She wanted to assassinate Kangxi all of a sudden because she found out through a letter left by her dead mom to her adopted mom how she was the last surviving member of a family killed by Kangxi many years ago. Came out of nowhere, this little dramatic twist. Needless to say she used her feminine giles to dupe poor 4th into taking her into the palace. She really has no love lost for 4th whilst reserving her love for 8th for reasons I am beginning to wonder.

Anyway I find the palace intrigue very interesting, I am however not very much interested with Lui Sei Leong and such. I do find Ko Tin Po and his antics funny like in episode 11 he basically helped 3 great nations to find their signature dishes; curry for India, spaghetti for Italy and Russian Borsch for Russia. That sequence whilst historically inaccurate was very very funny. Had  a good time laughing.

Meanwhile I really like Ben Wong's interpretation of 4th prince even if he is too handsome for this role. Louis Cheung is ok for 8th, but again not handsome or honourable or even looking like someone so cultured as 8th as he was historically known.

Kangxi is Kangxi. No comment.


21.02.2014
EPISODE 9 : Happy Ever After meets Yong Zheng Wang Chao meets The Duke Of Mount Deer meets Moonlight Resonance

That sums it all for tonight's episode.

Tonight is another comedy mixed with heavy drama episode. I like how 4th prince is portrayed; someone very nice in his own harsh way. I mean he is a harsh man but also a very nice man without class boundaries. 8th prince is also quite perculiar; he is also a nice man without class boundaries and his actions may have been sincere but somehow tinged with a bit of self serving reasons. Tonight tells us that even more. This episode is just like Yong Zheng Wang Chao and real history except in TVB's usual case in making epic stories about imperial family, they always manage to remove the epic and delete the imperial, so in the end the struggle is too personalised, too family and way too impossible. No prince, even 4th prince will openly engage in sword fighting with fellow manchurian in the streets. However the issues in here is certainly very real and well highlighted.

Due to their contributions when manchurian successfully conquered China, these old families from the 8 banners (all Manchurians of course) are given land, money and special privileges; much like Malaysian Bumiputra status except even more. They of course want more but the state's treasury is almost empty and one way to save money to cut off these allowances. Of course none of them agreed.8th prince advocated being the nice guy; give in but on lesser terms so as to preserve the support from the 8 banners, even if the Hans feel totally unjustified. 4th prince advocated doing away with the system altogether, give them land and some cash to become land owners and farmers. In other words work for their due in the share of the money. This is of course way too harsh but 4th has a point; he is trying to preserve the peace of the entire country AND fill in the state's treasury. Kangxi does not agree with both or rather agrees with both. His way is to find an upper hand in negotiations and so used 4th to be the bad guy and then later use 8th to be the good guy. He was in other words using even his own sons for his own gain. Poor 4th and 8th. This clearly create even bigger feud between 8th and 4th but won't be the deal breaker. I dislike how 14th is just the prince next to 8th when he was and will be a real contender and the only one to die of old age. 4th and 14th are both sons from the same mother, Concubine Tak who is from a very powerful clan. 8th on the other hand has a lowly concubine for a mother, which might compensate for the reasons why he is so ambitious.

Just so you know, I believe Kangxi was a great emperor but as he got older, he couldn't do what 4th later will do; revamp an old and tired system that benefits the 8 banners, detriments the Hans and killing the treasury. I always thought 4th was ahead of his time as an accountant, economist and generally in administrative capacity. Whatever he did he paved the way for Qianlong's golden years in a mere 13 year rule. 13 years, and he managed to fill in the treasury. He was a very harsh prince (the way he dealt with collecting bad debts was a good example) and he was a very harsh emperor (he even tried to do away with special privileges and allowances for scholars, forcing them to work to earn their keep!) and he was also a very harsh father (if rumours were true about his eldest son) but I feel he was often maligned in history until in recent times when his contributions were the seen as bridging between Kangxi and Qianlong but in itself merits pages of them, instead of just footnotes.

In a way I like how this series, however simplified and with colour lense tells the story and struggle of 4th prince. I am sure he will turn to being a villain but do remember, judge Yongzheng not through our eyes today but to that of his time when he was surrounded by capable brothers eyeing his position making his life difficult, corrupt ministers and eunuchs, an empty state treasury, disasters and Hans oppressed and Manchurians the bullies and they even bullied the emperor itself. Whatever he did he did it to preserve his dynasty legacy and in the end to pass a trouble free crown to his son. That explains why he did what he did to his problematic trouble causing brothers. He had his reasons. You can know more of this to the largely fair depiction of Yongzheng in Yong Zheng Wang Chao as well as reading the history books, however prejudiced did tell you he was a hardworking monarch. This series will continue that tradition as in this episode a simple scene of him standing his ground against the demands of the 8 banners. Of course just imagine more people involved because like I said, TVB managed to take away the epicness of it all.

On the other side, his failure to kill the trouble maker earned no respect and even some smirk from Joey Meng's character. I like to point out a lot of characters in here are based on real people in history; like Mr Wu who was 4th's mentor/teacher to his sons, Lee Wai (here changed to Tin Po's servant) was 4th servant who was illiterate but was so street smart he became a magistrate, etc, Nin Gang Yew (everyone knows him!) was also 4th's man who became a great general who unfortunately became too big for his own good, Nin Yeuk Pik (maybe another name) was 4th eventual concubine who died childless despite many effort)

On the lighter side, I am beginning to quite like Tin Po's mentor, don't know her name. At first I was annoyed but after a while, yes she is inadequate as an actress but I like her expressions and thus far I find cute and interesting. I still think all the other women are way too old for their respective roles. As for Louis Cheung, I like him generally as an actor but I still feel he is a miscast as 8th. But has this ambiguousness in him that makes me second guessing his 8th. Ben Wong as 4th is more like a misunderstood wood right now; he does not have the ambition to become emperor, he still looks out for the crown prince and I am quite pissed he doesn't have his 13th as his best friend/supporter. He seems so alone. But Ben is fantastic as I watch him get into the skin of 4th, even if his liking Joey, etc seems OTT for me. Where is his wife?? And children??

Joey Meng is fine, Nancy is fine, Wong Cho Lam is fine, Jack Wu is fine, May Chan is cute even Bob is super funny. That guy is just hilarious.

So far Gilded Chopsticks is very enjoyable and I hope you are watching this with me.

Loving the theme song more and more.


17.02.2014
EPISODE 7 : Ko Tin Po, slave to food

I really do like the Chinese title, Slave To Food, rather than Gilded Chopsticks which didn't fit. Tonight's episode is back to the light hearted pace and I had a good time laughing at some of Wong Cho Lam's antics. He isn't Dayo Wong, he can't deliver sarcasm well like as if it is a golden opinion, but he can be quite funny. I also like how he interacted with Kangxi who personally went to invite him to enter the palace, even if he was in disguise. Ko Tin Po may be an arrogant twerp but he is actually a nice guy. I am however not liking how 4th prince goes into the kitchen lar, walks everywhere lar when even if he is a really nice guy and a very friendly one, he is and should be reminded of his special status. The palace intrigue aspect is a lot like Yongzheng Wang Chao except with rainbows and colourful ponies. A bit too... bright. But since this is a comedy, at least the writers tried to make it look sorta right for the tone of the series.

So far this is an enjoyable series even if nothing earth shattering. It has some good performances even if the casting is weird. It just shows very few in TVB now can be princes and dukes and emperors. Even more lacking are young actresses playing their age. The women in here are either too old or in one case, looking too young to be believable as some amazing chef.

But if I may repeat, it is an enjoyable series and I hope you're watching it with me. So what do you think of it? For one, I really like the theme song.
17.02.2014
EPISODE 6 : Downfall of Crown Prince, an intense episode, where is the comedy?

What an intense episode with the downfall of Crown Prince which was sorta silly. It follows the popular account of his fall from grace but not quite as faithful. Either way, I can't help but in a way pity the crown prince for the immense pressure but you will still despise him for being such an evil character forced by circumstances. Power Chan did well but his deliberate movements is killing my enjoyment. And for a comedy, entire episode missing Wong Cho Lam save for the first few minutes and it was so serious, I wonder where has the comedy gone?
It is an intensely dramatic and darn serious episode where a better bulk of it is the confrontation between 4th and crown prince, so you get Ben versus Power which ultimately makes for good viewing except the scene really does remind me of a more dramatic moment than that of the still intense but rather sad scene in Yong Zheng Wang Chao. I see many similarities but somehow TVB managed to make it more familial which is both good and bad. I really do think entire episode was off tangent with the while Gilded Chopsticks theme, however enjoyable it was. Why not then make a proper Yong Zheng series?

I have someone telling me every time she sees 8th that is Louis Cheung, she is reminded of a hip hop guy. I see what she means because Louis does not give me the vibe of a cultured prince that is 8th prince or maybe I was spoilt by Kevin's excellent portrayal. The costumes didn't help. None of the costumes did, I felt like I was watching a rather low cost production. But there is something about Louis Cheung that makes him someone you can watch and enjoy except he is just a miscast as 8th. I see him and I feel he is better as 4th in his own unassuming way. Many series on Yongzheng but none shows him as someone so unassuming and non threatening that you immediately see him as a possible successor to Kangxi. I will love to see that interpretation.

You won't see much of Wong Cholam in this episode and I have a feeling I heard some champagne bottle popping and glasses clicking. Is he that not watchable?
13.02.2014
EPISODE 3 : Horrendous costumes, good story

I think I am pretty biased when it comes to this series. I am a huge fan of Yongzheng as well as when he was the 4th prince so basically I have watched and will watch anything with Yongzheng in it. Many series almost always concentrate on him as the emperor but here is him as a lowly 4th prince. In fact too lowly. I feel all other princes and the way they talk to him as if he was of low born prince when 8th prince is more lowly born. I do like how 8th prince is portrayed as some gentleman who wants to and thinks he is playing fair. Like in BBJX. But I think this 8th prince is a cross between BBJX's true gentlemanly 8th prince and the YZWC's hypocritical 8th prince, in both instances the 8th prince thought he is in the race to be Emperor, etc when in fact he was never in the race, not as much and as deep as 14th prince was. Louis Cheung is ok as 8th prince except he is not handsome and he looks more like 4th prince. Ben Wong should have been 8th prince who seems to have equal or almost equal screentime as the main leading actors. I mean 8th prince in here has the potential and impact like how An De Hai was in The Confidant. The story is very very familiar even if the names are changed. It borrows a lot from BBJX and much more from YZWC. First time in TVB there's the 8th prince and gang given prominence, then there's Nian Gengyau and more importantly his sister, played by Nancy Wu. Once I knew she was Nian's sister, I knew her love with Wong Cholam is doomed because we all know Nian's sister married Yongzheng and had a very sad life. Not like he neglected her or anything but just... sad. And we have the quittesential representation of Lui Sei Leung and since the series revealed she is an orphan, my bet is she descended from some Han family hounded to death by Kangxi's early regime and surnamed Lui (maybe?) and so will have this love/hate relationship with the later Yongzheng. Also very rarely we ever see the crown prince in any story about Yongzheng which I already noted probably because he already died by that time.

But I notice whatever series about Yongzheng, in TVB, they always ignore

a. 13th prince. I suppose to create an illusion of solidarity and loneliness for Yongzheng
b. the childless empress of Yongzheng

Which is why I love BBJX. In this series Ben's Yinzhen is like unmarried but we know very little about him just yet. In BBJX no mistake every prince is married or will destine to marry some powerful family's daughter as 1st/2nd wife. Even YZWC being so political also featured the wives to a small extent.

Gilded Chopsticks thus far is like a summary but an incomplete one. It is great for entertainment but if you're seriously into Kangxi/Yongzheng, I really recommend those series I mentioned in "Similar series" such as YZWC which really shows not his good side but his entire sides, good and bad together with the 8th prince and 13th prince.

I am however not enjoying the god awful costumes. Pink is too pink, blue is too blue. Reminds me of the costume I would have worn if I was there to take some tourist snapshot. Nothing beats BBJX in terms of costume. I find the chef's costume must better than the rest. I am however very shocked at Episode 2 where we see some Japanese dudes and my god, military costume prior to 1712 (where crown prince was first removed as crown prince so this series is wayyyyyy before that)? Way too modern don't you think? And I swear every time I see Kam Kong act, I had to switch on the subtitles.

Age wise, the actors fit, or at least looks like they fit except for the girls. Joey Meng is wayyy to old for her role unless her role is someone who is in her 30s and unmarried which is unlikely. Nancy is lovely but again too old since she would have been married by now and she doesn't look below 20. The guys are ok because the princes are around 20s, 30s and such so they look the age.

I am still quite bothered with Power Chan's deliberate Parkinson Disease-like hand movements. What's up with that?

Other than that, I am really enjoying this series which should have been a CNY series rather than that god awful Queen Divas.

11.02.2014
EPISODE 1 : First impressions

Quite a funny 1st episode, reminds me of Happy Ever After except with lesser charismatic actors. Many Inbound Troubles actors and to me quite a few miscast. For me Ben Wong should switch roles with Louis Cheung. For me Louis Cheung looks more like Yinzhen than Ben Wong as Yinzhen. Louis as Yinsi (8th prince) is to me a miscast and should be Ben Wong. And again 13th prince is nowhere to be seen, making it seem like Yinzhen is all alone. I am however baffled by the very deliberate acting by Power Chan as the Crown Prince. I find the way he talks is so put on and very very forced to show a very "si kui" sort of guy. But do notice how he is wearing yellow. Someone in TVB has seen and is learning from Bu Bu Jing Xin which in turns seen and learnt from Yongzheng Wang Chao. In TVB series about Yongzheng which admittedly always starts with him as Yongzheng, never have they ever depicted Yongzheng's relationship with Crown Prince (who died by then) or with 13th Prince (his biggest supporter). The other princes just didn't look like princes but more like bickering women. Costumes are terrible but this is TVB, so there are some recycled ones. However the scenery is great, after all it is Hengdian but somehow looks rundown and not majestic enough.

Wong Cholam is ok but he is not Bobby Au Yeung. I cringed seeing Joey Meng as the defacto Lui Sei Leung. She is like 20 years too old for the role. Nancy is supposed to be the most beautiful woman but errr... maybe that is why this is a comedy.

I do like the Chinese title which should be the English title as in "Slave to Food". Gilded Chopsticks sounds too chirpy. And the poster is very colourful but a bit overcrowded.

I recommend that you watch Happy Ever After and Bu Bu Jing Xin. However so far I do like the 1st episode.

9 comments:

  1. This series is by far okay for me, but honestly, I prefer the 'in the palace' drama scenes than the supposedly 'comedy' scenes, because honestly, I didn't find it funny. The plot itself is interesting, and I actually like Ben Wong as the 4th Prince. He's been doing too much evil characters, and I actually like him doing a more innocent character (as of currently, because my Chinese History Self Study has not reached the Qing dynasty and therefore have no knowledge of Yongzheng). At least, he's believable that way. As for the 8th Prince, is he supposed to be evil? If he is, then I actually don't mind. I actually kind of like Louis Cheung after Brother Keeper. Wong Cho Lam is okay now, but there still isn't any scenes that makes a deep impression for him yet.

    As for the female? Me being a huge Nancy fan will say that Nancy is just great being there. ;) Okay, I'm being bias, but because I have no historical knowledge of her character, I wouldn't think she's a miscast. But as for Joey Meng's character.... UGH! I mean, I don't mind her, I like her in A Change of Heart. But this.... IT'S HER VOICE!!! Not because its annoying, but she's supposed to be a martial artist, and a martial artist with a BB voice is just.... really... weird.

    And the actress who I don't know who she is, the one that's supposed to be a really great cook that sells noodles beside Wong Cho Lam's store? Yes, her. It annoys me how everyone thinks she's a male when it's so obvious she's FEMALE. Just because she dresses like a male, doesn't mean she is. In fact, it doesn't look like she even made a little effort to hide the fact that she's female. And please, don't tell me she's a male. I will die that way, seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really like Ben Wong I'm here as the kindhearted and genuine caring prince. He is like the male version of Lau Sam Ho except much more interesting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But he won't be Lau Sam Ho for long. 4th prince is destined to be cruel.

      Delete
  3. I like Louis Cheung ever since 'Inbound Troubles'. I'm actually watching BK mainly for him. I'll be watching this series for him too.

    Haha, I've become a huge fan of Louis Cheung. Talented guy, not only can act, but, also can sing and compose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can dance also! Has good memory also. He and that fat guy (what's his name?), both very talented except one is more towards comedy. However I do feel Louis is a miscast as 8th prince.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, Bob is also very talented.
      When did Louis Cheung show his good memory? Did he participate any game show that need to test his memory?

      Delete
    3. You must watch! That 2nd last episode of that super trip show where a lot of guests and he partnered with Bob for a dance routine. He had to memorise the difficult Russian dance and whilst he wasn't the 100% dancer type, he is the only one I ever seen to have memorised the exact moves and all of it and performed the whole routine. He and Bob looked like they could have died for exertion. He is a very good dancer.

      Delete
  4. Funn,

    I love your enthusiasm with the Qian dynasty history! Your in-depth analysis of Yongzheng using various interpretations by different actors and productions are very insightful and helpful. Keep up the great work!

    P.S. I have been watching TVB series for a very long time and am slightly optimistic that future ones have the potential to be better than the less inspired series that have graced the tv screens in the last few years.

    ReplyDelete