I had the oddest drama viewing line-up this past weekend – on one hand I marathoned 8 episodes of President and finished that baby up (without a doubt the best drama so far in 2011), on the other hand I watched the final episode of the TW-drama Channel X (國民英雄) which aired this weekend, and with it ending 5 months of self-inflicted hell (without a doubt the worst drama so far in 2011).
I lay the blame for Channel X’s woes solely on the scriptwriter and PD, the former writing an elementary thriller script without any sense of tension and subtlety, and the latter filming said script with neon signs lighting the way of every plot development. The only reason I kept watching Channel X every week was because (1) that is how much I adore lead actor Joe Cheng, and (2) the drama was so unbelievably godawful, every week I would actually be curious how much worse it could get. I guess I can give props to the drama for taking risks, even if it ended in a giant face plant.
Channel X was so poorly executed and consequently so poorly received from the very beginning, the production actually shuttered filming for two whole weeks around episode 6 so that it could massively rewrite the entire second half of the drama. That move probably salvaged the sinking ship, because the latter half actually had a tiny beating heart of sanity. The pseudo-noirish elements were tossed and a reasonably palatable emotional story was ushed in. But ultimately all the damage was done and this drama was merely limping to shore, hoping to make it to the end before it collapse onto itself.
With that said, the beginning of the Channel X (the first 10 minutes or so) were wonderfully taut and dense with tension and mood, and hooked me before the rest of the first episode made me stare in disbelief at how dreadful it all turned out to be. I guess its fitting that the ending of the final episode left me happy again (the final 10 minutes or so), content that at least the drama managed to scrounge up an ending that slightly validated the 19 hours I spent with this sucker.
I was like a rider stuck on a runaway roller coaster, screaming that this thing was going to fly off the rails with my life flashing before my eyes, when in the end the ride pulls into the station and I stumble off saying my Hail Marys. The concept really wasn’t bad at all, but the scriptwriter couldn’t properly flesh out and present the story, and the PD’s heavy-handed directing made everything overwrought and ridiculous as opposed to anxious and suspenseful.
Joe plays An Zai Yong, a hot shot news anchor with a pretty starchy reputation for truth. He’s engaged to a loving enviromental activist fiancee, who ends up dead by the second episode. Initially he’s fingered for the murder, but with the unwilling assistance of Hong Xiao Lu, a paparazzi played by Amber Kuo, he manages to clear his name. But his investigation into her murder uncovers a greater conspiracy involving enviromental pollution, high stakes land development, and later, illegal weapons sales. All of that sounds like it could be exciting, except what was produced was about as exciting as trudging through mud on a rainy day.
The picture above and some below are from the wrap party last week (Channel X was a live-filmed drama), where it’s clear that the cast and crew appeared to have really bonded over the experience of working on this drama. The happiness in the wrap party pictures likely stem from a joy that the drama is over, and bittersweet feelings that everyone survived and emerged unscathed from this debacle. Joe and Amber have confirmed to news outlets that they really did become good friends after making this drama, and I totally squeed because they did have a lovely and understated chemistry together in this drama.
While Channel X may not be the worst drama I have ever watched, it certainly was dreadful enough that I’m sad it exists as a blemish on the resumes of Joe and Amber, both of whom are better than this, but whose performances sadly also stunk up the joint in this train wreck. Half the time Joe acted like he stumbled onto the set and didn’t know his cues, and Amber was alternatively underacting or overacting. In the end, I still adore both actors and can hardly blame them for a drama that was a big ole mess from the start. It was also my choice to keep watching, but now at least I know my fortitude when it comes to watching bad dramas for actors I love, which is pretty high indeed.
Channel X was a thriller that ended up having zero thrills, a melodrama that had more behind-the-scenes melo and drama than anything that occurred on screen, a love story that felt like it was tacked on via Elmer’s glue, and an execution that a teenager using a Super 8 could shoot better.
The only 100% successful part of the entire production was the theme song sung by Anthony Neely, a punk-rock esque ditty called “Happy Armageddon” (末日快乐) that promised Channel X would be as energetic and cacophonous as the tune, but sadly the drama never lived up to that expectation. Click here to watch the opening credits and listen to the song – both of which really are the best thing about this drama.
Okay, I kinda have to amend that – Channel X was the best I have ever seen Joe look in any production. He was so smokingly goodlooking sometimes I could overlook the ridiculousness happening onscreen if I just focused on his face. I did that a lot.
Until next time, Joe and Amber, you two stay cute and adorable for me, okay? And as a major spoiler so that no one needs to watch this thing just to get to the end – the opening scene which shockingly showed the death of Amber’s character was a feint, she was injured only and her supposed death was used to catch the mastermind behind all the conspiracies in this drama. She and Joe end up happily ever after, frolicking on the beach. So there you have it. With that, I put Channel X in my vault and throw away the keys. Anyone looking for a great thriller drama, I suggest watching Black & White instead.
[Credit: all pictures from SETTV]