Time for another edition of “Koala Watches Crap”, epitomizing a perfectly dumb way for me to waste my infinitely precious time. Thank god in this go-around I didn’t have a trainwreck story to keep me watching for longer than I ought to (Sealed with a Kiss), or a super duper adorable but horribly stiff actor to keep me drooling for longer than I should have (Hans Zhang in Falling in Love). This time around, I went in, watched, and bailed so quickly I left scorch marks on the ground. I realize that two of the dramas starred Blue Lan (Happy Michelin Kitchen and I Love You So Much), but my gripe about those two dramas is only tangentially related to him. While the other one has Hawick Lau once again, but he’s not the reason the drama Ru Yi sicks. The main reason all three dramas are terrible is because the story is just flat and uninteresting, adding nothing of interest or value to the world of cinematic narrative.
I don’t want to waste my time writing too much about why these dramas blow, so I’ll keep it short and simple. HMK is the third and final drama from the Happy trilogy (first being Happy and Love Forever and the second is my personal favorite TW-drama of all time Sunny Happiness). The drama once again brings together Taiwan and Mainland Chinese actors with a script that takes the action between the two shores. For the last drama, the two sets of OTPs and even some secondary characters or actors from the first two dramas are brought back for nostalgia and fanservice reasons. But the result is a drama plot written around characters rather than an organic story populated by interesting people.
I watched almost 10 episodes of HMK before calling it quits, because my goodwill from SH was so high that I didn’t want to accept this drama was just mediocre and boring. Evoking shades of Coffee Prince, the OTP in HMK involves a restaurant heir who doesn’t want to inherit or get married, so he asks a girl who he thinks is a boy to help him get rid of matchmaking possibilities. Along the way, they bicker and he gets kicked out of the family, and later the family business falls into dire straights due to the machinations of the evil family friend, and he’s forced to seek assistance from the heroine.
While the derivative story isn’t really that big of an offender in my mind (I’ve liked way worse drivel), it’s paired with dull execution and an OTP that has zero chemistry with each other. Zero. I’ve never seen Cheryl Yang and Blue Lan fail that bad at connecting with a co-star, which lends more credence to the gossip they really dislike each other (he thinks she’s ugly, she thinks he’s an asshole). The second leads were not bad, with Ying Er being interesting and pretty as opposed to tortured and dressed in muumuus like she was in SWaK. My boy Li Yi Feng was the only shining beacon of light, adding charm and energy in an extended cameo appearance reprising his Xiang Yun Chao character in SH. In the end, I don’t loathe HMK, I just find it a dud. If I were to throw in a food analogy, while the drama purports to be about getting three Michelin stars, it’s more like a meal at the Olive Garden – serviceable and flat.
I was rather looking forward to the new Sunday night TW-drama I Love You So Much, despite not loving any of the cast members. I just thought the story sounded cute, the make-up industry setting was different enough it could be fresh, and I was looking for a new coupling in Blue Lan and Ivelyn Lee. But right off the bat, this drama was a misfire left and right. The way Blue was styled just made him seem sleazy even though his character was not. And shoving Ivelyn into a wholly unconvincing fat suit in episode 1 was cringeworthy, plus I hate the whole “I was fat and got ridiculed for it, so I’m going to lose tons of weight easily and return with more confidence” mantra. It’s such an insult to people battling weight problems.
What really bites in ILYSM is that neither of the lead characters are likeable. The only one I like as a character is Nick Chou’s second male lead. Blue walks around with zero energy, like he doesn’t want to be there. Ivelyn tries hard, but her character is soooooooo annoying. I didn’t like her in either her fat or skinny incarnations – she remains just spoiled, dim and petulant. I understand this drama is about showing her maturation when she is faced with a business set back and needs to step up to save her father’s company. But in writing her character with barely any redeeming, or interesting, qualities, I’ve been alienated from caring about whether she succeeds or fails.
I don’t think this drama will have much chemistry problems, though right now the chemistry is much better between Ivelyn and second lead Nick. But even if Blue and Ivelyn burn up the sheets later, it’s not going to do much to salvage what is an inane story about rival cosmetic companies, and how Ivelyn pretends to be a boy to sneak into Blue’s company to steal company trade secrets. Buh? Really, drama? The cringeworthy ratings for this drama reflects it’s lack of a hook, leading me to hope it gets cut short so that everyone can move on to better things. CTS is really on a roll recently with crappy drama after crappy drama. I’m impressed one network can have this many misfires in a row.
Finally, last but not least, one of the more anticipated C-dramas of 2012 premiered earlier than scheduled just so the world can see the chemistry that sprouted between leads Hawick Lau and Yang Mi on the set of Ru Yi which lead to them going public with their romance. Knowing that C-dramas are almost always a miss for me, I nevertheless was strangely excited about Ru Yi. The previews gave it an old-school early Republic Qiong Yao makjang love story flavor (in fact, the premise of two kids switched at birth who grow up and fall in love was airlifted directly from Qiong Yao’s popular novel/drama Plum Blossom Brand), and I was kinda in the mood for that. Sadly, Ru Yi ended up being a can of expired Coke, watered down flavor and no bite.
The worst offense about Ru Yi is that it’s boring. It’s really really boring. It’s akin to reading a civil procedure textbook and the next thing you know, you’re falling asleep after two pages. The entire drama has no life in it, quite possibly due to the dull directing and bad editing. It’s like all the tension is sucked out of what the story could have contained, leaving only a pale imitation. The acting isn’t bad, but it’s not stellar either. Everyone seems to be going through the motions robotically, playing their characters as required but taking it no further than that.
It hurts that the two lead characters are so annoyingly bland. It’s like white bread falling in love with white rice. Hawick and Yang Mi have average chemistry with each other, nothing that would lead me to see them falling in love onscreen to mirror them falling in love offscreen. I blame it on the characters more, because each is written as such paragons of virtue and sincerity I wonder if they’ve ever found a dollar on a mountain road and decided to keep it. Even their love story is bland, with the usual fall in love at first sight followed by a series of forgettable interactions that involve him being solicitous and her being reserved but engaging.
Ru Yi doesn’t suck as bad as HMK or ILYSM, but as a period C-drama it’s supposed to hit a different emotional target than idol dramas. I won’t lie and say all three dramas aren’t blessed with beautiful cinematography, but looking at pretty scenes onscreen is meaningless when the execution and story fails to deliver anything substantive. It only ends up highlighting how superficial these dramas are, an empty visual treat without anything to back it up. Once again these are my opinions, but since I wrote about these dramas a few times, I wanted to close the loop with my first impressions on them. Verdict? They’re all crap. Harmless (unlike SWaK), but still a terrible waste of celluloid.