Koala Watches Crap: Happy Michelin Kitchen, I Love You So Much, and Ru Yi

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.


Koala Watches Crap: Happy Michelin Kitchen, I Love You So Much, and Ru Yi — 16 Comments

  1. Totally agree with you on this. I recently lost my interest in C-drama and T-drama. I felt that their story line is flat and repetitive. Honestly, by just looking at the promotion pictures, nothing catches my eyes. BTW is it just me or Yang Mi’s bang is just so freaking ugly and traditional? I like her in “period drama” rather than these type of movies

  2. Shucks I was looking forward to Ru Yi, I think I’m still going to give it a try.

    Also I’m not a big fan of Taiwan dramas as most of them are silly and blend. But the recent “In time With You” was awesome. The plot was realistic and easy to relate to, plus the chemistry between Ariel and Bolin was just explosive. I’m off to watch their movie “Love Sick” now.

  3. yup and the entire universe is telling me to write but I’m still lost somewhere between me and a goal and reality 😉 STUCK!!!!

  4. Oh, the crap wagon, how C-dramas and T-dramas and J-dramas and K-dramas fill it up, time and again.

    Blue Lan seriously needs to re-think his selection process when approaching his work: he’s one more bad drama from my banned list, which takes a lot of effort to get on, in the first place. Secondly, if he makes the banned list, I will NOT watch anything of his again no matter if I’m assured by every faithful reviewer under the heavens that it is the crackiest crack-a-lackin’ drama. He’s like the Keanu Reeves of dramas, only that insults Keanu and dramas. So frustrating, I just won’t go there any more and move him to the banned list and live a much happier life for it.

  5. I started watching ” I love you so much” first 2 episodes and found that the first episode wasn’t bad. I think what bothered me was the writing itself about the characters–who they are and what they do in the drama to actually get me to want to root for them. Also, the story of them working in the makeup industry was different but the idea of her pretending to be a boy to get into the competition to steal—so over and done with. This just reminds me so much about the other Tdramas–a little of “yellow ribbon love” mixed with “sunshine angel”.
    I would love to see a drama that’s original with lots of spunk from the main characters.
    I suppose so many dramas out there that no original work anymore? How sad.

    • When I first saw the beginning of I Love You So Much, the characters were problematic personality wise and it definitely was not promising. The idea behind Ivelyn’s character’s transformation was really shallow/ Blue’s character’s just got duller. As I watched on, the growing chemistry between Ivelyn and Blue’s character made the drama increasingly interesting. The last episode of the drama gave me a sense that I got Rick Rolled but it did make the main character seem more practical than delusional (I suppose). One thing I did like about ILYSM was its kick-butt soundtrack and the well-done chemistry development in the middle. I can say I really applauded Mao Di’s humorous interjections and Mark Chou’s acting.

  6. Phew, havnt watched that drama with hans zhang in it, so I’m just gonna check it out a bit later. I just wish that his acting will improve up for the SOP queen and he better to not ruin his otp chemistry with chen qiao en. I don’t wanna find myself dissapointed after this whole long-waiting hmm…

  7. i’m actually watching “I love you so much” for Ivelyn Lee, maybe I kinda feel bad for her because her previous drama ‘Love Recipe’ was a dismal in ratings but i really saw her effort. And there’s just something about Ivelyn that draws me to watch her performance. Overall, “i love you so much” is not really gripping. So with OG down now, Skip Beat would be my first Sunday choice. Wonder how Love Forward will deliver, after all it has a pretty refreshing premise to start with.

    And I only watched Happy Michelin Kitchen for the cameos and squealed like a little girl when the OTPs came out, and when i saw Annie Chen (IP fever).

  8. YLSM is a copy and paste ( bad ) script drama. The acting is below average. But you know what ? I knew it would be that way from the start. And i don’t care since all i want from that show is Blue with guyliner. How could i be disappointed with such low expectations ?
    But i agree with the lack of creativity in TW dramas these days. Writers need to find new ideas, and inspiration : They are like stuck in a box, breathing their own sweat. Should we send them on a Tour du Monde to refresh their minds ?
    When the story lines will improve, the acting will follow and i’m sure we will discover talented rookie actors.
    Dramaland has its cycles, and we are at the bottom of the poll.

  9. I like Blue Lan, but I have never liked or finished any of his dramas and Happy Michelin Kitchen and I love you so much didn’t sound too interesting to begin with. I did wish that Happy Michelin Kitchen will have a great OTP chemistry to rise against the word out there that Blue and Cheryl dislike each other.

  10. I was looking forward to HMK because I’m a Cheryl fan (not so sure why on that)… but I haven’t watched it yet. Too bad it’s on the crap list! Stand-outs are few and far between, methinks. However, some sub-standard dramas still have that pull (the OTP, the potential, star power) so we can still enjoy them.

    And… why did they team up if they dislike each other so much? Seems like it could have been avoided. -_-‘ Maybe they couldn’t get past the petty. I thought they were more professional than that. Oooooh, well. 😉

  11. i don’t think i’ve ever finished watching a drama with blue in it. for some reason, i find him rather repellent & very wooden as an actor, so i’m kind of not surprised that these dramas aren’t all that gripping. i may watch HMK just for cheryl, though & the cameos. 🙂

    thanks for the reviews, ms. koala!

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