Sunday, 7 August 2016

House of Spirits 一屋老友記 TVB Review

Hey friends!

Since House of Spirits from TVB just finished airing, we decided to do a quick review for it.

Basic Overview: House of Spirits is a supernatural comedy that was released June 27th and ended in July 31st. The main actors and actresses of the drama include Bobby Au-yeung, Nancy Wu, Joyce Tang, Jonathan Cheung, Koni Lui, Bob Cheung, Bowie Wu and Helena Law. The eldest son of the Po family, Po Foon (Bobby Au-yeung), comes to his father's (Po Luk played by Bob Cheung) house one day and he finds he has passed away while waiting for all his grown up children to come home for dinner. Po Luk’s dying wish is for Foon and his other siblings, Po Yan (Joyce Tang), Po Yue (Jonathan Cheung) and Po Yi (Bob Cheung), to come to better terms because of their terrible relationship before. In the father’s will, it is written that before they can sell the old house that their father has left for them, all the siblings are required to live together in the house for 9 months. After finding out the worth of the house in the market, the siblings all agree to move in so that after nine months they can each receive a quarter of what they sell. Po Yoon soon finds out that two old ghosts reside in the house. Can Yoon, with the help of these ghosts, bond the family together once again?

Our thoughts and opinions: This was a very light-hearted and warm drama and we absolutely loved it. The story is simple but it is meaningful and very inviting for the whole family to join in to watch. After the first episode, we thought that the story somewhat resembled Wudang Rules because of how the people were forced to live together for a while and how they will eventually build a good relationship with each other. House of Spirits, however, surpassed our expectations and was way better than Wudang Rules. We loved the home and family feels that HOS brought us and it’s rare to find dramas now that can provide this feeling.The story was easy to follow and the acting was good from everyone. We like how all the characters has their own flaws in the drama but they work to improve on them. We’ll talk a bit about the acting and characters later. There was a good portion of funny and emotional parts which in our opinion, is hard to achieve a good balance of. Also, we enjoyed the new addition of bloopers at the end of each episode as they added some humour. The bloopers gave the audience a better perspective on the acting since we only see the good takes and sometimes forget the difficulties involved with memorizing the script for the actors. It also looked like they had a lot of fun filming which is great to see. The only thing that we would say is disappointing is that TVB didn’t do more with the ghost element of the story. When we first heard that they were filming HOS,we were pretty excited that TVB may do something close to a horror show. After seeing the trailer, we knew that that was never going to happen. While HOS was a great family comedy, the idea with the ghosts was just a side aspect and it wasn’t the focus of the show. We felt that this was just more about the problems of Po Family and the ghosts were just a gimmick to give the old plotline a new packaging. It’s a shame TVB always does this. We really would have liked to see more of different ghosts and their stories. That being said, while HOS failed as a spooky drama, it turned out to be a heart-warming story about home which surprised us. Another thing we were a little upset about is that the characters never wore the costumes they wore for the trailer like Nancy dressed as Edward Scissorhands. We thought they would do something cool with that. Overall, this was an amazing drama that was entertaining and comforting. It was especially emotional at the end and it even threatened tears down our faces! Although it didn’t turn out to be a horror drama or anything, it became a pretty hilarious comedy. There’s not much more to elaborate for the plot so we will only do the character reviews next and not the plot review.

Character/Acting Reviews:

Bobby Au-yeung as Po Foon (寶歡): Awesome job from Bobby Au-yeung and he picked up his acting after the plain With or Without You role. Po Foon’s character is dynamic because we see him faltering in the role of being a good brother and regretting his actions in the past of leaving his family when they needed him. Bobby excels at the comedic parts as usual but also does well in serious parts like when we see his teary scenes. We liked how he gave up his job as a principal but ended up as a rice noodle roll maker or a snack shop owner because it’s the simple things in life that give people the most joy as displayed here. He was the star of the show and delivered his character greatly. Glad to see Bobby come up with another great role.

Nancy Wu as Chu Chan-chan (朱燦燦): A lot of netizens have complained about this role in HOS and said that this was more like the 2nd female lead instead of the first.  We agree that the role of Chan-Chan is a bit bland and there isn’t much to her. But given the boring character, we don’t see how Nancy could have acted any other way. She tried her best and just acted the character that she was given. When we were watching the drama, we didn’t really think of her as a TVB Queen or anything and we just treated her like any normal character. We are now more interested, however, in watching her in A Fist Within Four Walls. The character of Chan-chan really doesn’t have much to give and unfortunately there is not enough screen time for her to develop either. Her role was just basically to be a companion of Po Foon and Po Yan and help fix things in the house since she was an electrician. This was overall a pretty disappointing role.

Joyce Tang as Po Yun (寶欣): We thoroughly enjoyed seeing Joyce in HOS and this was definitely one of her best roles. We felt, like many others, that she was the first female lead of the series. Joyce did well in the role of a woman attempting to pursue her own dreams but struggling to do so because of the commitment of taking care of her family. This happened when she was a kid and wanted to study abroad but she had to give that up to take care of her younger brothers after Foon left. As an adult, she faces a similar situation because she wants to start a business of her own but finds herself unable to balance the time dedicated for family and work. This results in her always quarrelling with Mui Chiu (梅昭), her husband, and she eventually realizes that Chiu and her have become very distant. Joyce’s acting is good when Yun finally breaks down from all the stress and cries. We can also feel her bitterness towards her family and Foon because they prevented her from being able to accomplish her goals. This character showed Joyce’s versatile acting as we could see several different roles in one character (a bossy sister, a loving mother, a confused wife, a responsible daughter, etc.)

Jonathan Cheung as Anthony Po Yue (寶愉): For Jonathan, this was probably one of the larger roles he received. He did good in his role but Po Yue was not as outstanding as the other characters. Po Yue is the third sibling of the family and he is materialistic like his wife, Fiona Yue Fa (余花). He is fearful that if he becomes poor and cannot buy brand name items for Fiona, she will not love him anymore. He works hard and strives to earn as much money as he can in an investment company. We liked seeing Jonathan but there wasn’t much to the character. We can definitely see him getting more roles in the future though.

Bob Cheung as David Po Yi (寶怡): This was definitely a surprising role! We don’t recall having seen Bob before although he has been in several TVB productions in the past. We are very glad that another talent has been discovered in TVB. This is most likely the biggest role that he has gotten so far and Bob does a good job for a less experienced actor. After HOS, we;ve seen him in Between Love and Desire and Daddy Dearest and we hope he will continue getting some more roles. He has a good voice so we hope he gets some songs to sing too instead of the same people always singing for TVB. It was a little sad how Po Yi didn’t get Sing-san in the end but at least he got Jeannie Chan so it’s all good. Character wise, Po Yi is just a lazy guy who is passionate about music but afraid to show his talent.

Lau Kong as Po Luk (寶祿): Lau Kong is a great veteran actor and it was nice seeing him in HOS. A little scary when he was beating the young Po Foon up though… And it was sad to see him waiting for his kids for dinner and then dying. We’re glad he got the chance to talk to his children as a ghost and he looked after them as the cat, Fei Jai.

Tsui Wing as Mui Chiu (梅昭): After being freed up from Come Home Love, Tsui Wing finally appears in another drama. Nothing much to say about him, but he’s funny when the ghosts enter his body.

Pearl Chan as Bianca Mui Siu-fei (梅小菲): She was okay and better than certain kids that act in TVB. We like her as Bianca better than the kid in Daddy Dearest. Of course, she’s really young and we can’t expect much from her, but some of the crying scenes felt pretty fake (even though they are supposed to be fake in the movie), but even the crying scenes that are supposed to be real look fake too.

Koni Lui as Fiona Yue Fa (余花): Fiona was awesome in her supporting role and for comic relief. Definitely good to see Koni after a while since she’s had her son and since we didn’t watch Fashion War. She plays a convincing role of a dumb model and bratty wife or family member. She’s a bit annoying at times but of course, that’s part of her role so we can’t criticize that.

Bowie Wu as Bak Wah (白樺): Bowie is another veteran actor and we always look forward to seeing him. He did a good job as Bak Wah and he plays a cute couple with Yi Lan. He served as a good comic relief.

Helena Law as Mrs. Bak - Yi Lan (白太-依蘭): Same comment as above for Helena. She did a lot of Long Po (Dragon Granny) roles before so it was a bit different seeing her as Yi Lan, who was a kind-hearted ghost. But then again, she did become Long Po at the end when she scared the people off so they wouldn’t force them to sell the old house.

Moon Lau as Liu Sing-san (呂星晨): Moon was pretty good and cute and she’s one of our preferred actresses in the line of TVB newbies that came from Miss HK. Enjoying her in Fist now.

Jay Fung as Jay Fung (馮允謙): Jay didn’t do much - he was just himself. We actually wanted to see Sing-san end up with Po Yi instead. At least get got to advertise himself a bit in the drama…

We won’t go through the other characters since we couldn’t think of much to say for them.

We give House of Spirits around an 8.5 out of 10 because this was one of the best dramas so far this year and everything including the theme, story, and characters just elegantly tied together. Although this isn’t like an action-packed drama, it is a sweet and meaningful drama for the family telling us that relationships within a family can always be bettered by communication and understanding each other better.

-CeeJay

*Image retrieved from: https://vincentloy.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/review-for-tvb-drama-house-of-spirits/

6 comments:

llwy12 said...

Thanks for the review.  I haven’t watched House of Spirits yet, but have been keeping up with the various news topics about it and am glad to see that the series did well overall.  I’m actually not too surprised at the positive reviews for the series though, since it was kind of a given already that the series would do well when the cast (what I would consider a “strong cast” given it is comprised of mostly veterans leading rather than newbies) was first announced way back when, plus it’s a remake of an old TVB classic that already had a good script to begin with (besides, can’t really go wrong with Bobby as the main lead – even if the rest of the cast sucks, at least we can count on his performance being good, lol).   

It’s pretty obvious that TVB is trying to turn over a new leaf this year with all the changes in management and the huge effort to recruit veterans we haven’t seen in a long time back to TVB (i.e. even recruiting those who were supposedly ‘blacklisted’ previously due to working for rival stations or were labeled as ‘traitors’ for badmouthing TVB).  Unfortunately though, it’s “too little, too late” in my opinion, as TVB is too far gone already that I really don’t think they’ll be able to salvage even a third of the ‘glory’ they had in the old days (and it doesn’t help that for every step they take forward, they take like 10 steps backward).   I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to watch House of Spirits or not, despite the good feedback towards the series.  In fact, come to think of it,  I actually haven’t really watched any TVB programs this year -- I guess I finally had it with the endless crap that TVB had been churning out the past couple years and have become a bit ‘jaded’ to the point that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to watch anything TVB-related without getting ticked off somehow, so I don’t really bother anymore, lol.   I will be lucky to have watched even 1 TVB series in its entirety before this year is over….

Cee said...

Hey! llwy12, thanks for checking out our review again! :) It's always nice to hear from you.

We agree with you about how sloppy TVB has been these couple years with dramas and even their shows. We are now watching the dramas with a blind eye and trying to overlook their many fundamental mistakes. Like how Grace Chan had unlimited bullets for COD, that's still ticking us off to this day. And how it hailing ice bricks in Curse of the Royal Harem... wow. We do however recommend HOS just to get back into TVB for the family style and the general feeling of home with a mix of comedy and good acting from Bobby for the most part. A Fist Within Four Walls is also pretty good so far with the exception of this one scene that is so cringe. We are doing weekly reviews for AFWFW as well.

The management swapping with TVB is of course a huge part of what's making its shows diminish in quality. For example, we read about a new drama that's coming up with Tony Hung and Priscilla Wong. Not that we have anything against them but them again? Together even? Seriously? We are not only really feeling the power of Sandy, but we are also getting a bad feeling that this drama is using their rumours and separate, new romances to fuel for gossip magazines and create buzz for the drama. That is so low and cheap in our opinion. Watch there be an article every week about the reporters asking if Natalie is jealous that Tony is filming with best friend Priscilla. At this point, TVB needs a solid script, a solid team both in front of and behind the scenes to pull off some quality dramas that will bring the audiences back. We are not interested in hearing more petty reports of TVB's set up for publicity.

Anyways, let us know if you are interested in any other TVB dramas. The list right now is Brother's Keeper after AFWFW (hope Grace doesn't ruin it and half the original cast is gone anyways). Then it is Inspector Gourmet after Daddy Dearest and after that is Law Dis-Order. Thanks for stopping by :)

llwy12 said...

Hi again!  Thanks for the reply. :)

Yep, I agree with you guys about the management changes, though the frustrating part for me is TVB management always trying to claim credit for certain veteran artists agreeing to return to film for them when we all know that in almost every case, the management had nothing to do with it (most of the artists return because of certain producers, the chance to work with certain artists, attractive script / story, sense of familiarity, loyalty, they have no choice, etc.).  Sometimes I wish the artists would refuse to even give TVB the time of day – but we all know that won’t happen given how the HK entertainment is so small and not many artists are going to voluntarily burn their bridges.  And please don’t get me started on Sandy Yu – I get all worked up just mentioning her name, lol! 

Oh and I’m totally not surprised at TVB’s publicity stunt thing for their series and programs.  They’ve been pulling that kind of stuff for decades so of course they are not going to stop now – in fact, with the dismal state they are in right now, I wouldn’t even put it past TVB to heighten the publicity thing even more to draw as much attention to themselves as possible.  As the saying goes in the industry, it’s better to be in the news for something negative than to not be in the news at all – at the end of the day, negative gossip is media exposure, which of course is free publicity for TVB…they would never pass up that opportunity!

I’m actually not looking forward to any upcoming TVB dramas with the exception of maybe Uncle Chi’s (Liu Kai Chi) series if it does end up airing this year (it’s always a delight watching Uncle Chi onscreen – I definitely don’t mind sitting through a boring series if he’s in it, especially since nowadays, it’s so easy to just forward through the other scenes that he’s not in).  I don’t plan on watching Brother’s Keeper 2 because I didn’t like the first one anyway and with Ruco Chan (who was the saving grace in the first installment and made the series even remotely watchable) only having a cameo role, plus I can’t stand Grace Chan and don’t really like Edwin Siu either, so even less motivation to watch (I might tune in for a few episodes just to watch Hugo Ng, but depends on how much screen time he has).  I also heard that AFWFW is pretty good (both my mom and my sister-in-law are currently watching the series), though I’m not really keen on that genre of series and not tremendously fond of the cast either…we’ll see though…I may end up giving it a go if I have some time later on (which likely means “never” in my book given how busy I’ve been lately, lol).

Cee said...

Hey! llwy12!

Oh yes, the higher ranked executives and such always claim that they were a part of the reason why veterans returned. Honestly, although it is nice to see the veterans back on screen, we also think that it is time TVB fostered some of their own actors and actresses. Nowadays, all the leads are 30-50 something and it is lacking some of that new star power. Many people are flocking to kdramas because there are new faces and they are only in their early 20's sometimes. What is more is that they are also good actors. If they were in TVB, they would be doing kelefe roles for another 10 years before their name would've gotten out there. Also, back to the veterans returning... some of them cite staying home with family and stuff to be part of their reason for filming for TVB. And of course the script, the producer, the cast, etc. You are spot on about the industry being super small and it is lacking creativity these days as well. The film industry is small, the TV industry is only TVB these days for dramas, the music industry is also a joke with Herman Ho giving all the awards to Jinny. A lot of people are leaving for bigger opportunities and larger wages in the mainland as well. So it is even more important to get a new batch of younger entertainment industry stars. The people that are rising now like Nancy and Mandy are already in their 30's.

Yeah TVB is riding on gossip magazines for sure. Sometimes we just wish there was actually some quality stories (in the dramas) from TVB so the audience would watch it for the show. Looks like this part of the industry is not going to change though. Even the reporters have nothing to say so one time, we saw this article about Karena Ng shopping in Central... how is this even newsworthy?

We agree with you about Brother's Keeper, it was not that good. Especially with Linda's Rachel who kept changing her mind about Ruco and it did not make any sense. We haven't seen Hugo Ng before so we can't comment about his acting. We however can already imagine Grace being loud and immature because apparently, that is her character. Yes, AFWFW is pretty good right now and quite suspenseful and we hope you can give it a try :)

llwy12 said...

Part 1 response (damn character limitations, lol)...

@CeeJay: LOL…I actually chuckled at the comment about Herman Ho giving all the awards to Jinny. The HK entertainment industry has changed so much from when I knew it back in the 80s and unfortunately, whether it’s television, music, or movies, things have gotten worse rather than better. I remember when the HK entertainment industry was referred to as “Hollywood of the East” and there truly WAS a point in time when HK did live up to that name, easily giving the ‘real’ Hollywood a run for their money….but all of that is history now, which is a sad reality. With HK becoming less and less “relevant”, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in 10 years’ time, the entertainment industry disappears altogether….

To be honest, when it comes to veterans returning, I’m actually kind of conflicted. On the one hand, I prefer to watch veteran artists nowadays because the current crop of artists just can’t cut it (and when I say current, I’m actually including the past 15 years as well – so basically post 2000s era). On the other hand, I don’t want the veteran artists to return because TVB right now is so far down in the dumps that I pretty much have zero confidence in them producing masterpieces akin to what they were capable of back in the 80s/early 90s – besides, if we look back over the past, oh, 15 years or so, the showing on TVB’s side whenever a big name artist returned was quite poor…meaning that the series itself sucked big time and TVB pretty much just relied on the veteran artists’ pulling power and nostalgia to rake audiences in (Born Rich, anyone? That’s the example I always use but there are also tons more…). This is largely why I don’t want veteran artists to return, especially ones I care about – I don’t want to see their careers/reputations “ruined” or even temporarily “dragged down” by TVB….

I agree with you about TVB’s inability to groom a younger batch of artists who can actually act, though I can only partially blame them due to this being an issue on a larger scale as well in terms of the entire HK entertainment industry. TVB’s biggest issue is its monopoly on the television industry over the past 20 years or so (ATV actually provided some formidable competition back in 70s, 80s, and part of the 90s), which pretty much caused them to sit back on their laurels and do very little in terms of improvement over the years. The talent we had back in the old days was astounding, no doubt about that, but the management back then also knew what they were doing, so that definitely helped.

llwy12 said...

Part 2 response:

I honestly don’t think we will ever get “quality stories” from TVB where audiences watch for the story rather than out of habit or because there is nothing else out there. TVB’s traditional audience pool is not keen on these types of series, which, in a way, is one of the reasons why TVB continues to churn out the stuff that they do. In my opinion, the last ‘quality’ series that TVB came out with was Never Dance Alone (aka M Club) 2 years ago, but that series was actually a departure from tradition, since the cast and crew involved were not regular TVB people (producer was Eric Tsang and scriptwriter was Susan Chan, who was a former TVB scriptwriter but switched to writing for movies in recent years and has won much accolade/awards for her film work). That was a great series and word of mouth was excellent as well, script was also well-written and the performances were good as well….but the ratings sucked and so TVB treated the series like it wasn’t worth crap and ended up shutting it out of anniversary awards contention almost completely (save for in a few categories that didn’t really matter much).

I have actually put AFWFW on my “to watch” list, but probably won’t get to it anytime soon, as TVB series are low priority for me nowadays (my “to watch” list is long, lol), plus I’m not keen on the cast except for maybe Ruco, so it’s going on the bottom of the list unless something happens that motivates me to bump it up on the list (which I’m 99.9% sure won’t happen). In terms of TV series, the priority for me right now is to finish up ViuTV’s series Margaret and David and maybe check out their new sitcom AM/PM. I’ve also got a few RTHK series on the list as well, plus a boatload of variety programs/interview shows that I need to catch up on (there are also a few movies I’m trying to finish watching but that’s a whole other list, lol). Needless to say, I think I will be quite busy the next couple months where “watching stuff” is concerned…

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