You guys know how I sometimes question my judgment for continuing to watch a show that – despite all mental gymnastics to rationalize Show’s merit – is just plain bad?
Sigh. This is one of those times, y’all. I really thought there was something to hang on for, with this show. But now that I’ve seen this show (yes, in its entirety), I regretfully conclude with 20/20 hindsight, that I would’ve been far better off dropping this one right at the beginning. Darn.
I guess I’ve still got a lot to learn about picking my dramas. But at least you guys can learn from my mistake?
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Su Mang (Wang Li Kun) is a successful career woman who finds herself divorced, pregnant, and back in China after having lived her married life in England. Zheng Chu (Zhu Ya Wen) is a travel connoisseur who finds himself suddenly single again when his long-time girlfriend Shan Shan (Ma Qiu Zi) dumps him for not being successful enough. Sparks fly and hijinks ensue when Su Mang becomes Zheng Chu’s new boss – and his new neighbor as well.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
Fair warning: there’s quite a bit of stuff that didn’t work for me with this show. I’ll try to be concise though.
1. Show is long-winded
To be brutally honest, there isn’t a lot of meat to go on this story’s bones, and I found that Show cycled in place a lot, like it was just doing something – anything – to fill up screen time, until The Powers That Be deemed that it was time to nudge the main romance to its next milestone.
Considering that this show has 44(!!) episodes, this meant that there were numerous tangents that felt like meaningless filler, sprinkled on our path to true love. For example, suddenly, for not much reason at all, we’d get an episode or two, with the office team out on a team-building exercise of some sort. I get that this kind of thing is to be expected with fluffy shows as a general rule, but this show served it up way too often for my taste. I found myself zoning out quite often, with the side arcs and filler stuff.
2. Show’s idea of funny isn’t my idea of funny
Show’s got an OTT, rather slapsticky sense of humor, and that’s generally not my thing, unless it’s done just so. Unfortunately for me, this wasn’t done just so, and I didn’t find myself laughing at the Intended Funny very much at all.
It did help somewhat, to think of Show as having something akin to the Taiwanese drama sort of sensibility, with its slightly exaggerated acting and its idea of funny.
3. Certain characters drove me batty
There were several characters that I found more annoying than the average annoying drama character, which didn’t help matters. In the interest of brevity, I’m just going to put the spotlight on the character that I found most annoying.
Secondary female character Shan Shan is a strong contender for most annoying character in this drama world, with her scheming, clingy ways, but y’know, I kind of expect it, of her character type. So my pick for most annoying character in this drama world, is second male lead Tang Ming.
I found that I came to really dislike Tang Ming (Denny Huang) as a character, even though Show pitches him as one of the nice guys, who’s even supposed to be a really good catch, apparently, since there are two women vying for his affections.
For one thing, I didn’t like how wishy-washy he was, with both ladies in his love triangle. Even when he realizes that he actually liked Xiao Qiu (Gao Yang) instead of clingy Shan Shan, he drags his feet in terms of actually doing anything to make his position clear with either woman. In fact, I found him so insipid as a character, that I wondered why both women were so into him.
To be frank, I didn’t even find Tang Ming that nice, in terms of his treatment of Xiao Qiu, who’s the girl that he actually likes.
[SPOILER] In episode 18, Guo Guo drags Xiao Qiu home to meet her mom, and when Tang Ming sees Xiao Qiu there, he immediately leaps to the conclusion that Xiao Qiu had been scheming to get close to him. How cocky and presumptuous of him. Worse, when he realizes that he had wronged Xiao Qiu, he feels bad about it, and angsts over it, but doesn’t actually seek her out to apologize. What an ass. The fact that he didn’t immediately seek her out to apologize, makes him look like such a weak-minded jerk. [END SPOILER]
The thing that annoyed me the most about Tang Ming, though, is what a lousy friend he is. There are two occasions in our story, where his bestie Zheng Chu is entangled in something that affects him, and he doesn’t even pause to give Zheng Chu the benefit of the doubt, both times.
[SPOILERS] The first time is when Tang Ming’s sister Guo Guo (Ye Qing) shows up at Su Mang’s office and throws a fit at her because she thinks the object of her affections Zheng Chu might be the father of Su Mang’s baby. In the midst of her belligerent behavior, she causes Su Mang to fall down. Zheng Chu rushes to Su Mang’s aid, and Guo Guo tries to drag him off Su Mang, which is when Zheng Chu wrests his arm away – which then results in him inadvertently hitting Guo Guo. A flabbergasted Guo Guo bawls to her brother Tang Ming that Zheng Chu hit her, which is when Tang Ming proceeds to beat up his best friend, without even asking said best friend for an explanation. Following that, Tang Ming doesn’t even apologize, when he realizes that he’d been wrong about Zheng Chu hitting his sister. Ugh.
On the second occasion, Tang Ming drinks himself into a stupor, and Zheng Chu answers Tang Ming’s phone when Shan Shan calls. Shan Shan pretends to be Xiao Qiu, and tipsy Zheng Chu falls for her act and tells her where to pick up passed out Tang Ming. Shan Shan takes Tang Ming back to her apartment and proceeds to set the stage so that it will look like she and Tang Ming had, well, relations. Tang Ming wakes up and falls for the ruse, and promises Shan Shan that he will marry her to take responsibility for his actions. Tang Ming then seeks out Zheng Chu to punch him out, again, because he sees it as all Zheng Chu’s fault that his life is now ruined because he has to marry a woman he doesn’t love. Say, WHUT?
Some friend he is, eh? Talk about not manning up and taking ownership of your mistakes. I was so mad at Tang Ming on Zheng Chu’s behalf. I was convinced that Tang Ming didn’t deserve Zheng Chu’s loyalty and friendship, and I also consistently felt that all of Tang Ming’s misfortune was his own doing, and that he deserved it all. I know, I sound really mean right now, heh. [END SPOILERS]
As you can probably tell by now, I really didn’t care for Tang Ming much at all.
4. The writing is not great
Generally speaking, I didn’t have high expectations for the writing in this show, but even then, I found the storytelling far from tight or cohesive.
Here are just a random handful of examples of what I mean when I say the writing in this show’s not great.
E8-9. The growing connection between Tang Ming and Xiao Qiu feels kind of weird. I mean, do doctors really ask patients’ relatives to address them by their first name? It feels kind of contrived and forced, to me. Especially the part where she finds the evidence that his other patient hadn’t died because of the surgery, and barges in on that patient’s family members making a scene.
E11. It seems like each episode, there’s some kind of random-feeling challenge that puts Zheng Chu and Su Mang together. This episode, it’s the escape room. I like the idea that these two bond more closely through a series of events, but in execution, it feels like a randomly patched together connect-the-dots sort of thing, which is not great.
E12. Su Mang gets all upset at Zheng Chu because she assumes he’d knocked up a girl and was giving her money for an abortion. That makes no sense, really, and I thought she’d be smarter in terms of thinking of other reasons he might be giving money to someone.
E20. Zheng Chu’s aunt (Irene Wan), who also happens to be a highly educated, very successful businesswoman, thinks Guo Guo is a better match for Zheng Chu than Su Mang, which is fine. But the way she goes about furthering her cause is really out there. Basically, she wants to drug Zheng Chu so that Guo Guo can spend the night with him and thereafter force him to be with her, because he has to take responsibility. She’s not even kidding either, and takes actual steps to carry out this hare-brained plan. What the heck? This aunt character is supremely strange.
THE ONE THING I STAYED FOR
Our leading man Zheng Chu
Despite all the downsides to this show, I was very much taken with our male lead Zheng Chu.
For one thing, Zhu Ya Wen’s got a very masculine sort of screen presence, with his deep voice, good height, and strong frame. Yet, Zheng Chu is set up to be a beta male in the OTP dynamic, so it’s somewhat dissonant yet quite charming, when those very masculine traits are employed in service of beta male type behavior. It’s kinda almost like putting Joo Jin Mo in a beta male role, if you know what I mean.
The other thing is, Zheng Chu is such a good, decent, kind person, that I just really wanted him to be happy. As quickly as episode 1, I found Zheng Chu endearing. [SPOILER] In episode 1, Zheng Chu is unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend, on the very evening that he’d planned to propose to her. In the wake of his personal tragedy, I loved the heart that we see, when his eyes shine with tears as he looks upon loving couples cuddling on the street. His eyes are sad, but he still wears a smile on his lips. He doesn’t curse at his ex-girlfriend; he says that he’s the loser. And even in all of his pain, he drunkenly kisses his friend the bar-owner lady on the cheek, for her help and advice. Such a sweet guy, seriously. <3 [END SPOILER]
Given ALL of Show’s downsides, I questioned why I was stilling watching this show, on a regular basis. But then Zheng Chu would show up on my screen, and be all warm and kind, and then I would feel like I could hang on for him, just a little longer. Plus, the footage in Show’s opening and closing songs indicate that Zheng Chu turns out to be a really sweet boyfriend, and I kinda really wanted to see that, too.
..Which is how I ended up watching all 44 episodes of this show.
WHY THAT ONE THING DIDN’T WORK OUT
Sadly for me, that decision to hang in there to see Zheng Chu get to be a sweet boyfriend didn’t pay off the way I wanted it to. Here’s why.
1. It takes forever
It literally takes forever and a day for the OTP arc to really get going. At the episode 30(!!) mark, we only get glimmers that we are finally almost at a point where the OTP will confront their feelings for each other. Hopefully.
It’s really slow, the road to OTP gratification.
2. The OTP Cute is short-lived
Our OTP gets to be cute together for all of about an episode, at around the episode 32-33 mark, before Angst sets in. Family objections form the bulk of the angst, and the Angst lasts alll the way to the finale episode. I.. wish I was kidding.
3. I didn’t like the eventual tone of the OTP relationship
Aside from the initial OTP Cute at around the episode 33 mark, I did not enjoy the tone of the OTP relationship that we eventually get in Show’s finale, when our OTP reconciles. Basically, Su Mang is portrayed as being a domineering sort of wife, needlessly bullying Zheng Chu into submission. I didn’t like that. I felt quite cheated, really, to have hung in there for 44 episodes to see Zheng Chu’s happy ever after, only to see that his happy ever after was marked by regular “oh well, just coz” bullying behavior by his wife. I didn’t think that was cool at all.
[END VAGUE SPOILERS]
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
You’d think that a show of this fluffy caliber would simply serve up happy bows all-around, but no. Show had to kill off literally the nicest girl in its drama world, just to make a point. I was in such disbelief on that one, that even when Tang Ming is crying over Xiao Qiu’s dead body, I thought she would magically wake up for a happy ending. Which didn’t happen.
So Xiao Qiu dies, and Tang Ming is shattered. He gives up everything to travel the world, believing that Xiao Qiu continues to be at his side. Which, okayy, I guess. Shan Shan is also galvanized into realizing that she’s been wrong about her sister all this time, and turns over a completely new leaf, giving up her job and going home to be with her heretofore estranged dad.
Guo Guo makes good in her singing career all over again, Su Chang (Wang Yan Lin) wins a prize for his magician stuff, and these two bicker and giggle happily ever after. Aunt also gets to see her first love one last time, and gets closure for the Big Love of her life.
And of course, Zheng Chu and Su Mang make it to the altar for a happy ending, except, like I mentioned, I don’t actually like the tone of their interactions. Su Mang basically bullies Zheng Chu every chance she gets in this finale, and won’t even kiss her groom during the wedding, without first grinding her foot into his and forcing him to yelp out “Sun Wu Kong” – just for funsies. Did not like.
I mean, if she won’t be good to Zheng Chu and appreciate him for the sweet, loyal man that he is, I’ll happily do it, y’know?
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Illogical, pointlessly protracted, and far from satisfying.
FINAL GRADE: C-
A duet by our OTP, which confirms one of my favorite things in this show: Zhu Ya Wen has a lovely voice. <3