Sunday, June 14, 2009

"The Gem of Life" A Thorough Look @ the Anticipation, Star-Studded Cast, Eventual Disappointment & More

Initially, The Gem of Life was to be a controversial, memorable blockbuster about the world of the filthy rich, which would have everyone talking. What became of it, was something that TVB would never wish for.

The Anticipation

Gem had everything to make it potentially the best TVB production ever filmed:

  • Budget- Gem was a grand production with a budget of about $12 million, making it one of the most expensive TV series' filmed in TV history.

  • Location- With it's extreme budget, it was able to film on location in Paris, London, Tibet, and etc.

  • Cast- Gem has what is probably the best cast ensemble in TVB history. It is dominated by well known veterans like Gigi Lai, Ada Choi, Maggie Siu, Bowie Lam, Moses Chan, Wong He, Louise Lee and more.

With these factors, Gem went on everyone's watch list. Yes, they were iffy about the whooping 80 (later 82) episode count, but that didn't stop them.

The Expected Success

In 2007, the 60-episode grand production "The Drive of Life" expected great success. When Drive started airing however, the result was less than TVB was hoping for. Ratings were just average, and ended with only the 7th spot in 2007's Top Ten Ratings. In the end though, Drive was still a moderate success with favorable reviews and many fans. In October 2008, Gem was released. TVB thought it would be a sure-fire success, and that ratings would go over the roof. (Note: TV ratings were already low during this time due to the financial crisis) Gem was supposed to be memorable, a classic, something we would remember for years to come. So, what happened?

A Look Back @ the First Week

In the premiere week of Gem, ratings were not bad at all. The average was 30 pts, equal to about 2 million viewers. The highest rating even reached 37 pts. With Gem just starting to air, people tuned in to catch a glimpse of what it was like, and maybe even stick around to watch the rest.

Everything Comes Crashing Down

Apparently when people caught a glimpse of what Gem was like, they were not pleased, nor interested. This resulted in the ratings coming crashing down, going from 30, to 28, to 27, to 25, to its all time low, 23pts. Part of the reason was that it was aired during a time where people were too busy running after their cash to care about what was on TV. However, just because they were, didn't mean the wouldn't watch TV if something that interested them was on. (2009's E.U. and later Rosy Business proved that.) That brings us to the main reason: No one, or at least not many, were just not interested in watching Gem. Viewers complained the plot was draggy and that the writing was poor. Too many scenes dealt with business, and this bored them. At one point, TVB considered cutting the series down to 70-75 episodes. In extreme cases, it has been known that TVB take dramas off the air before they finish showing the complete series. They were about to give it a go, but its sponsor's would not allow them to do so. Without Gem on the air, the sponsor's products would not be able to be promoted. As a result, Gem finished airing.

Say Goodbye to Gigi Lai

Following the wrap up filming of Gem, Gigi announced she was retiring, making it her last series before retirement. The now 37-year old and yet still beautiful and youthful looking actress retired after getting married to live a quiet, relaxing, enjoyable life. It was sad to see that her last series was taken negatively, and described as a 'failure.' Her role as "Constance," was unable to show her great acting skills one last time. Not only that, the character seemed like the equivalent of Moonlight Resonance's Yue So Chau. Gigi Lai joins the circle of talented TVB 'fa dans' (translates to female actresses) that have left TVB. These fa dans include Kenix Kwok, Jessica Hsuan, and Flora Chan. However, these three have either returned, or returned to TVB recently. Who knows, maybe this isn't the last we've seen of "Lai Chi."

My Pity on Gem

The point in me writing this was not for me to criticize Gem, but rather to look at what Gem went from and all the commotion it had caused, which is why it's not a 'review.' I did not watch nearly enough of Gem (only about 5 episodes and bits and pieces) to write a review of it and to criticize all the parts I watched is unfair. Although Gem had poor pace and writing, we still have it's talented cast. That's where my pity for them comes from. Filming a drama series is very hard, and it was even harder for the Gem cast because filming for this had lasted a year. So much time and hard work had been taken from them, and what was the result? People criticizing and blasting them from here and there. Yes, Gem can be classified as a 'failure' reception wise, but we should probably think about how much time had been taken from the casts lives to film this. Despite the script and plot and everything else there is to complain about Gem, it still had very strong acting by the whole cast. I also know that some people think that Gem was a good series towards the last 20 episodes or so, and that eventually the pace built up and wrapped up nicely. I will not be watching all of Gem anytime soon, but I will also not criticize it as a bad series.

Last Thoughts

I think that TVB should not think too highly of grand productions or any productions before they air, because then the anticipation just builds up too much, until the point where the series is not good enough to live up to its initial expectations. A series itself can be decent, but when a decent production is first either promoted constantly or has too much anticipation built up before it, you can find yourself disappointed. Gem may become another At the Threshold of an Era. It may become a success a couple years from now, though I do find it unlikely. However, who knows what the future has in store?


  1. Actually... the best cast in TVB history is certainly not Gem. :P It should be At The Threshold of an Era. TVB made that series to "save" ratings and brought in mostly all of their power house and biggest stars (or at least tried to... some people like Maggie Cheung turned it down). Gem's cast is pretty much just War and Beauty/The Dance of Passion plus or minus some people.

    You already know how I feel about the series so no need for me to repeat myself. :)

  2. Thanks for stopping by Metal!

    And yes, I realize At the Threshold of an Era is the best cast in TVB history. I probably should've put in 'recent' TVB history. However, the War and Beauty/The Dance of Passion cast is definitely starting to get overused. :D

  3. hey Iris!

    i was browsing through your old posts and saw this! i just had to comment!
    this series was probably the biggest disappointment in TVB history! there was no clear plot, and the story didn't flow smoothly; the acting was nothing to shout about, although Bowie Lam was really pretty good as a sickening idiot (but i felt his role was pretty similar to the one in The Dance of Passion), but other than that, this series did not interest me in the least.
    my Mum was so irritated after watching the entire 82 eps; it didn't give a sense of satisfaction at all!