Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Stew of Life Review

TVB tends to try to repeat the success of a series. La Femme Desperado was a hit when released back in 2006. Excited at their unexpected success, TVB tried to milk their "cash cow" with 2007's The Family Link, which featured a similar cast. It failed to do so though and people called it "boring" and "a waste of time." While I'm not sure, Stew feels like another bad attempt to create another La Femme Desperado because of the presence of an elderly couple, middleaged couple, and young couple...

Characterization & Performances

Louise/Lee Sze Kei - "Ng Lo Tai"

Mrs. Ng, dubbed "Mrs. Ng Lo/Ng Lo Tai" and "Supermom" is the picture perfect mother. Sweet, caring, and overprotective, Ng Lo Tai was just as unrealistically good as she was as Hor Ma. While the two similar roles make me further doubt the veteran actress' versatility, I much prefered Ng Lo Tai over Hor Ma for her more warm, sweet, and friendly personality.

Cheung King Fai - "Ng Man Tak"

Extremely stubborn and long winded, this dad can be very hard and annoying to deal with. However, he is caring and generous through the example of when he sacrificed his job so that none of his employess would be fired. Always comedic through the way he delivers his lines, Cheung King Fai gave a great performance. I loved his interactions with the family dog Jack! Not to mention, I love Jack, who is the cutest and most lovable/smart dog ever!

Fala Chen - "Ng Choi Nei/Charlie"

While outspoken and headstrong, Charlie is not independent in the case that she can't take care of herself. In the end, she will usually go to her parents for help with her problems. Initially, I liked Charlie as I thought she was a bit like me. Independent in terms of school, dealing with work, acting on my own and yet sometimes dependent on parents when it comes to things like cooking and cleaning. Eventually though, in the last 10 episodes or so, the character got on my nerves for how unreasonable she was in how she wanted Ryan to treat her and her actions. As Fala's first main role, she deserved to have leaded a better series. Like usual though, she gave a good performance. Although I found the wig she wore at first hideous, I grew to accept it and by the end I felt that the hairstyle suited 'Charlie' and her personality more than if Fala had worn it long.

Christine Ng - "Lo Siu Mei/May"

Materalistic and accustomed to a high class lifestyle, May is rather selfish and self centered. Scared by the thought of being a spinster, she wishes to hurry and remarry. Due to her materalistic personality though, she wishes to find someone handsome, young, and rich. The girl also resembles the Disney character Pinocchio for her constant lying. Like Charlie, I initially enjoyed watching May because as well as looking great, Christine gave a very enjoyable performance. Also like Charlie though, I grew to be very annoyed with her with how she just cared about what was 'skin deep' and seemed to be playing around with Yau Kai.

Timmy Hung - "Lau Tak Yan/Ryan"

Sweet, caring, and has a passion for photography, "Ryan" is probably the best character Timmy has managed to land. While his character Ah Chun in The Building Blocks of Life was hands down the most likable character, he barely had any screen time, making "Ryan" Timmy's best role in terms of character and screen time. Not that bad of an actor himself, Timmy should appear in series more. Appearing at an average of one series every two years or so and constantly going on game shows like Super Trio and Beautiful Cooking instead makes me wonder though... is the true reason Timmy doesn't appear in series much is that he rather not have a stable job and play around or is it the usual case with TVB 'underpromoting' him?
Evergreen Mak - "Yau Kai"

Thoughtful and kindhearted, he is a very commited man. He falls in love with May almost instantly, and does everything he can to win her heart. Although I was at first touched at how commited and forgiving he was of all the things May did, I had to keep myself from calling him stupid when he was still willing to forget when May was clearly starting to cheat on him. Like always, Evergreen is a strong supporting actor.

Other Notable Characters/Performances

Yvonne Ho - "Yau Yee"
It amuses me that they are getting young women to portray a character that's much older. First Queenie played the older sister of Michael Tse in You're Hired and now Yvonne has to play the older sister of Evergreen. Yvonne's acting can still be unnatural but there are improvements in her acting. I found her cute at many times and I grew fond of her character and how she was so overprotective of her little brother.
Johnson Lee - "Lee Sing Kei/Bill"
TVB definitely shows they don't cherish Johnson as their artiste by giving them such a small character that was sure to annoy you in the beginning. Bill is a lot similar to Burning Flame 3's Chung Yau Shing. He refused to let go of Charlie and became extremely stubborn. The similarities continue when he realizes his stubbonness and even gets together with a nurse, just like Ah Shing did. Of course Johnson delivers his performance well as the charming and amusing boyfriend of Charlie in the first few episodes.
Stephen Huynh - "Daniel"
It's obviously staged by TVB to allow the characters Stephen plays to know how to speak French to cover his influency in Cantonese. I'm starting to grow to like Stephen more though because while I loved Pierre in D.I.E. Again, his performance as a gay man was hilarious!

The Chemistry/Love Relationships
Louise Lee/Cheung King Fai
While watching the two was awkward at first as Cheung King Fai is old enough to be Louise's father, I grew to like them as the elderly couple of the series. Their bickering over the smallest and most trivial things are very amusing. Since the two never have real fights, they are a very sweet couple.
Christine Ng/Evergreen Mak
As our middleaged couple, May and Yau Kai were too uncompatiable and how they handled their relationship was too ridiculous. The addition of Ken Wong was unneeded. Although amusing at times, their relationship was the most draggy and boring of the three.
Fala Chen/Timmy Hung
You would've thought that this pairing would be random with no chemistry, but it turns out that they do. I loved the inital developement of their relationship as it was new and refreshing. The whole plot with Fala thinking Timmy was gay was hilarious! Unfortunately, how sweet and refreshing their storyline is crumbles down with Charlie abruptedly moving in with him. The two were too immature and irresposible, but the fault mainly lies with Charlie. She was unreasonable and wanted Ryan to be like what she wanted and so forth. Their constant fighting and misunderstandings bothered me to no end. Luckily, they manage to become the sweet couple again after they matured in the last episode. My favorite part of this love plot though would have to be the stage where Fala and Timmy were getting together as it was them at their sweetest and cutest.

The Length

Having The Stew of Life be at an excessive length of 30 episodes was the biggest mistake. The series shouldn't have been longer than 20 episodes. There were countless draggy and boring scenes. There were many unneccessary scenes. It would've been easy to cut down Stew to maybe 25 or 20 episodes. While having an action or police series at a length of 30 episodes is typical and understandable, a lighthearted comedy/drama should never be this long.
The Pop Culture References
Talk about cheap advertising! I noticed several references to TVB while watching. Two of the most notable included a rich man named 'Raymond Lam'--and the real Raymond has nothing to do with it. Did TVB use Raymond's big name to advertise the series and pull in big ratings? The second notable reference is while Evergreen is sitting in a car in one scene, he is listening to Elanne Kong's subtheme song from E.U.
The Good
  • Fala and Timmy's chemistry in the early stage of their relationship
  • Cheung King Fai and Jack's arguement scenes
  • Jack, such an adorable dog and so smart too!
  • Lousie and Cheung King Fai's bickering (although it does get excessive in the later parts of the series)
  • Yvonne's improvements and Lawerence Ng's short appearance as her son
The Bad
  • The length and dragginess
  • Christine and Evergreen's storyline with Ken Wong
  • The mess of Fala and Timmy's relationship in the last few episodes
  • This series probably has the most boring and uneventual pilot episode ever
Overrall Thoughts
The Stew of Life is obviously another of 2009's lighthearted and forgettable series. Even as I'm writing this review, I've forgotten many of the details of this series. It was enjoyable at many points and a time killer. Unfortunately, the long length of it made it boring and draggy. During the last 10 episodes, I felt the urge to forward on many occassions. For a majority of the series, the only thing I was interested in watching this for Fala and Timmy. Since their relationship turned sour and annoying though, it started to became a chore to finish it. Stew can not be classified as a good series, but it's definitely not 2009's worst. I'm sure A Bride for a Ride is proud for having a stable grip on that label.
Rating: 2 3/4 stars

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