Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"War of the Genders" Review

TVB sitcoms in recent years are known for being lighthearted series with large ensembles that provide the occasional chuckle, but at one point they were legitimately laugh until your stomach hurt funny, and "War of the Genders" is the best example of that.

It's no wonder Dodo Cheng won "Best Actress" for her portrayal of Miss Mo. She fully embodied the character, from her sharp tongue, confidence, to her tendency to tell people (usually Ah Lok) to "off." She could be vicious, while still being classy and intelligent.

Yu Lok Tin could have easily been written off as a lazy, loud-mouthed, and gambling-obsessed loser, but Dayo Wong makes the character someone easily likable despite all his obvious flaws. What sets Dayo apart as an actor is also his ability to inject sentimentality into his characters, and here it is shown through some of his interactions with "Siu Keung" and how he truly treated him as a "brother" (as concerning as it is for a man in his 30s to be treating a cockroach as not only a pet, but his best friend).

Of course, the essence of "War of the Genders" and the absolute hilarity it brings to its audience is mostly due to Dodo and Dayo together. The bickering couple may be a classic plot device that was established long before 2000 and still used often today, but I am declaring Dodo and Dayo the King and Queen of all bickering onscreen couples.

Miss Mo and Yu Lok Tin never fail to hurl witty comebacks at each other, and Dodo and Dayo do it with such ease and comedic timing. Their constant verbal jousting made it all the more hilarious the few times Ah Lok was down and not in the mood to talk back, making Miss Mo feel uncomfortable and like something was missing. Their banter was also balanced off with some physical comedy, which resulted in a lot of trips to the hospital and police station in the earlier episodes. While I normally do not like slapstick comedy, I enjoyed the balance of the two styles and I can imagine it just made it more widely appealing to viewers. Dodo and Dayo know how to play off each other like no other comedic costars today.

The rest of the supporting cast all have their moments. The weakest link is easily Marsha Yuan with her almost painful to hear Cantonese, but I didn't have too much of a problem with the character herself and was even slightly sad to see her leave in the last third of the series, leaving Dayo, Dodo, and Patrick Tang with one less roommate.

Patrick did quite well in his debut performance and able to hold his own, which is a great feat because he was working alongside the immense talent of costars Dodo and Dayo. His character "Ah Man" was honest and passionate, which made him very likable. I particularly liked his and Kitty Yuen's platonic friendship, and was disappointed to see them severely sidelined by the second half of the series.

Kingdom Yuen is actually 2 years younger than Dayo in real life, yet very convincingly plays his and Patrick's aunt and the maternal figure of the law firm with her librarian look. Ram Chiang nails the effeminate mannerisms of James.

When Dodo, Dayo, Patrick, and Marsha all lived together, there were some great moments where Patrick and Marsha, despite being the younger ones, had to hold back the supposedly more mature Dodo and Dayo from practically killing each other. Wu Fung was probably the only more major supporting character I did not like who I thought did not bring anything special when he moved in. Wu Fung's "Professor Mo" came in, divorced Yuen Yuen, and hastily started another relationship with Kingdom's Sin Jie, who is more age-appropriate than Yuan Yuan, but still the age of his daughter, and was just kind of there.

At 100 episodes, each of the supporting characters gets their own subplot at some point, while still relying on Dayo and Dodo as the focus of the sitcom. This prevented filler episodes and storylines that are so dominant in TVB's sitcoms today. In fact, I would have preferred a couple more episodes as Dayo and Dodo finally developing feelings towards each other and becoming a couple was a bit too rushed. Since most of the characters only received one storyline of their own, there was still a lot of room for development had the writers decided to extend the sitcom. Whether it was because TVB simply wasn't as greedy then or the cast wasn't interested in tying themselves to one project for too long, the wrapping up of "War of the Genders" at its originally intended 100 episodes allowed it to end on a high note instead of running around in circles until its miserable end.

Plot-wise, "War of the Genders" never delves into anything too serious, but also never becomes too stupid. Yes, it does get pretty silly and over the top at times, but it's all in good fun and done with heart. The supporting cast delivers, but does not steal the spotlight away from the comedic whirlwind that is Dayo and Dodo. On the second watch, I still find the sitcom absolutely hilarious and one of my favorites, and I'm sure I will continue to do so. It never fails to make me laugh, smile, and just feel good.

Rating: 4.5 stars