May 31, 2013

    TVB series tasteless and offensive?

    HONG Kong's TVB station seems to be in troubled waters lately - plagued by low ratings for its prime-time dramas and A-list actors leaving its stable.

    Fans have criticised the quality and standard of shows, with some saying that it has "become a trend" to play up scenes of rape and murder.

    In the centre of the ongoing controversy is the highly-anticipated sequel to 2004's War And Beauty, Beauty At War, which suffered from disappointing ratings after premiering last month.

    The period drama's scriptwriter has come under fire for its confusing plot and dialogues, and the station reportedly took to airing clips featuring the cast, providing pointers on character relationships and storyline summaries.

    A fallout is brewing between the station's management and its lead actress Sheren Tang, who spoke out about her poor filming experience, highlighting how the cast received scripts at the eleventh hour.

    Her comments reportedly led to her "suspension", which TVB's assistant general manager Peter Au denied, saying that they were trying to "settle the issue first".

    Mr Au admitted that the station lacked artists to take on heavier roles, after many of its senior actors decided not to renew their contracts.

    Tang told My Paper in an interview last month how her health suffered from the stress of getting scripts at the last minute.

    The 47-year-old actress, who does not have a long-term contract with TVB, hoped that the entertainment industry will change for the better.

    "If the station wants artists to return to its stable, it has to improve the working conditions," she said.

    While her tussle with TVB continues, some of her fellow actors have already left for greener pastures, namely mainland China.

    Only two members of the stellar original cast from War And Beauty - Moses Chan and Tang - returned for the sequel.

    The rest of the show's notable headliners - actor Bowie Lam and actresses Charmaine Sheh and Maggie Cheung - are no longer with the station.

    Among the other familiar faces who have left for the lucrative mainland China market are Fala Chen and Jessica Hsuan.

    Ms Diana Ang, 24, who just graduated from an Australian university, misses the TVB old-timers like Sheh and actor Joe Ma. She said: "The station is losing quite a lot of talent. Actors and scriptwriters have left.

    "The plots are getting repetitive and I feel that the newbie actors aren't really up for the lead roles yet."

    A push factor cited by Tang, in an interview last year, is the lack of fresh material in TVB plots.

    She said: "Many scripts at TVB are not fresh any more as they keep recycling old material. Naturally, you feel an urge to go elsewhere and try new things."

    Viewers have taken issue with TVB's recent drama plots, frowning upon the rampant use of salacious storylines to boost ratings.

    The outraged Hong Kong audience has raised complaints about the cold-blooded murders in crime thriller Master Of Play, and the intense kissing and sex scenes in period drama Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles, among others.

    Ms Cloud Goh, 26, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, said: "Nowadays, audiences have many choices with cable television and the Internet.

    "The station also faces the pressure from the immense popularity of the Korean wave. To counter this, TVB has to come up with something impactful to help its dramas gain exposure."