Only Side by Side with You – Final Impressions

I’m not sure what it is with Chinese contemporary dramas, but so many of them start off pretty well and then lose their way at about the midpoint – this is one of those, for me.

This was a nice PR piece about how China’s really into building drones – they must be because someone wrote a drama all about them! It’s nice that you’ve got a female lead (Bai Baihe) who’s all geeky over the science of building and flying drones, but they toss in the meet/angst angle of her having gotten key data from a swain (Li Xian, trying to impress her/woo her but she really only has eyes on the tech plans) who stole/borrowed them from his buddy/main rival (William Chan) at an elite military unit. The papers are missing and Chan’s character is drummed out and Li’s gets off pretty much scot-free. Chan’s guy lives a hard life, yadda yadda… He does buff and broody pretty well, and makes a good attempt at trying to build chemistry with Bai, even though she’s often a lot more interested in things with motors.

For me, Li’s the disappointment in this one, which is a shame since I enjoyed his work in the cheesy Dr Qin Medical Examiner as the eager detective and the wanna-be X-Files(ish) Tientsin Mystic. He just comes across as less mature when compared to William Chan. There’s a little character subplot about Bai’s disapproving army dad that was kind of a snoozer too.

I confess, after about episode 20 I started skimming and skipping just to call it a day. If you’re a big fan of William Chan, give it a try, and if you’re lukewarm about him or any of the cast or the premise, skip it.

Oh, I’ll leave you with one very funny (unintentionally) bit in the final episode (after the jump)…

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#bai-baihe, #li-xian, #only-side-by-side-with-you, #william-chan

Tientsin Mystic – Final Impressions

Chinese dramas are growing up! Well, they’re coming along nicely in terms of improved production values. Tientsin Mystic, while not a drama without flaws, is certainly one of the more interesting dramas I’ve seen recently from a visual standpoint, and that’s enough to make me recommend it.

It starts out very strongly, even if by about the halfway point it starts to lose its edge and descend into a sillier creature-feature type of tale. In some ways it reminded me both of the good things and the weak things in The Joseon X-Files, and Wu Xin: The Monster Killer – there is a strong “world creation” aspect, an interesting premise, great costuming and likeable leads, but sometimes the horror elements are a little half-baked.

Li Xian, who was the cop buddy in Dr Qin Medical Examiner, is the lead in this one, and while he’s still a little inexperienced as an actor, he’s coming along nicely and has a fresh, genuine air in this one. He’s also everywhere these days, very much the flavor of the year in China, as he’s the second lead in Only Side by Side With You (opposite William Chan and Bai Baihe) now on air and slowly in release on Viki.

At the very least, check out the first 2 or 3 episodes for a visual treat.

#li-xian, #tientsin-mystic, #wang-zi-xuan, #zhang-ming-en

For those with Netflix: Tientsin Mystic is now available!

I’ve been waiting for this one ever since I saw the glowing first thoughts video from Avenue X (see below). The evening’s more exciting Olympic moments were over and I found myself ready to watch something completely different so I started watching. Wow! I don’t know how this drama will sustain the visual style established in the first episode, but I was captivated by the color, the “world” they have created, and the costumes!

What is especially fun is picking out the various sets and landmarks around Shanghai Film Park; right at the very opening I recognized the iron bridge recreated from a famous one in Shanghai, and the monument park by the church (where Hu Ge was so annoying in his flirtation with the incredibly annoying nurse character in The Disguisers).

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this unfolds.

Synopsis: “Frequent flooding and drowning were common occurrences in Tianjin (Tientsin) in the early 1900s. But when a local shipping magnate was found drowned to death chained to a statue on the bottom of riverbed, police department’s underwater recovery team captain Guo De You was their primary suspect, since he was the only one in the city who could stay underwater long enough to complete the deed. The businessman son’s Ding Mao tried to prove Guo’s guilt, but his own forensic discovery and another bizarre drowning in the same vicinity challenged his initial impression. Together with spirit medium Gu Ying and news reporter Xiao Lan Lan, they peeled away the mystery and found the clues pointed to an incident occurred over 20 years ago when an evil cult was ravaging the city. Now, the cult was once again causing havoc. To stop their resurgence, the team must investigate the unexplained, mind-bending cases that plagued their city.”

#li-xian, #tientsin-mystic, #zhang-ming-en

Medical Examiner Dr Qin – Final Impressions

This is a slightly hokey, lightweight Chinese drama starring Zhang Ruo Yan (he was the possessed ‘bad guy’ in Wu Xin Monster Hunter) as a perfectionist medical examiner with a traumatic past who gets a tomboyish female assistant who ends up being the perfect partner for him. He’s got an earnest cop friend too, and the three solve every murder that comes there way.

The autopsy scenes made me LMAO 😂 but it was all surprisingly good fun. Only 20 episodes, once you speed past the brief recaps and theme song you can be done with each episode in around 35 minutes – more if you just FF thru the silly autopsies. All in all, still pretty enjoyable.

#jiao-jun-yan, #li-xian, #medical-examiner-dr-qin, #zhang-ruo-yun