Review: “The Other Truth” (TVB 2011)

By on September 1, 2011 in NEWS, REVIEWS

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The Other Truth <真相>
TVB 2011
Producer: Amy Wong
Genre: Modern, Legal Drama
Episodes: 25

Rating:

Who’s In It?

Cast in no particular order:

Ruco Chan as “Keith”
Raymond Wong as “Wallace”
Tavia Yeung  as “Mavis”
Natalie Tong  as “Cecilia P”
Louis Yuen as “James”
and other miscellaneous characters not worthy of mention (it’s a joke okay!)

What’s This About?

Lawyers, clients, victims, and perpetrators. In rounding out the cast, there’s a father-killer, a narcissistic wife, a “loving” student, a greedy shopkeeper, a lying celebrity, a fiery mother, a bunch of crooked cops, an unfortunate husband, and a self-confused semi-triad. So how do the cases pan out? Who is to be believed? What methods do lawyers resort to for the win? And is this better than that other series that aired right before it? Answers await your discovery, but they are certainly not in the rest of this review. And if you’re seeking a better synopsis, then ask yourself the following and you might be more forgiving, “What is a series about lawyers going to be about?”

Review Formally Begins Here

So how does one review a series that is largely separated into disparate stories with insignificant strands of continuity that serve only to ease audiences into the next story? Now no one wants to read 16 pages of someone else’s dogma, so I will proceed with the easy path by freely vomiting the contents of my mind. Let’s start with the themes in the series, which there appears to be two. One theme is “line treading,” and Ruco Chan provides the major force for this. The other is “inexact truths,” which like it or not, much of the series is about, or so the title wants you to believe. Now TVB has always been a culprit of being preachy and patronizing in its delivery of moralistic issues, so no surprises if you’re immediately put off. In fact, the result this time is quite solid.

Ruco Is So Cool

The series begins quite sullenly and doesn’t really pick up unless you find the thought of Louise Lee being forcibly photographed naked somewhat alluring. However, we are offered some of the most solid acting in recent TVB history. Ruco is to credit. He carries his weight with sublime subtlety. Mysterious when required. Sour when required. Hateful when required. Watch as his eyes dart about as he speaks. Or when his tone changes ever so slightly. Or how his eyebrows gently twist to tell you he’s not buying what the other guy is saying. At the start of this series, I  remember seeing him doing few expressions: cocky in My Date with a Vampire III <我和殭屍有個約會III 之永恆國度>, angry in When Lanes Merge <情越雙白線>, and sly in Relic of an Emissary<洪武三十二>. I had no other expectations; no hopes; I just watched. Perhaps coming with nothing meant I’m overstating his abilities. But even his oft wooden stature seems just to make sense here. It never seems out of place. He never seems out of place.

TVB Is Still TVB

And that’s probably where the applause stops. Despite there being no drawn out romances but one confused one and another entirely unconvincing love triangle, and no plots of family treachery, TVB still manages to commit old errors. Why bring us to the edge of our seats with the “corrupt cops” saga only to throw it all to hell with “undercover cop saves the day”? That’s some pretty lazy writing. Where’s the other truth in all of this? That lawyers are no match for crooked men with firearms? Or that Felix Lok is eerily convincing as a bent cop? At this point you will realize TVB has gone back to its roots by treating the series theme, lawyers here, as mere fodder for dramatizing. If you’re going to make law enforcers look bad, then at least do it with style or flair. Don’t just repeat and rinse from the Infernal Affairs <無間道> guide.

Of course things didn’t go south from that point. It already started looking shaky when the jury storyline completed. It’s good TVB took a step outside the box and created a situation where non-lead characters managed to invigorate excitement in the audience (well me anyway). However, if you actually listened and thought a little (maybe a lot), you’ll realize every point raised in defense of the alleged rapist by juror X isn’t rocket science. There’s no sudden spark of enlightenment introduced by a new interconnection of facts and inferences. Juror X merely convinced the others to think really hard about “what if” until they too thought “ahhh what if.” As some university professor once said, “the longer you dwell on a problem, the more doubtful you become.”

Then there’s the grossly monumental error TVB makes when Leanne Li shows up. Now I’m not talking about her acting, I’m talking about her revenge. If you believe the death of your mother was caused howsoever indirectly by person Y, would you just dump a paint bomb on Y? Enough said. A pattern emerges now. It’s the pattern of an unsophisticated narrative. If Ruco’s argument over the phrase “fresh injury” at the start of the series is any indicator, it is not that this series is any more sophisticated, but that it is about to inflict a new injury on your intellect. Why? Because every case is set up with the right elements, but then eventually and always hits an anticlimax.

Unfounded Criticisms

The truth is this drama never treads too far into the legal realm. It safely wanders back to your average criminal-drama plot that is difficult to distinguish from general TVB material. The final act states this case further. This is a plot-driven series. Events drive people. Characters are used to fulfill the story. They should not drive the story. Come the final act and TVB has gone back to basics with the contrived finale that consists of the wonderful combination we have all come to expect of TVB finales: zero suspense, zero logic and zero fulfilment. To top that off a confused Kenneth Ma shows up, transforming between “evil, hate, despair, love, and amicable” as if he was a magician and emotions were made to order. What is most disturbing here is not that Kenneth’s character shows early signs of schizophrenia or that Natalie Tong is possibly the most inept and unconvincing trainee barrister TVB may come to know. The most disturbing thing is that the final act is not filled by the leads. Instead center stage is given to the always affable Kenneth Ma. Wonderful.

Despite the criticisms, which are tailored to be pedantic (but I suppose if you’re going to critique something of a higher standard, you must also raise your standard of critique, otherwise this would be quite a boring review that reads no different to SARFT’s annual report, if there is one). This series is still a move in the correct direction for TVB legal dramas. Either give us quirky characters or make cases more realistic and interesting.

Whatever you do, do not give us Tavia Yeung. So maybe she was sick or the character was derived from the ageless expression of watching grass grow, but why was her presence even necessary? Lead characters that do not contribute to the value of a narrative equates to one thing and one thing only. Eye candy. But Tavia was definitely not dressed to be candy, or toffee or any other sweet. She wasn’t sour either. She was just… unfit. It crosses my mind sometimes that Tavia is practising the sacred art of converting three dimensions back to two. There’s no other reason for her recent insipid performances.

Special Mentions

Special mention must be given to Louis Yuen, whom I’m still unsure if the word good should be attached before actor when spoken of. Could you trust such a barrister? Okay, you might be a clutz behind the scenes, but when your colleagues and clients think you are a clutz, you are not invoking much confidence. Given the requisite comic relief needed in every modern TVB series, we cannot do much. Can a character not be funny, endearing and smart at the same time? Again we are struck with unsophistication.

I have found it tough to reach my conclusions because it now seems Ruco did all the work. He didn’t of course. We all know it. But he did make this series much more enjoyable even though he could not undo the pitfalls making the audience feel somewhat detached from everything that goes. Part and parcel of a near-episodic approach to narratives is that audiences may know what is happening, but they the audience never feels like they are there, or how each scene connects entirely or how to empathize with characters. This is made more apparent when you realize all the times Ruco’s character acts out of line, which I should mention becomes mere memory by later episodes, no real consequences occur. We are simply told of events. This is a major barrier against a series getting from good to great.

Wishes

It would be nice to see TVB do a legal drama, say 20 episodes, focus on one major case alone. That way the writers can concentrate weaving in mysteries and plot twists. Look if I want to watch a legal drama, I want the law to be embellished so it’s entertaining yet dramatic. If I want dull I could just visit my nearest local court. If I want pure fluff I would be better watching any number of other genres. And why does Ruco keep making empty threats to Kenneth? That really bothers me. Even more than the fact I have not mentioned Raymond Wong until now. Go figure.

Overall Approval

In the words of my mother, the series was “Okay lah but some parts were exaggerated.” Since she is arguably a fervent consumer of TVB dramas, thanks to my provisions as a means to get her to stop bothering me, and because she is generally a tough cookie to satisfy, I’m inclined to say that this series is generally worth watching. Solid would have been my answer, but mother would not really understand why I would call a series not hollow (translate to Cantonese if you must). Room for improvement abounds as the narrative is still far too simple to earn the name “legal drama.” Right now I’d call it a “legal” drama. What is the difference? Scroll back up and read this rant again, and you may understand why.

Verdict

TVB’s most recent rendition of a legal drama won’t make you like lawyers, but it’ll give you a slightly better idea of what they do if you never actually meet one.

   

Obligatory Disclaimer: The above written content is not intended to be factual, informative, instructive, or in any other way insightful, and the writer does not bear any liability for losses, injuries and/or damages suffered, to person or property, as a result of a reader acting or reacting to any of the content, and it is hereby acknowledged by the reader that he or she bears all natural and unnatural risks associated with reading the content, and in the event the writer suffers any loss, to person or property, upon a reader’s reading of the content, the reader shall indemnify the writer to the full extent the writer deems, to its sole and absolute discretion, appropriate.

This review was written by SDS, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com.

35 comments to Review: “The Other Truth” (TVB 2011)

  1. Profile photo of jayne jayne says:

    A wonderfully-written and humorous review! Had me laughing all the way! Thank you SDS once again!

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  2. Ah K says:

    I haven’t watched this series but your grasp of English is impeccable, a very well written and structured review. Certainly makes me look forward in reading your future reviews or translations to come! 😀

    But, question! Why no mention of Raymond Wong in your review? Why is because his acting was mediocre at best? 😀

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    • Ah K replied:

      *I meant “Is it because” not “why is because”

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    • Jayne replied:

      Ah K,
      Raymong Wong is a good actor but he is given very little material to work with in “The Other Truth.” His character is romantically driven in motivation since episode 1 and most of his scenes center around his girlfriends or loving stares at Tavia. Not a very well-scripted character and as a result, Raymonds performance was acceptable but not truly remarkable.

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      • Kidd replied:

        I felt that Raymond’s character has more development than Ruco’s. Ruco’s character was mostly stagnant while people around him like Mavis and Wallace were changing.

        Wallace grow from being not serious in work and thinking that fighting a case to a serious and hardworking lawyer and he change was not motivated by love for Mavis. So, his character started out to be romantically driven, but, by the end he was driven by his sense of justice.

        I know a lot of people love Keith. But, for me, I find Wallace a more interesting character because he shows change and growth.

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    • SDS replied:

      Thanks.

      Well I didn’t really mention Raymond because there was really not much to say about him. He played aptly. His character was solidly written, but there wasn’t really much changes. He went from not serious to serious in the span of 2-3 episodes and then remained at about the same level. Not really ‘development’ as such. His acting was also not captivating on any level. He should’ve remained playing the playboy lawyer who treads the line also, and goes head to head with Ruco. We are truly missing legal dramas where both leads sit on different ends of the table…

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    • lol replied:

      I also think Raymond is mediocre in this series. SDS was right that Ruco did most of the job and is the most outstanding and Tavia was just there.

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  3. Momo says:

    Actually I feel this drama is nice although I do agree some parts are uncalled for. We should give them some encouragement too because most of the artists acted well. I do feel Tavia and Ruco make a good pair especially those scenes where they will bicker. I hope to see Tavia onscreen because she is hardworking and did her job well.

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  4. Pineapple says:

    I didn’t watch this series but I definitely would have liked to as I love stories to do with the police or lawyers and lots of excitement.

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  5. Pineapple says:

    Oh by the way, can I say a big thank you to the person who kindly wrote the above, must have taken lots of time and patience. Lol…

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    • SDS replied:

      3-4 hours maybe? I had to rewatch bits and pieces to freshen my memory since… it did finish a month ago lol

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  6. exoidus says:

    it is much harder to do a 20 episode on a single case and we all know that the scripwriters are lazy to come up with some original ideas.

    besides it will be easier for the later audience to follow if they didn’t watch it from the beginning. other thing is that it might become a little boring as most people prefer new cases.

    i want tvb to do a serial on M&A which involves lawyers, accountants, regulators, bankers and corporate giants…

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    • Jayne replied:

      Exoidus,
      I agree with you that centering an entire 20 episode series around one case would not. 7 Days in Life failed to sustain my interest in this respect because the clues unravelled too slowly and it turned into a romantic comedy instead.

      Aside from scripting challenges, TVB adopted their current series length of 20 episodes for most series and the broadcast schedule to maximize on ratings. Centering on one case would definitely lose viewers who tune in the middle episodes.

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    • Jayne replied:

      Exoidus,
      The M&A suggestion would indeed serve as a fascinating base to the greedy and more base human instincts. Howver, scriptwriters might be too eager to showcase their “research” and the project delivers like an instructional manual.

      In addition, the various professional series that have been filmed merely serve as backdrop for same romantic triangles. There is lack of true compelling content in unique characters with central conflicts that make sense. A story’s setting, the character’s occpations are merely props to set the stage to delve into the central conflict and theme more. A good series should only use the professions and industry settings in this manner, otherwise the plot will only move like a plot or manual and land emotionally flat or hollow.

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      • exoidus replied:

        Jayne,

        Well i think it’s possible to make a series revolving around M&A. However the problem being is tvb not making an effort to make a good script.

        they are using the same professions over and over again. maybe the reason is that they already have a certain knowledge about the proffesion and are too lazy to analyze a new one.

        a good story won’t help tvb when most of their artist can’t really act.

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      • Profile photo of jayne jayne replied:

        Exoidus,
        “a good story won’t help tvb when most of their artist can’t really act.”

        Many older artists are still available if TVB extend filming offers in advance, such as Anita Yuen and Esther Kwan. First comes a good vision, story, and casting will lend to the good acting. I also think that a good director and editing can lessen an artist’s flaws, as demonstrated in Japanese and Korean series.

        Again, the exotic profession and industry settings serve more as “trimmings on a Christmas tree.” The settings and professions are but trimmings and should enhance, but not be the central focus.

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  7. clover says:

    So aptly describe Ruco’s performance in TOT – my greatest find this year!

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  8. llee says:

    Well written article – especially the part about Ruco’s acting. I watched the first episode and than hook up to the series!

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    • llee replied:

      I meant hook on to this series. 🙂

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  9. cF says:

    Hit the nail on the head – Ruco was definitely the only thing I retained after finishing this series, though the journey was enjoyable.

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  10. Addy says:

    Keep on doing more, SDS! Really enjoyed this review. 😀

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    • SDS replied:

      谢谢 (thanks thanks) 🙂

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  11. jayzemine says:

    Love TOT not only because of Tavia and Raymond, but it was because Ruco captivated my eyes as an audience even in the first episode. I didn’t know or expect that he was lead until I watched the serie but needless to say, he did a good job as proof with the rise of his popularity.

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    • llee replied:

      Same here – I first thought this will not be good as I have no idea about Ruco and Raymond. But, Ruco did such a good job in the first episode ….

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  12. Chriselle says:

    SDS, this was a hilarious read. Hope you write more reviews for JayneStars in the future! 😀

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  13. ada says:

    Raymond’s acting is still pretty stiff.
    I’m quite impressed by Ruco, first time leading, & he did a good job.
    Didnt like the love triangle as well, Tavia should have chosen one of them.

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    • llee replied:

      The ending was not good, it was too rush.

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  14. llee says:

    SDS – thanks for the review. There’s another character in TOT that are quite funny – it is Ruco’s Apprentice (did not know his name). His comments/remarks in TOT always made me laugh. BTW – he always carry some kinds of drink in all his appearance.

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  15. samantha says:

    Ruco did a great job of course but as for Tavia i find her acting and crying scene kinda sucks. Also shes so annoying towards the end. Geez woman make up ur mind and choose one guy for god sake.

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  16. Sharon says:

    I didn’t dislike it as much as you did, but that might be because I was so grateful for a semi-decent drama about lawyers that I was willing to overlook its obvious flaws.

    The scripting was, like you say, solid until mid-way through the corrupt cops case…it was all downhill laziness from there, and they started to solve problems without referring to the law at all. Not impressed. The climax should have been an epic legal battle, not a contrived shootout. Maybe if they cut Kenneth’s storyline (which was downright stupid – Natalie Tong undergoes a complete change of personality in about 10 minutes, and Kenneth’s character was a cliche) they could have made the corrupt cops case their climax and handle it more thoroughly. There was so much potential in that subplot to explore some really contentious issues.

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    • Jayne replied:

      Sharon,
      “Not impressed. The climax should have been an epic legal battle, not a contrived shootout.”

      Agree with your suggestion. However, physically explosive endings seem to make more “noise” and are the preferred endings in all TVB genres, even seemingly romantic genres such as “Only You.”

      Natalie Tong’s fate, however illogical and rushed, adds shock value to the ending. As SDS mentioned, the ending was unsatisfying because the leads step aside to make way for Kenneth Ma. There is an unfulfilled destiny, of which the love triangle between Ruco, Tavia, and Raymond was the chief complaint, in the central characters.

      Wasn’t the series also cut from 30 to 25 episodes? The choppy editing can be seen most dramatically in Kenneth’s case.

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      • may scully replied:

        Very true about the love triangle between Ruco,Tavia n Raymond ,seem the ending feel lazy over the writer who himself can make his deception over the love triangle, its so simple to choose who Tavia love ,coz her feeling over Ruco its fall in love but to Ray is friendship who save her life….

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  17. smurf120 says:

    I’m commenting on this approx 3 months after watching:

    I did not remember that Raymond Wong was in this series until I read the review. Low hopes but tried to watch upon the urging of a friend who liked the acting better than Ghetto Justice.

    I loved Ruco’s performance. The story was poorly written, to the point you felt that the third act was contrived in desperation due to deadlines and crazy demands in editing. I didn’t know what to make of it when they basically introduced 2 or 3 major characters in the last 3 episodes.

    I hope Ruco gets better scripts next time.

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  18. may scully says:

    I actually love Ruco, omg he,s so amazing in this serial ,he crazy good very confidence with his characters however the rest was not bad its ok nothing much to talk about …..

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  19. Tiffany says:

    Just finished watching this series lol… I love how Keith acts 😀 but the storyline is kinda weird, I kept watching cos ruco is in it lol. Can’t say it’s boring cos it’s not. But sometimes things just comes outta nowhere :L good job ruco XD

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