“When Heaven Burns” Sparks Anger by Referencing Beyond’s Tragedy 18 Years Ago

Although When Heaven Burns (天與地), was ignored by TVB management and was delayed in broadcast for two years, the drama sparked a lively online discussion among netizens. The series particularly attracted the fans of music group, Beyond, due to the story centering around four band members and the tragic death of one member 18 years ago.  Allegedly, When Heaven Burns contained heavy references to Beyond and was criticized in drawing inspiration from Wong Ka Kui’s (黃家駒) accidental death while on a concert tour in Japan in 1993.

When Heaven Burns will be broadcast in Hong Kong on Monday, November 21st. Online forums were filled with heated debate over the series, which centered around Moses Chan (陳豪), Bowie Lam (林保怡), Kenny Wong (黃德斌), and an additional friend forming a band, Happiness and Anger, together. While mountain climbing, the men were trapped in the snow and resorted to cannibalism upon one band member, who possessed an illness, in order to survive. 

Since the story of When Heaven Burns started 18 years ago, fans were suspicious about the references to music group, Beyond. Netizens analyzed the characterizations, noting that Moses Chan, who enjoyed Muay Thai boxing, bore the shadow of Beyond member, Paul Wong (黃貫中). Bowie Lam and Astrid Chan (陳芷菁) were replicas of Wong Ka Keung (黃家強) and his Japanese wife. Kenny Wong was the equivalent of Yip Sai Wing (葉世榮). Since the characters in When Heaven Burns enjoyed playing in a band, Producer Jonathan Chik (戚其義) invited Paul Wong to sing the series’ theme and ending songs, sparking further controversy.

Accused of referencing Beyond, Moses emphasized that When Heaven Burns focused on the theme of humanity. When it was pointed out that Moses’ character loved Muay Thai boxing, which was Paul Wong’s passion, Moses remarked, “Really? I did not know that Paul enjoys Muay Thai boxing! The story spoke about a tragic accident occurring 18 years ago, which was the same time Wong Ka Kui’s death occurred. It was just a coincidence; When Heaven Burns should have been broadcast last year.” 

Since When Heaven Burns will not be broadcast until next Monday, Paul Wong’s manager refrained from commenting whether the series drew references upon the real life experiences of Beyond band members.


Source: Appledaily.on.cc

Jayne: The controversial “When Heaven Burns” will be airing soon! Although cannibalism is an interesting theme, I’m concerned whether the series will continually live in the past from 18 years ago, with the characters constantly talking about that single cannibalistic event which cause they to question their humanity. Since it focuses on a single tragic event, the concept may work better in a film than a 30 episode series. 

Btw, I really like the English title of the series, When Heaven Burns, rather than the boring Chinese title  <天與地>.

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      1. Jonathan Chik did filmed a series with serial killer theme afterward… with Adam Cheng and Moses Chan.

        Moses is a serial killer moonlighting as magician while Adam is a stage actor with troubled mind.

  1. This is 30 episodes?? The concept seems like it would work better with shorter episodes, but maybe it’ll prove me wrong.

    Although the concept is interesting, I’m not usually a fan of Jonathan Chik’s series, especially since he always uses the same cast of: Charmaine, Moses, Bowie, Kenny, Maggie Siu, Queenie…
    Charmaine look in this series is really cool and pretty though.

    1. Moses has different look in this series maybe he can make a comeback from his title as ‘Most Deteriorating Actor’.

  2. Should be Heaven and Earth.

    Anyway I didn’t know Wong Ka Kui was eaten by the rest of Beyond members? No? So what is the connection? Due to Muay Thai? Isn;t this like forcing the similarities? And even if referencing Beyond, so what? Nothing disrespectful isn’t it. In fact why isn’t anyone making a biopic of Beyond?

    What a silly complaint. Until and unless this series shows one member fell to their death during a singing performance practice and Athena Chu lookalike appears, I see no similarities.

    I saw the preview, sorry, not impressed so I am now very interested in whether how my journey will be with this series for my own episodic thoughts write up.

    “Since it focuses on a single tragic event, the concept may work better in a film than a 30 episode series. ”

    Not really. A 2 hour movie may not be enough to focus on so many people. A series is proper, since frankly I doubt it is on humanity. It will in the end trangress too love affair; each loving the leading lady. Cannibalism and what nots will be forgotten. It is always so with TVB. They can’t write a proper story about the study of humanity; they can write good dispute stories and as viewers we input the humanity, but humanity itself is wholly impossible. The fact they need to use cannibalism to talk about so called humanity in itself shows how little understanding TVB has towards humanity. What humanity when you eat your injured friend? Is survival the ultimate aim of all humanity and you are willing to lose your humanity for that? I do like to see how the story goes on who is the instigator. But again I am very sure it will be talked about for a few episodes and promptly forgotten for the rest until such time it will reemerge to give this story some consistency and the fans will probably clap and say well done when in fact nothing has been done.

    I hope this series surprises me since I am going to dedicate some attention before I can even start to articulate my thoughts.

    1. ROFL last I know there’s a big difference between eaten and fall down some stage 😛

    2. All the cast are JC regular favourites. He’s making Kenny Wong a leading role too

    3. Funn,
      “The fact they need to use cannibalism to talk about so called humanity in itself shows how little understanding TVB has towards humanity. What humanity when you eat your injured friend? Is survival the ultimate aim of all humanity and you are willing to lose your humanity for that?”

      Desperate times call for desperate measures. Until we are faced with a true death threat, we may not know how strong our survival instinct is, which may border being on animalistic. Cannibalism is well documented during times of famine. Let’s see whether the actors are convincing in portraying that will to continue living at whatever costs.

      We will have to see what the circumstances leading up to the cannibalism is. It doesn’t sound as if Bowie, Moses, and Kenny are murderers, in which they killed their friend and then ate his body. Perhaps due to accident and impending illness, that friend’s life was already determined to have low survival rate. Perhaps the 3 men justified their cannibalistic actions based on the situation. We will have to see how the scene is handled. What to make of the ethical dilemma in eating another human, and under what circumstances judgement was made as to foreit their friend’s life for their own survival?

      Catastrophe and disasters do test the strength of humanity and core values. What do you think would serve as a better platform to explore humanity? Natural disaster? War and destruction, how men are pushed to kill other humans and the judgement on value of human life?

      “I saw the preview, sorry, not impressed so I am now very interested in whether how my journey will be with this series for my own episodic thoughts write up.”

      Looking forward to hear your profound thoughts!

      1. I think they might not be murderers. Maybe that friend already died from some other causes and they ate him to survive.

      2. Synopsis said friend was injured. If they feel so guilty I have a feeling they let him die of his injuries or just kill him since he was dying anyway. if he was dead, I don’t see why such immense guilt.

      3. From my understanding of the article, it said that their friend was suffering from an illness but they didn’t specify if the illness was immediate and life threatening or like a lifelong illness e.g. congenital heart defect where the person can still live a fairly normal life with treatment. If they killed him or let him die because of the former, then it wouldn’t be as morally ambiguous as the latter. If it were the latter, they basically chose the a relatively healthy person at the time but still less likely to survive in the long run and killed him off so that they could live. Then that would be morally wrong and they would be considered murderers. If their friend was already dead (not due to human machinations), like what happened in the Andes flight disaster, then it would have been easier to accept, with less guilt involved.

    4. Yes, netizens sometimes complain about all kind of nonsensical things.

      1. Just wait till the series airs. Guarantee have lots of complaints every week.

    5. Yeah, I was wondering… what is the referencing all abt? Last I knew, Beyond members didn’t ate Wong Ka Kui. Nor is Maggie Shiu character similar to Athena in any way.

      Yes Paul did read the entire series script in order to write the themesong and subtheme.

      1. Oh Paul wrote the songs? So why would Beyond fans be offended. I just don’t understand.

      2. Funn, the article was from tabloid, more likely they are just creating hype to sensationalize the stories a bit. I didn’t see any complaints from Beyond fans, wonder where does the reporter get the source and how many actual complaints there is anyway.

        What I’m more curious is that Paul knows the ending of the series, since he read the entire series script. Wonder if anyone will pester him to tell. LOL.

      3. @Kidd

        I translated the themesong in my blog. No clues on the ending.

  3. I find it funny that member of the band is singing the theme song, which indicated that he was okay with the similarities, and yet some ppl made a mountain out of a mole hill. I, for once, am looking toward this series. It’s been a while since TVB is doing anything interesting.

  4. Sounds like same story line like the old movie ” alive” back in early nineties. Boy i’m old haha. Hmm probably not too interested too depress. Need something happy.

    1. I think that was the original idea… a tvb version of the movie “alive” and it had Nick Cheung’s name attached all over it. TVB went ahead with this series without Nick because he couldn’t penned this into his crazy schedule. In any case, because this series has had many controversals since the beginning, I’m so looking forward to it. There are too many light-hearted series out there already. From TVB to Korean to VNese and then there is Thai… some series are cute and fluffy … others are just silly.

  5. Hahaha, should have used the series poster. Much better than this last minute photoshop by TVBI marketing department in 2010.

      1. sehseh, thanks! Cries…youtube blocked >_<. I will watch later.

      2. I really like that poster. Moses looks good; for once his legs seems to fill the pants.

  6. Personally I think this drama’s dark feel enticed me, perhaps I may take a peek when it premiers.

  7. I predict that the show will fail just because if it was good TVB wouldn’t have postponed it for so long.

    1. They implied that TVB postponed it because of politics maybe due to Charmaine and Bowie’s problem.

      1. Chow Yuk Ming, the scriptwriter said on his weibo that it is due to TVB internal politics, but didn’t specify why or who.

        But yes, Bowie and Charmaine refusal to extend their contract did play a part in it. Logically, TVB will prefer to spend their resources and better time slot to promote their contracted artistes. It’s just one of the rules of TVB game.

      2. 09年寫天与地,阿戚給了一个建议;来个浪漫的故事吧。最后,我寫了一个自问比金枝欲孽还要好得多的剧本,阿戚,佘,Mo,保怡,德斌更令剧本昇华,但最后,因为公司的政治斗争,兩年了,剧集还是無理地被某些高層搁置,TVB这机構已令我难再抱有半点希冀。剛在视频看了96年beyond的海濶天空,心中更有不甘。


    2. If you say rating wise, it will. It’s not a family series (waiting for the complaints to roll in). Ratings during primetime are mostly contributed by family (housewives etc).

    3. The show is good, really. 🙂 And the partnership between the actors and Charmaine is really good. You can feel the pain, the happiness, the guilt,…

  8. I am sick of seeing kenny wong acting next to Bowie. It’s like a constant demonstration of subtle and boring versus subtle yet powerful acting. Has this dude always been expressionless or did i miss out on some good roles that he played?

    1. I agree. But take off shirt, who will you look at? But yes I truly agree. Maybe they will be better as lovers? Maybe TVB might consider that?

    2. bowie’s last series will kenny follow him?

      the same applies to moses and char. they are always acting as a couple and im feed up with this pairing…

  9. It’s a long long time that TVB has even dared to film series on taboo and controversial subjects. The ‘controversial’ elements that sparked viewers’ complaints in recent series are actually imho nothing to shout about. But ‘When Heaven Burns’ does remind me of the early 1990’s series ‘Conscience’ which also stars Maggie Shiu together with then TVB’s big bro Deric Wan and is also 30 episodes in length. In terms of contents, that was the most extreme length that TVB has ever been to imho. And they have never done anything like that ever since. Not sure if there were outlets for viewers to complain back then but if there were, I think the phone lines and forum sites will be maxed out. I mean series like ‘Greed of Man’ (still my all time favourite modern TVB series) does contain violent and extreme elements like throwing characters off high rise buildings and the horrifying obliviousness of Adam Cheng’s character alone is enough to court massive complaints from sensitive viewers, but nothing beats ‘Conscience’ in the disturbing elements it portrayed so openly which really put a ‘seasoned’ viewer like me who have watched violent and disturbing U.S. cable TV shows like Oz and The Sopranos on the fence as to my feelings regarding the series. If I remember correctly, Deric and Maggie’s popularity began to plummet after the airing of the series. Perhaps this really has to do with the dark content of the series. And ever since, TVB has managed to steer clear of dark controversial themes in their series right until now. Is ‘When Heaven Burns’ TVB’s attempt to go back to controversial and taboo subjects again in light of the increasing tough competition in the broadcast TV business in HK? Anyone remember ‘Conscience’? I bet a lot of you who do remember, hated the series. I for one am still on the fence about whether I like or hate the series but the themes conveyed by the series although controversial and extreme are very layered imho and much much better than the TVB fares we have been fed these days.

    1. I remember Conscience because i like the theme song sung by Deric Wan 🙂 but i don’t recall the storyline…. Maybe it’s time to re-watch some of these good old early 90s drama series.

    2. Dai Si Jie,
      I love “Greed of Man” as well and watched it again 2 years ago. The series does not feel old at all. Some scenes may be done for shock value, but it works well given Adam Cheng’s character. The scene that was most painful for me to watch was the one where Sean Lau watches his sisters die.

      I did not like “Conscience” due to the overly dark matter, although I like the pairing of Maggie Shiu and Deric Wan. The characters in “Conscience” were vindictive and destructive and made the series very difficult to stomach.

      1. I watched Greed of Man last summer and quite enjoyed it. Great acting and story although violent, was not dark. What aspects of Conscience made it so darkÉ

    3. I have watch Conscience before when I was younger. But, I don’t find it that controversial. Why is it more disturbing than other series of that time? Why is it hated? Is it because of the indecent proposal? Or because of how Maggie Shiu’s character turns out? Or it is because of the truth behind Maggie’s murder case?

      Maybe because I have just watch the movie ‘Indecent Proposal’ prior to watching the series. So, I don’t find this part disturbing.

      1. @ Kidd

        “Maggie’s murder case?”

        I don’t remember she murdered anyone in the series??? hmmm… or was it her mom that she killed??? My memory was a bit sketchy on this series, but I did remember I liked it. Other than the ripped off of the Indecent Proposal plotline, the whole series and characters wer very complex. It featured the ugly side of the human nature… granted, a bit extreme given how the series developed. But overall, a step outside of TVB comfort zone, which in my opinion, is very refreshing. Definitely not a “feel good” series.

      2. @ lingling

        At the beginning, Maggie was accused of killing her mother’s boyfriend. She was acquitted after eyewitness Deric gave testimony that she did it in self-defense. The boyfriend was trying to sexually assault her.

        I don’t think it’s out of comfort zone given the type of series TVB made in the 80’s and 90’s. Look at their list of series

        The Greed of Man
        The Final Verdict
        The Edge of Righteousness
        Looking Back in Anger

        All dark and gritty series with murders and complex characters.

        Reading the interview of an ex-TVB senior scriptwriter, I can see why the scripts of TVB deteriorate. In the past, TVB scriptwriters have to sell/promote their script to the producers and copy editor. So, they have a lot of room for creativity. Now, the scriptwriters work are just to do what the copy editor tell them to do. They lack the space to flex their creativity and also work satisfaction is less. Also, there’s a lack of capable new scriptwriters now because some producers refuse to use new scriptwriters. How are these new guys going to improve when they were not given enough chance to practice and learn?

  10. I’ve only seen the preview trailer but it looks really interesting. It’s starting in Aust on Monday as well. Can’t wait! It’s a very strong cast. Much better than the current TVB series with Myolie, Jessica and other 2nd/3rd/4th line stars.

  11. I just saw episode 1 earlier but to be honest, I didn’t really focus or concentrate but it didn’t really keep my attention for long…so maybe this is one of those dramas where you have to concentrate though it didn’t do a good job of attracting my focus haha

    I guess fans of Charmaine will love this though?

    1. Watched 15min and already made me ZZZZZZZZZ…

      Just means i don’t need to waste my time on this one either, LOL

    2. don’t generalize. why only fans of charmaine? what happened to fans of moses/bowie/maggie/kenny? what about fans that love dark dramas?

    3. I think you might be a little biased towards Charmaine. The storyline is good. And it’s at a slower pace as compared to other dramas, which is why @exoidus might find it a little zzzz. 🙂

  12. I thought When Heaven Burns is a good series. Till now, 6 episodes have been shown, and I think it is really getting into the move now. And in the show, Charmaine/Moses/Bowie/Maggie/Kenny really has shown their acting skills, displaying a different side of them. It is a “slow” drama, but ultimately there is still climax, and parts that people really want to watch and see. And every episode leaves me with a feeling of wanting to watch the next episode, and find out what is going to happen. It arouses my curiosity. How about you?

    1. Agree. I like this series too. A very high quality series for TVB standard. All the main actors gave a commendable performance in the series.

    2. I like watching Charm/Mo/Bo but kenny is still too boring. And I don’t know why Maggie is playing the ditz- doesn’t suit her.

      1. This I agree, Kenny feels a little out-of-place in this show, no offense. However, Charmaine/Moses/Bowie really acted well for their character. But you’ll never know, maybe Kenny will be more outstanding in the later part of the show. Okay, I admit that I’m a Charmaine Fan, but her looks and feel is this show is just so different from her other shows in TVB. And Moses as well, someone so “strong” and no longer a Mr-Good-Man. 🙂

  13. This is a great drama. When Moses was about to blast to Kenny about the tragedy, Bowie was like: Hac zi, stop it.
    Ha so funny some reason.

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