The Hippocratic Crush<On Call 36小時>
TVB Drama 2012
Producer: Poon Ka Tak
Genre: Medical Drama
Number of episodes: 25
Kenneth Ma as “Cheung Yat Kin”
Tavia Yeung as “Fan Chi Yu”
Him Law as “Yeung Pui Chung” or “Onion”
Mandy Wong as “Hung Mei Suet”
Benjamin Yuen as “Benjamin Lau”
Candy Chang as “Kan Ching Ching”
Ben Wong as “John Chong”
Nathan Ngai as “Cheung Yat Hong”
Raymond Cho as “Chin Ho Tat”
Gigi Wong as “Wong Siu Un”
Derek Kwok as “Lui Siu Yat”
Paisley Hu as “To Ka Man”
Catherine Chau as “Wong Hoi Kei”
Everything old is new again with The Hippocratic Crush. The predictable “ratings guaranteed” material and story performed by a cast where 80% of the artists are virtual unknowns is more of a hit than a miss, even despite unfamiliarity with the cast, Tavia Yeung’s nose, and shaky acting. There’s hope out there, people.
While TVB is on its talent drain tailspin, can I add one person to the list? Whoever gave this series its English title. Please say thank you.
Story-wise, there’s nothing new here. Someone dies young, someone gets a tumour and doesn’t want to tell family, and a broken family is reunited. I’ll leave some semblance of mystery by not identifying all the “someones.” Despite the recycled plot, the series is a step up from its profession-series counterparts because it executes a more realistic portrayal of professions-in-training, rather than focusing on a bunch of children pretending to be aspiring professionals (The Academy) or supposed doctors who have nothing to do except lounge around in bars and sleep with each other all day (Healing Hands). The occasional surprise in the plot also helps (e.g. Mei Suet and Yu Chai are full sisters, not half), as do some quality details such as Yat Hong’s memorial – which was sweet, intimate, and personal, and the proposal between Yat Kin and Yu, which was touching and romantic.
It’s a shame that Him Law is such a tool in real life because he has a lot of potential as an actor. While I’m probably the only person on the planet who doesn’t find him handsome. He looks like a beetle to me, with the beady eyes and small head that’s not proportional to his body, which really isn’t that great – people need to watch Korean dramas to really see some killer bodies! Him delivers a cute, funny performance here as the snappy, witty and clever Onion. I liked his character arc, where he started off totally nonchalant and casual about his career, but gradually learns to understand the importance and even love the work. Him is believable as the character who goes through these emotions. As long as he doesn’t take his shirt off in his next series, I will continue watching him.
Mandy Wong reminds me a bit of an early Nancy Wu. She has an acting academy background and to-be-realized potential as an actress. She is also a decent dancer as well. Mandy has that super-serious, “I won’t smile even if I pick up gold” thing about her that makes her seem unapproachable and not media-friendly. Unlike Nancy, though, Mandy lacks a bit of the “it” factor, but still performs naturally as the cocky, biting Mei Suet. I really wish she would have at least smiled more genuinely in the series; she looks so sullen through it all. Even when Mei Suet is happy, the happiness looks forced.
What can I say about Tavia in here that won’t get me shot? Her nose is less distracting here than in The Other Truth, where she almost looked like a hawk because her nose was beak-like. It was scary. I read somewhere that she didn’t actually go under the knife, but that she gets injections? Does that mean that if she stops getting the injections, her nose will “return” to its original size, or at least stop growing? Because seriously, when people are talking more about your nose than your acting, maybe it’s time to stop the “Pinocchio act” (pun intended). I know her fans love her, and her haters hate her (I know, I’m so deep). Me? I feel nothing for her.
And that’s the problem. In this series, Tavia once again demonstrates that she is just a safe actress. She can emote much better than the even-more-boring Kevin Cheng or a lot of other hot siu sangs and fadans, but she never offers anything compelling or different. Her performance in The Hippocratic Crush isn’t flat, but it’s bland. She needs other, more interesting people to make her scenes interesting. In her scenes with Kenneth Ma, for example, I’m watching Kenneth. In her scenes with Ai Wai, I’m watching Ai Wai. Even in her scenes with Mandy, I’m watching Mandy. I’m never watching Tavia. She doesn’t command attention on her own. She either needs an interesting character, a well-written plot, or other actors to support her.
Maybe one day Tavia will turn into Kenneth Ma for me. Kenneth used to put me to sleep and have a lot of the same problems that Tavia does today. My reviews complained about his lack of charisma and mediocre acting skills, but over the years he’s been able to translate a certain offscreen ordinary, relatable guy charm onscreen into his roles, such as Survivor’s Law II. Tavia hasn’t been able to do this yet. I mean, when you’re drumming up a supposed-romance with a rumoured woman-beater and you still seem boring, I doubt there’s anything really there personality-wise. But who knows? Maybe I just need to give her more time. But first, I’d have to get past The Nose.
As for Kenneth, he turns in what can only be called an uneven performance in The Hippocratic Crush. In the earlier episodes, he was inadequate as the cold, unyielding neurosurgeon. Seriously, what about Kenneth looks arrogant or strict to you? He looked more like a kid trying to boss around other kids in the playground. However, when Yat Kin evolves into a pseudo-mentor for the interns, he is believable as someone who is approachable, someone who is more than willing to teach and give advice. Dramatically, his acting is also inconsistent. In the scene where they’re pushing Yat Hong out of the operating room, he looked like someone trying to decide his next move in a poker game, not someone who has just been told his brother is brain-dead. The other doctor who was pushing the stretcher looked more distressed. And yet, the scene where he breaks down in tears with Tavia on the basketball court is easily one of the most poignant moments in the entire series; I cried along with him.
I cheered when Ai Wai made his appearance in this series. Another actor would have likely made Dr. Fan a stuffy, arrogant beta academic type, but Ai Wai’s interpretation of the genius / accomplished neurosurgeon who is relaxed yet capable is a breath of fresh air in the series. Ben Wong, as the suspicious, confident doctor who had beef with Yat Kin was fantastic as well.
Now onto the people who have little or no screen baggage, which is a lot of fun for reviewers like me.
Candy Chang, who I read is a fellow Torontonian, is stiff and uncomfortable in her role, although her acting during the Yat Hong death storyline was better than expected. Nathan Ngai, who I recognize from Home Troopers, is a little better here. He really does look like a friendly, earnest little brother and some of that credit is due to his performance. Catharine Chau is great in here and gives her character much more personality than on paper. I always looked forward to her scenes in here. I still think she should have won Most Improved Actress the year of Dance of Passion because she is just that good. I hope she comes back to TVB one day.
Benjamin Yuen was a Mr. Hong Kong!? For real? He’s actually a pretty natural actor and decent to look at, too. His best moments were when he was yelling at Mei Suet for being an ungrateful spoiled brat, and when he was threatened with HIV thanks to an ex-girlfriend.
Paisley Hu was fun to watch as the brash, super-professional, but good-hearted head nurse, and she made an interesting coupling with the wimpy, anxious Siu Yik, portrayed by the ever-dependable Derek Kwok.
Flaws? The recitation of the Hippocratic Oath, which scarily, I thought was taken more seriously and recited more formally in Taiwan’s They Kiss Again. It’s also ludicrous to think that Mei Suet could have returned to the profession after botching a patient’s emergency surgery just to try to prove something (and nearly killing the patient while doing so). In fact, I doubt she could have gotten into medical school in the first place. Aren’t pre-med students supposed to take a bunch of personality tests so that schools can weed out those with self-importance issues? Some of the acting is hilariously bad (Kyle Tse), but forgiveable since these are debut performances for them.
Through the Grapevine
It’s confirmed– there will be a sequel. My money’s on Yu dying.
To Watch or Not To Watch, That is the Question
Lacks the star punch, but with a pre-sold audience and nothing else much to watch from TVB these days, the series does its job. It’s all relative.
This review was written by Bridget, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com. Visit Bridget’s blog!