TVB’s Decline in Ancient Dramas

By on August 4, 2018 in NEWS, TV Dramas

TVB’s Decline in Ancient Dramas

From the 1970s to the 1990s, TVB consistently turned out many memorable ancient dramas. As the Mainland Chinese market opened up, many TVB directors left the station to work in China for more money. Many viewers complained that the quality of TVB ancient dramas have tanked, while the number of quality Mainland dramas have increased exponentially. It is a little known fact that among China’s top 100 ancient drama directors, half of them came from Hong Kong.

Two of TVB’s biggest productions, Succession War <天命> and Deep in the Realm of Conscience <宮心計2深宮計>, generated mediocre interest. The buzz surrounding TVB ancient dramas are evidently not as strong as before, as many viewers are turning to Mainland productions instead.

Hong Kong Directors Produce Mega-Hits in China

The main reason why TVB’s ancient dramas have been significantly weaker is due to lack of financial resources. Mainland China’s higher pay attracted many directors, costume designers, and experienced production crew to leave their jobs behind in Hong Kong.

Film critic, Zhou Yi (周燚), released a list of the Top 100 Directors in Costume Dramas in China, and 46 of them came from Hong Kong. Some of the best Hong Kong directorial talents, such as Lam Yuk Fan (林玉芬), who worked on the second and third installments in the Detective Investigation Files <刑事偵緝檔案> franchise. In Mainland, Lam worked on Wu Xin The Monster Killer <無心法師> and mega-hit, Eternal Love <三生三世十里桃花>. 

Jeffery Chiang (蔣家駿), who directed Inbound Troubles <老表,你好嘢!>, and movie The Prince of Temple Street <廟街十二少>, headed up north and filmed The Legend of the Condor Heroes <新射雕英雄传>, and Colorful Bones <艷骨>.

Last but not least, Ng Gam Yuen (吳錦源) who was known for directing A Step into the Past <尋秦記>, My Date with a Vampire 2 <我和僵屍有個約會2>, and Forrest Cat 2 <肥貓正傳2>, went on to filming the big 2017 hit Princess Agents <楚喬傳>.

TVB Does Not Want to Be Left Behind

In the last ten years, the popularity of Mainland ancient costume dramas has been on the rise. Large amounts of investor capital were poured into productions with the lure of lucrative returns. Unlike modern series, ancient dramas require elaborate and expensive sets, costumes, and props. Especially with wuxia films, the addition of software enhancements for martial arts scenes can become costly in the filming budget.

TVB lacks the support and funding needed to create ancient dramas of the same caliber. Hoping to salvage this, TVB has been collaborating with Mainland companies in recent years. With the extra financial backing, TVB hopes to improve the quality of their productions and regain viewers’ approval.

Source: HK01

This article is written by Su for JayneStars.com.

17 comments to TVB’s Decline in Ancient Dramas

  1. tiffany says:

    Financial plays a part, but it is the lack of quality scripts. I prefer TVB’s adaptations of JY’s novels though.

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    • jayne replied:

      @tiffany Although this article focused primarily on the exodus of TVB directors to Mainland China, the same can be said towards scriptwriters, set designers, and experienced production staff. With the higher pay, many successful HK people in drama production are gone.

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      • potatochip replied:

        @jayne Sorry for going off topic, but I didn’t know how to contact a moderator. Can you help me look into my reply in the SW ratings thread? It’s been in moderation for 2 days and I didn’t want to repost in case it obnoxiously duplicated. Thanks for your help.

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        @potatochip we approved your comment under moderation. Sorry for the delay. In the future you can mention @admin for help or email admin @ jaynestars .com.

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      • potatochip replied:

        @admin Thank you! I really appreciate the work you do for this news forum.

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    • llwy12 replied:

      @tiffany @jayne And it’s not just the financial piece. Yes, a lot of experienced people (both behind the scenes staff as well as artists) left for better opportunity and money, but there are also quite a few who left because of TVB’s antiquated policies, their poor treatment of their staff, and the overall disrespectful attitude TVB has toward the production process. The problems go way deeper than financial so throwing money at the situation (which is what they are essentially doing by collaborating with Mainland) is not going to do much good in terms of fixing things long term.

      Sheren Tang gave a really good response to the whole thing in an interview with Ming Pao yesterday and really got to the heart of why it’s important to speak up when there are issues. I would say that I hope TVB reads her interview and reflects, but I know they don’t care so probably no point.

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  2. funnlim says:

    Because viewers want to be fooled by what they can see rather than what they can feel. Succession War wasn’t terrible, it was in fact rather good but they rather watch overstretched over long dubbed Tv series which talks about the same thing over and over again. And who doesn’t like a good girl fight eh? Well ancient series in China is either love love betrayal love suffer love die alive sacrifice love OR fight fight over 1 guy whose heart is set on 1 but married 1000 others.

    Unless it is Nirvana In Fire. That one TVB can never fight.

    All those C drama jinyong remakes are crap. JTTW crap. TVB shouldd what they know best. Unfortunately they want to follow Cdramas who have bigger budgets, bigger stars, better costumes but their stories are hollow, they acting (mostly) standard stuff.

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    • msxie0714 replied:

      @funnlim

      Ironically, Nirvana in Fire bombed in HK. Maybe because the edited version in Cantonese was inferior, boycotting by HK localists, or everyone already saw the original version on the internet.

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    • kidd replied:

      @funnlim

      “Well ancient series in China is either love love betrayal love suffer love die alive sacrifice love OR fight fight over 1 guy whose heart is set on 1 but married 1000 others.”

      This is so true. 😀 I recently watch ‘Legend of Zu’. Battle between good and evil take a back seat to LOVE. The whole series is just all about love love love.

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  3. lewismcchan says:

    Why do we think that producing more ancient dramas are better? Why do we keep thinking to follow mainland China will be great? The most important is to formulate a good story and write it with some good scripts. It does not need big money to produce it. We all know about it. Create our own styles and stop re-producing any novels from Jin Yung. It is way too much. Remember following mediocrity only ends up with result of mediocrity.

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    • llwy12 replied:

      @lewismcchan From TVB’s perspective, it’s because being “original” and “creative” is too risky and takes too long. It’s easier to just copy others and also go where everything is set up for them already (which is one reason why collaborating with Mainland is so attractive to them outside of the financial piece). They can earn quick money in Mainland and not have to do as much work on their side.

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      • kidd replied:

        @llwy12

        The Mainland costume dramas aren’t really that original or creative either. Most of them are adaptations of popular online novels. But, the costumes are creative. Kudos to the costume designers.

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    • mangotango replied:

      @lewismcchan Agree good scripts and story line are important. But the Mainland market may be a different ballgame. Passing the sometines illogical censorship board is important. I read that producing dramas is actually a big risk. Some never get televised.

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  4. mangotango says:

    Money talks. Unfortunately if TVB wants to do well in China, they must understand the audience. Many amcient costume audience are followers of the novels.

    Personally, I am tired of romance costume.dramas. Like funn mentioned, it is mainly about romance. And Jinyong dramas have been replayed zillion times over. I do not mind historical and strategies ancient dramas if they are well written. I remember TVB has produced some good ones.

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  5. elizabeth says:

    I think it is supply and demand. The general population in HK don’t want to watch HK productions. The ones that do watch seem to prefer light-hearted, romantic or silly genres to relieve stress from work. You can only do so much similar genre stuff before they all start to look familiar and repetitive.

    TVB is a business so it makes what brings in the ratings and the cash. Some series have a bad rating but have great comments, yet TVB is reluctant to make more because it does not bring in cash. Ancient series cost a lot and takes more preparations so when they do make it, they have to make it a big production or it is not worth it.

    The article only mentions successful productions by producers from HK, but it has not mentioned all the productions by the same people that bombed. Li Guo Li made great ones like BBJX, but he also made crappy ones like Chinese Paladin 5. Lam Yuk Fan made the horrible “Legend of the Nine Tails Fox”. It is a hit and miss for stiff they produced, even in China.

    The problem is not with HK, but with TVB being too conservative. They are willing to overstep the boundaries with violence, sex and plagiarism to hype up the series, but unwilling to overstep for originality and creativity.

    You look at OCTB, which was though financed by Mainland China, but it was a HK production and it was great. HKTV had some great stuff going and it was from HK. They both took risks and made a lot of effort into script and production.

    TVB has talent but it squeezes so many stars into one series that instead of letting them shine, they just drown each other out because the characters have no room or screen time to develop.

    I disagree that SW and BTROC2 are in the same category. SW was enjoyable to me and I liked the pace of it. BTROC2 was just overwhelming and traumatic.

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  6. mangotango says:

    There are competitions too .. not only from China. South Korea is improving leaps and bound in other genres besides romance. Also many people like me prefer to watch at my own pace using online access. I remember those days .. watching mainly Taiwanese movies and Hong Kong dramas. Not any more. I believe to survive they need not only resources but ideas too. @Elizabeth pointed out a good point. When the dramas use similar themes over and over again to milk the initial success, it becomes boring. Like now I am getting sick of special effects of flying across roofs and trees etc. It becomes comical after some time.

    Sometimes, quality dramas may not bring high ratings too.

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  7. kk12345 says:

    “Unlike modern series, ancient dramas require elaborate and expensive sets, costumes, and props. Especially with wuxia films, the addition of software enhancements for martial arts scenes can become costly in the filming budget.”

    They can produce modern fantasy series. Like Korea’s “W”, “I’m not a robot”, “Are you human?”. Or like The Flash.

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