Wong Cho Lam’s (王祖藍) talents in comedy have long been recognized. A graduate of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Wong had initially set his sights on scriptwriting and directing, but he fell into acting haphazardly. Finally fulfilling his wish, Cho Lam’s first scripted drama, Inbound Troubles <老表,你好嘢﹗>, has earned critical praise and good ratings.
Assessed Market Needs
Cho Lam felt that since 1997’s Show Time Blues <樂壇插班生>, comedy has been a genre that steadily decreased in boldness in TVB dramas. “I felt that something is amiss. People ask what type of comedy I wish to film. If I can achieve the level of Family Squad <卡拉屋企>, I am already very happy. I am not original, but I just wish to hold onto Hong Kong’s strength in comedy sketches about society.
“I felt that Super Snoops <荃加福祿壽探案> can be more crazy. However, [TVB] scriptwriters rarely write comedies. When they write The Hippocratic Crush <On Call 36小時>, then it’s exciting to watch!”
Cho Lam has his eye on the Best Drama award and is not interested in the Best Actor award. While writing the script of Inbound Troubles, he pondered what elements in a drama would generate high ratings and critical acclaim. When Heaven Burns <天與地> had generated critical acclaim, yet it suffered in ratings.
“In recent years, there are dramas that have good ratings, but not good reviews. Although the ratings are high, netizens do not like them. I hope to win both ratings and reviews. Actually, we consulted with some Hong Kong Golden Forum guys in a meeting.” Cho Lam added that Wu Fung (胡楓), was cast to portray a Hong Kong Golden Forum netizen in the drama to avoid online criticism due to his veteran status.
Cho Lam Custom Tailors Script for Cast
Cho Lam deserves much of the credit for his carefully penned script and casting, which reveal a sharp eye and attention to details. Cho Lam wanted Roger Kwok (郭晉安) from the start due to his ability to draw audiences, which was especially important since the drama featured many TVB non-regulars, such as singers Ivana Wong (王菀之), Louis Cheung (張繼聰), and May Chan (陳嘉佳). Cho Lam first thought of casting Ivana while writing about the character entering a singing competition; her beautiful voice while singing “Brother Brother” moved many and Ivana’s performance has been highly praised.
After the cast was locked in, Cho Lam further refined the script to custom tailor their lines for maximum humor. In Inbound Troubles, Roger’s character often utters, “There are so many questions every day,” which make a reference to his wife, Cindy Au’s (歐倩怡) song.
Cho Lam said, “We only made a suggestion; Roger decided to go ahead and do it. Some artists do not like to put their personal matters on the table. We hope to resurrect Cindy Au’s career. For example, Joey Meng’s (萬綺雯) I Have a Date With a Vampire <我和殭屍有個約會> is such a classic; how can we not borrow a bit from it? Each comedic angle is custom-tailored for the artist.”
Cho Lam’s carefully crafted script was well-appreciated by the cast. Cho Lam had suggested Wong Kwong Leung (黃光亮) to portray his father, and due to their close physical resemblance, many people thought they were truly father and son. On set, Wong Kwong Leung was the most quiet artist and said appreciatively, “Cho Lam, after reading the script, there is not only humor, but there is actually a message in there.”
Cho Lam described his script, “There are tears within the humor. We didn’t haphazardly put together a comedy and call it done.”
Viewers will notice that Cho Lam saved the best punch lines for his costars, while sidestepping away from the limelight when necessary. Although he created the script, he reminded himself to exercise restraint for his own character when applicable. “For many scenes, I intentionally told myself to step to the side. The main love relationship arcs do not involve me; it falls on Roger! I originally wanted to ask Leanne Li (李亞男) for a guest scene, as a gimmick or humorous scene. Although we may treat it humorously, we were afraid that others may be dissatisfied!”
Mother Noticed Leanne First
The script for Inbound Troubles required nearly 6 months to complete, which took away Cho Lam’s time to spend with girlfriend, Leanne Li. “Throughout last year, she complained about me, that it felt akin to not having a boyfriend. She asked me not to be a scriptwriter again. The person who is most passionately against a sequel in the entire Hong Kong would be her!” Cho Lam joked, “I think Leanne Li took part in filing complaints at the Broadcasting Authority against me!”
Cho Lam’s persistent and patient pursuit of Leanne, which spanned several years, is well publicized. However, Leanne did not initially catch his eye when they met at church. It turned out that Cho Lam’s mother was the first to rave about her instead.
“To be honest, I did not have much feelings towards Leanne at first. One time, I brought my mother to House of Artistes for a barbecue to meet my friends. My mother said, ‘This girl is truly beautiful.’ I thought to myself, ‘How pretty is she? What a big fuss over a small matter.’ When my mother repeated the same thing no less than 10 times, I suddenly found Leanne to be more beautiful each time I saw her. So my mother qualifies as our matchmaker.”
Despite their height differences, Cho Lam and Leanne’s relationship was well embraced by the public when it was revealed in 2010, even managing to boost Leanne’s popularity. However, the dating relationship did not increase Leanne’s jobs. “That’s what I like about Leanne, that she doesn’t have much ambition.”
Cho Lam added that he did not mind the jokes about him being shorter than Leanne. “There’s no need to mind because it’s the truth.”