Review: “Bounty Lady” (by VCN)
Bounty Lady <My盛Lady>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2013
Producer: Man Wai Hung
Dayo Wong as Heung Kwong Nam
Kate Tsui as Jennifer Sing Fa Lui
Sharon Chan as Yuen Huen
Elena Kong as Windy Yuen Sam
Benz Hui as Heung Sing Nam
Samantha Ko as Sing Fa Yui
Louis Yuen as Tung Ting Kiu
Grace Wong as Yam Mo Lin
May Chan as Judy
Sammy Sum as Lau Pak Kin
Bob Lam as Ma Ming
Toby Leung as Paula Lam Suk Wah
Jazz Lam as Bat Fan Keung
Bounty Lady is a 20-episode TVB series about love and romantic relationships. This series examine the meaning of love and satirize romance in present day Hong Kong. The story follows Heung Kwong Nam (Dayo Wong), a contrite convert from a firm believer of mass materialism and commercialism to a bestower of good wishes to the aging bachelorette population of Hong Kong, the over-popularized “sing girl”. As Kwong Nam and his band of followers, Heung Sing Nam (Benz Hui), Tung Ting Kiu (Louis Yuen), and Bat Fan Keung (Jazz Lam), catapult these needy “sing girl(s)” into healthy romances, they encounter their own trials in love and life. Along the way, they meet their female counterparts in the characters of Jennifer Sing Fa Lui (Kate Tsui), Windy Yuen Sam (Elena Kong), Yuen Huen (Sharon Chan), and Paula Lam Suk Wah (Toby Leung).
Bounty Lady is probably the worst English title I have ever encountered in the history of TVB dramas. (Sorry, Dayo! I generally enjoy the philosophical sarcasm in your shows, but this one seriously needs naming help.) What exactly are the producers trying to convey to the audience with this title? That the lady love is the reward to her boyfriend/husband or that the lady is rewarded with plenty of love? This title thoroughly confounds me. Since this is a satire on the aging bachelorette population of Hong Kong, the English title should rightly mention these ladies as the Chinese title does successfully. Suggestions for better English titles include “Lady in Love” and “Love Comes to All Ladies.”
“Bounty Lady” starts off with the deceiving premise that Heung Kwong Nam was traumatized by a past romantic relationship, much like the one in the American movie Sweet November. In Sweet November, the main character, a creative genius in the advertising business, is forever changed by the female lead, a terminally ill woman with a passion for life. At the end of Sweet November, the couple separates; the woman leaves to seek medical treatment and the man continues life with a newly earned sense of altruism that is inspired by his lover. Much like Sweet November, Kwong Nam is presented as a public relations and advertising mogul, a genius who can market literally anything, even feminine care products. But as a changed man, he has lost all interest in success, money and upward mobility. His only remaining interest is to serve the worthy “sing girl(s)” by being their matchmaker and helping them find suitable boyfriends. Essentially, Kwong Nam’s story begins exactly where the Sweet November plot ends.
Over the next ten episodes, viewers witness Kwong Nam’s miraculous feats in pairing couples. He finds these ladies their matches the same way that an expert sommelier pairs fine wine and culinary dishes. Humor and satire, although occasionally clichéd, abound in these episodes. These episodes actually succeed at providing cheesy entertainment, but they are unfortunately nothing more than that.
When watching the first five or so episodes, one is actually beguiled into believing that perhaps once in the last twenty years, TVB may have concocted something original and interesting to watch despite the early allusion to Sweet November. Then, déjà-vu and disappointment beset viewers. The audience is once again delivered the usual plots: the theme that opposites attract, the perverse wealthy suitor seeking pretty girl story, the good guy and playboy duo, the abusive girlfriend and eager to please boyfriend, etc. The storyline flops midway through the series and fails to sustain viewers with the same cynical perception of love in present day Hong Kong that is creatively introduced in the earlier episodes.
Without warning or reason, the well-developed allusion to Sweet November transforms into a psychotic nightmare. Worse yet, Kwong Nam’s supposed ex-girlfriend, Laura, appears unexpectedly from the dead and reeks havoc for the remaining episodes until its ridiculous conclusion. The appearance of Laura is rather insipid and simply a floundering attempt to create humor and suspense where nothing else remains to be developed. Furthermore, Laura’s indelible impression and effect on Kwong Nam is unfounded. When faced with such a psychotic acquaintance, wouldn’t the vast majority of people consider her suspected death a “good riddance” of sorts as opposed to unrelenting remorse? As a norm, people do not welcome ax murderers into their lives unless they have suicidal ideations, which Kwong Nam clearly does not exhibit in this series.
Ostensibly, the message of this series is to not be overly selective in choosing one’s partner for fear of missing the “one.” But, the majority of these couples with the exception of Kwong Nam and Fa Lui seems to have settled for what is readily available as opposed to have found their genuine true love. Furthermore, most of the romances are shallow and the how’s and the why’s of the relationships are mostly left unexplained.
Critics of the series have complained that this drama is insensitive and degrading to women. In the defense of this series, I would like to remind these critics that this series is a satire. Satires are rarely meant to be kind or generous; they are simply a slap in the face in hopes of becoming a natural wake-up call to society for change. Whether or not Bounty Lady achieves this goal is another matter entirely.
Besides the acting, which I will review later, my absolute favorites in this series are the props for Kwong Nam’s home and office. Most notably, the narcissistic replicas of Andy Warhol masterpieces with himself as the subject matter are artistically appropriate in further defining the character of Heung Kwong Nam. Although I do not find his flamboyant style particularly attractive or tasteful, Kwong Nam’s unusual wardrobe deserves accolades. This eclectic array of clothing helps bring life to his outlandish character. Conversely, I question the inconsistent presentation of tattoos on Kwong Nam’s arms. The tattoos match his collection of jewelry and clothing and the presence of these tattoos seems to befit his character nicely, but their inconsistent display befuddles me. Are these tattoos meaningful or necessary to his character or are they simply an inconsistent use of props?
Dayo Wong is credible as Heung Kwong Nam, the eccentric and egotistical leader of his band of good-will followers. As intended, his signature sarcasm wins all the attention and steals the show. When it comes to sarcasm, Dayo Wong has a unique charisma in portraying that sentiment well.
The social climbing Jennifer Sing Fa Lui by Kate Tsui is a bit stiff but adequate. Kate Tsui does surprisingly well, playing opposite Dayo Wong as his rival and lover. Her portrayal of the typical “Kong girl” accentuates the purported intelligence and creativity of Heung Kwong Nam.
Elena Kong’s portrayal of the bitterly vitriolic old maid, Windy Yuen Sam, is fantastic and entertaining. Cheers to Elena Kong for her willingness to depict a despicable character with such panache and color!
The comic roles of Benz Hui are always a pleasure to watch. His chemistry with Dayo Wong in Bounty Lady is unsurpassed and reminiscent of their relationship in You’re Hired, another Dayo Wong series that I previously enjoyed.
The other cast members manage to deliver adequate performances and push the story along. There are a few hiccups in acting and potential miscasts, but overall there is nothing noteworthy or extraordinary to mention. With all the other problems in this series, the below average acting of supporting characters is the least of my concerns.
With the addition of Bounty Lady to TVB’s 2013 line-up of drama series, viewers are once again bombarded with shallow stories of love and romance. Since this drama is intended to be a satire on romance or love in Hong Kong, I would have preferred that these vignettes ridicule the trending themes of love aired by TVB dramas as opposed to reality. The happy endings for the couples are neither emotionally moving nor laudable. In conclusion, this 20-episode series did not live up to my expectations and felt like a waste of 15 hours. Only the early episodes appear refreshing and entertaining and the performances by a handful of actors and actresses are its only saving qualities. Hence, Bounty Lady can only be awarded 3 out of 5 stars.
The review is written by VCN, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com.