From:My Paperposted on 1 June at 4:02 PM
1 June at 4:02 PM

Saucy bride swop in ex-TVB queen's debut


Mondays to Fridays, 7pm
Jia Le Channel (SingTel mioTV Ch 502)
Rating: 3/5

All eyes are on former Hong Kong television queen Charmaine Sheh’s performance in Marry Into The Purple, her first mainland-Chinese series since her departure from television station TVB.

Sheh, 38, who began her career with the station in 1997, left last year to join a new production company in China for a fatter pay cheque.

The question is: Did the popular actress, known as the TV Queen back in Hong Kong, make the right decision? I think she did.

From intricate costumes to sprawling, extravagant sets to an enticing plot, the production scores with its high value and richly-fleshed-out characters.

First, the plot. This 40-parter period drama hits the audience from the get-go with its fast-paced story. In the first three episodes, there are already rampant conspiracies, an assassination attempt, deaths and a fake marriage.

And Sheh, as the lead, obviously enjoys the most tragic plight of them all.

Set in the mid-1920s when China was strongly influenced by European culture and guns were aplenty, the plot centres on a ruthless warlord, Cao Zhen Fang, who controls the town and its army.

He ruins a thriving soya-sauce business owned by the Xu family, plunging the members into bankruptcy.

The spoilt Shen Yingdi (played by Taiwanese actress Jiang Zuping, known for her villainous role as Xie Ming Ming in Ai), was promised to Xu’s only son, Jiajun (Benny Qian), from young, but she refuses to marry a pauper and live a miserable life.

Her younger adopted sister Yingxiu (played by Sheh) is forced to take her place. Needless to say, her mother-in-law does not take well to the bride swop, and she is subjected to endless abuse and insults by the family.

Shortly after, (spoiler alert!) Jiajun’s father dies of shock and a devastated Jiajun runs away to join a guerilla army to fight Cao. Yingdi marries Cao’s son and enjoys a luxurious life, but let’s just say that that doesn’t last long.

The characters are all given sufficient material to develop so you feel yourself identifying with their emotional turmoil or tragic plight.

If there is one thing I’d have to nitpick on, it would be Sheh’s unimpressive performance in the show.

Sheh’s role is one of a submissive, gentle, long-suffering girl, but she doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. She comes across as wooden rather than reserved, and her pursed lips seem petulant rather than upset. Most of the scenes involve her standing around and crying (a lot), while taking the abuse of others.

In an interview with Hong Kong media, Sheh said this was the most tragic character she had ever portrayed, adding that she spent 40 out of the 50 days of filming crying.

I wonder if she spent any of her time honing the rest of her character.

On the other hand, Jiang’s performance as the peevish – but slightly adorable – and materialistic social climber is much more engaging

The charismatic actress brightens up the screen with her enthusiastic acting, and you find yourself loving and hating her character at the same time.

Also, she gives the best gleeful scheming looks (probably honed from her longstanding performance in Ai).
Qian is dashing as the tortured and impulsive young man seeking revenge.

This series is definitely not light-hearted material for after-work unwinding. But it scores.

This article was first published in My Paper on May 30, 2013

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