Tuesday, August 2, 2011

first impression: Love Keeps Going (Taiwan)

Cyndi Wang as Zha Mei Le
Mike He as Han Yi Lie
Shi Yi Nan as Han Yi Feng
Michelle Zhang as Guo Xuan Xuan
Xiao Xun as Han Yi Fei
Zhang Lun Shuo as He Yan Shao

This is a new Taiwanese Idol Series that I picked up unexpectedly-- in other words, it was not on my planned list of drama series to watch. It wasn't even one that I considered watching. But the pairing of Mike He with Cyndi Wang seemed rather attractive, so I went for it.

Then again, to be totally honest, I'm not that big a fan of either of the two main cast, so ultimately, it was purely random that I decided to start watching this series. Two episodes had been subbed with English which lead me to thinking that I could just try out the first two episodes to see if I liked it. But after the first episode, I found myself hooked to this series and ended up watching up to episode number six, unsubbed since I can understand a good amount of conversational Mandarin-- subtitles just make life easier since I think I probably need subtitles for real life in languages I already understand anyway.

Moving into this series...

I have only ever watched one Cyndi Wang series, Smiling Pasta, with Nicholas Teo. It was a fun series and she was cast in a cute and entertaining role. But the main couple was written to be so stubborn and so headstrong about their own ideals and their relationship that it ended up getting a little exhausting after a while-- I'm not saying I didn't like that series, because I did, but I fairly enjoyed Nicholas Teo in his second main role as Suan Wu Di in Woody Sambo more than his character in Smiling Pasta. More on both of those above mentioned series later.

So basically, on a spur of the moment decision, I chose to watch Love Keeps Going and surprisingly ended up liking what I saw.

The series starts off detailing Zha Mei Le's life as a before and after still; when she was a child, she was the typical lazy and unambitious kid. Apparently, because of her indifference to anything but television, Mei Le one night overhears her parents arguing with each other about a divorce and who gets to keep which kid; both parents wanted to keep the more intelligent and filial older brother, but neither wanted to keep Mei Le because she was the "stupider" kid. And so because of this, Mei Le decides to change her life so that her parents would want to keep her.

In other words, she grew up convincing herself that useless children would be abandoned and only kids who are smart and worth something are liked by everyone. And so she spends the next twenty or so years of her life trying to be a good kid and a good person, doing random acts of kindness and helping everyone else even if it means letting people walk all over her.

Mei Le became the all too perfect Mary Sue that we all love to hate so much. She started to help with house chores regularly, made sure she was the first in her class every year, learned everything that was in style, made sure that she was the best at all areas of work and pretty much turned into a Superwoman. Her brain was set on "What does everyone want me to do for them?" and she lived for the next twenty-ish years in that fashion. Her only saving grace from totally becoming the infamous Mary Sue is her comedic timing, the fact that she still has a bit of a temper, and the fact that Cyndi Wang somehow does loads of good in making Mei Le a very likeable person. Honestly, I never understood Cyndi Wang's charm until now -- in Smiling Pasta, she was just another stereotypical female protagonist; in this series, Cyndi Wang brings an all new "It" factor to her character.

Mei Le goes on to meet Han Yi Lie and probably for the first time in a long time, she starts to lose her temper to people. Because Han Yi Lie is the ultimate arrogant jerk face who is indifferent to everyone else and only cares about his own stupid self. Then again, as a prodigal musician and composer, I guess one can afford to be egocentric.

The series, thus far has gotten into a lot of the already foreseen storyline: Mei Le and her boyfriend become engaged and start planning their wedding, Mei Le meets Yi Lie for the first time and her true form starts to show, Mei Le's boyfriend Han Yi Feng gets seduced by another woman, and then the final break-up and subsequent "becoming closer" of Mei Le and Yi Feng's little brother Yi Lie who has already shown inklings of falling for Mei Le. It can be said that Mei Le's head strong and hard working personality pushes Yi Lie in the wrong way (or the right way) which is what attracts him to her in the long run.

I really like the personality of Zha Mei Le. While she tries too hard to be a Mary Sue and can be a bit of a pushover sometimes by her family and boyfriend, she still has a good amount of spunk in her that doesn't make her the whiney, lovelorn, ditzy stereotype that a lot of girls end up being. She's not so much a pushover as many seem to describe her; she's just pursuing what she wants in her life, but at the expense of never truly knowing what it is that she really wants. Because Mei Le grew up trying to please everyone except her own heart so that she doesn't get abandoned.

A side note on education to parents out there: Be very careful what you say about your children or to your children because they really DO take it to heart and the rest of their lives may become affected as thus.

The appearance of a "bad boy" like Yi Lie is exactly what Mei Le needs to bring some spice into her life; he's a spoiled and arrogant brat who ends up teaching Mei Le how to be demanding every once in a while. And for some odd reason, these two, despite not really liking each other to begin with, manage to click and form an understanding of each other almost immediately. I guess fate has it's ways of telling everyone who was meant to be, no mattering that Mei Le and Yi Feng had been together for such a long time already. I especially like the way that Mei Le treats Yi Lie; almost like she immediately started seeing him as family and doesn't really care whether she pisses him off or not and then will come right back and treat him like family even after he upsets her. It's an interesting exchange of verbal bantering between these two where Yi Lie expects Mei Le to do anything he demands and then Mei Le very familiarly asks Yi Lie to help her with some things and seems to get her way.

The romance formula for this series is pretty predictable. Good girl and good boy are about to get married, good girl meets bad boy, bad boy falls for good girl, good boy cheats on good girl (somehow), bad boy turns into not so bad boy and tries to be there for good girl, and then good girl and bad boy end up together in the end. The journey is the only thing we look forward to, because this cliched storyline really DOES have a lot of different possibilities. In a sense, I'm kind of glad that Mei Le doesn't end up being a depressing, crying mess who continues to pine after her boyfriend thinking that she would give him a second chance because he's a good person after all and might still love her. I am totally glad that the story doesn't seem to hint at picking up that way. I'm also glad that Mei Le doesn't immediately fall in love with the next male who walks by her just so she doesn't have to be alone or just so she can get over her boyfriend -- this plot device is used so many times and it still annoys the heck out of me.

On a side note soap box (briefly): Is it really necessary to attach yourself with another new romance as soon as your old one fails? Does that really help you get over your ex? It's called rebounding and eventually, those rebound feelings go away and so you've gone and hurt someone else. I really don't understand why it is that, in fiction, and sometimes in real life, as soon as your relationship ends, you have to start a whole new one with the next available person even if you don't even really like that person romantically.

But I digress...

Xuan Xuan's betrayal was predictable from the start; there was no playing around on her part and even as a viewer, you can still see that no matter how friendly she acted and no matter how sympathetic and piteous she appeared, you could tell that she knew what she was doing and knew what she wanted. Despite Mei Le's treating her like a friend, Xuan Xuan had intended to take away Yi Feng as soon as she set her eyes on being together with him. And then she rolls out the villainous home-wrecker personality almost immediately; because instead of being apologetic for what she did, she even turns around and demands that Mei Le never try to take Yi Feng back or even see him alone. At that moment, I wanted to slap that girl; the girl who interfered with a happy couple and decided to act like she was never in the wrong and could be the potential victim. Then again, if the happy couple was in such a stable relationship to begin with, Xuan Xuan would have never been able to interfere as she did... Love is such a complicated issue.

Wow! But then again, girls are like that in real life too. Girls are stupid. Do you think that if you started your relationship with a guy who cheated on his girlfriend or wife with you that he'll be a hundred percent faithful? Don't kid yourself. If he's cheated once without remorse, then he's going to do it again. I especially like (big sarcastic 'like') how somehow Yi Lie became the bad guy when Mei Le started hanging around him more often after she broke up with Yi Feng; apparently that's not supposed to happen despite their relationship being completely pure. The fact that Yi Feng cheated on Mei Le seemed to end up forgotten; typical families and selfish people. Yi Lie was the one person who tried to find Mei Le and console her on her broken heart and now everyone seems to think he's the bad guy; but everyone has always thought he was the bad guy anyway. I'm predicting that people will start turning on Mei Le just because of this new situation.

This is as far as I've gotten and hopefully I don't spoil too much for everyone else. If I do, I apologize, but to be totally honest, the story line is pretty predictable. What I look forward to seeing is how Mei Le and Yi Lie's relationship turns out and how they begin to develop feelings for each other; and also how they get passed the barrier of parents when Yi Lie seems to be so despised, even by his own mother that she thinks he might be the cause of the happy couple's break-up. Okay, I added that last part, but the preview I saw for the next episode seems to predict as much.

Yi Lie's history is also in question as we only know so far that he is despised by his mother and he lost his girlfriend to someone else, thus scarring him emotionally. I have a feeling I know what happened, but I don't want to make any jumps yet just in case I'm wrong; but this definitely has to do with the Han family's missing father. Because apparently, so far five women have been left by a significant other in this series. Mei Le's parents got a divorce because her father was playing around with other women. Mrs. Han, Yi Feng and Yi Lie's mother, also lost her husband to another woman. Auntie Wang who works for Mei Le's bakery is always going on about how her husband left her for a younger and prettier girl. And then there's Yi Fei, the youngest sibling in the Han family who starts off the series pregnant with a boyfriend who ran away because of her pregnancy. And finally, there's Mei Le who's supposedly goody-two shoes, straight laced husband-to-be ends up leaving Mei Le for a younger girl just because she seems like she needs to be taken care of more than Mei Le.

Other things that I look forward to is the unveiling of the mysterious He Yan Shao, a rich tycoon who seems to have no sense of compassion for people and who seems to walk to the beat of his own drum. The first impression that he's given me so far is that he's arrogant and thinks that no way is better than his way, which leads him to having a rebellious sister (who looks a lot like Mei Le and is also played by Cyndi Wang) as well as challenging Mei Le's bakery just so that he can get her to join his corporation. A man who forces his own beliefs onto other people and who may become a significant part of Mei Le's life in the near future... I'm kind of curious to see what happens.

This series also boasts the singing debut of Mike He; while he was strictly an actor before, it seems like his agency now wants him to try to take a step into the music field as many Taiwanese idols tend to do. He's a great actor for idol series standards and he's also very good looking and very manly as well. I enjoy watching his series (despite him seemingly being typecast continuously as a rude, outspoken, often mean-spirited jerk-- maybe that's what he's really like?). But when his singing was presented, I don't think I was very impressed; he can control his voice quite well, but otherwise, there's nothing special about his singing.

Anyway, the first few episodes of Love Keeps Going has done quite well to leave me anxiously anticipating the rest of the series. And with this series, I think I like Cyndi Wang a little more than I did before. I really do prefer this type of female protagonist over the ditzy, simple, and rash character she portrayed in Smiling Pasta-- while she was cute in that series, it got a little tiring watching her not be able to "get the clue" sometimes and letting the male lead trample over her regularly.

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