XDRAMAsX’s 2017 Drama Review

2017 was a much better year for dramas in general (I’m actually more excited for 2018-2019, as all the movie actors are returning to the small screen), with several shows hitting it out of the park in terms of ratings and/or online popularity.

Web dramas really started to gain traction this year – in fact, I’m marathoning two right now, and each one stands out for various reasons, whether it be high production values or tight storytelling. These online shows have become an outlet for creativity due to the strict censorship rules applied to television dramas, though SARPPFT has decided to nip it in the bud by making web dramas undergo the same rigorous process before premiering online. Hopefully the streaming sites continue to come up with quality fare in the future despite the roadblocks that are being put in place.

WARNING: Long post ahead.

Pretty Li Huizhen 漂亮的李慧珍

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this remake, and the longer running time (40 X 40min episodes compared to 16 x 1hr episodes) meant the story moved at a snail’s pace. I also overestimated Bai Haoyu’s (Sheng Yilun) intelligence – this remake dropped so many clues, yet he was completely oblivious to the fact that he had reunited with the wrong girl for over two thirds of the drama.

The haphazard writing transformed Li Huizhen (Dilraba) into an exasperating and ignorant child who was constantly drowning in a pool of self-pity, though she does grow up after the first stretch. Sheng Yilun has trouble emoting (he reminds me of a younger Nicolas Tse with how wooden he is), yet is serviceable as eye candy.

Rating: 5.5/10


The Glory of  Tang Dynasty 大唐荣耀

H&R Century Pictures (Huanrui) + mediocre original + terrible scriptwriters = long-winded idol historical drama filled with Mary Sues and cartoon villains. This drama falls into the same category, though I must say the first 20 or so episodes were pretty decent. S.E.N.S’ beautiful instrumental tracks were an added bonus.

Jing Tian wasn’t as bad as I expected – it does seem like the months she spent with Zhang Yimou while filming The Great Wall paid off. New actor Ren Jialun looks much better in motion, and delivered some impressive acting – of course, credits must also go to voice actor Zhang Jie, who really elevated the performance. Talented actress Wan Qian was a long time coming, and she didn’t disappoint as the savvy female general. Unfortunately, after skimming through Part 2, it appears Dugu Jingyao just ends up as mere foil to the OTP, which is a complete waste of her acting talent.

The political maneuvering was often laughably simple, but veteran actors Du Yuan (as Yang Guozhong), Wang Jinsong (Crown Prince) and Liu Weiwei (Empress Zhang) helped ground the show, making some of the sillier plots more bearable to watch.

Rating: 6/10


Undercover 卧底归来

Undercover is not a perfectly produced cop drama, but it is well-acted, and has an addictive storyline that allowed me to overlook some gaping plot holes. Zhang Jiayi is dependable as always, but it was Liu Yijun that stole the spotlight as the anti-narcotics team leader with blurred moral boundaries. Special mentions go to Yang Yuting, Zhang Chenguang and Zhai Tianlin for their brilliant performances as a crazy villainess, sly drug dealer and bitter ex-cop respectively.

I vaguely remember male lead Lin Shen from Hai Qing’s Beautiful Era of the Daughter-in-Law, and he’s managed to hold his own quite well against the veterans in this drama. Lin Shen also brings much of the slapstick comedy, what with code name “young woman” and the tattoo on his backside that spells “I’m not a policeman”. I don’t even know how he fell in love with Fu Jing’s character, but the moments between them were pretty cute and did no harm to the pacing of the story. On the other hand, Li Qin’s Tian Tangguo is an absolute nuisance – she is naïve, loves to dictate how other people should live their lives, and takes the cake for being the most exasperating character in the entire show.

The drama has left us hanging with an ending chyron that simply tells us to wait for the second installment – but with Rosat’s weak record of selling dramas, I doubt Season 2 will happen anytime soon.

Rating: 7/10


The Advisors Alliance 军师联盟

This was the drama that brought me to Cfensi, and I’m glad it lived up to expectations…in the first half. The writing is smart, and the dialogue doesn’t sound like it is transplanted straight from a modern idol drama. Sima Yi’s transformation from a scholar to an ambitious politician forms the core of the drama, and talented uncle actor Wu Xiubo doesn’t disappoint.

However, it’s Yu Hewei’s Cao Cao that tops the list as my favourite character from the show. Cao Cao is known to be ruthless and cunning, yet his successes are often overlooked due to his image as a villain in opera and popular literature. Thankfully, the writer doesn’t turn Cao Cao into a two-dimensional villain, and Yu Hewei’s excellent portrayal of the genius warlord really won me over. A wonderful MV starring Cao Cao can be found here.
Untitled collage (1)Wang Jinsong did an amazing job with Xun Yu, and his final conversation with Cao Cao regarding his loyalty to the Han Dynasty and Cao Wei was one of the many highlights of the show.  Li Chen’s Cao Pi wasn’t too bad either, and his romance with Tang Yixin’s Guo Zhao was adorable. I’d almost forgotten how good of an actor Li Chen can be once he sheds the variety star image, and his portrayal of Cao Pi in the later episodes is a fine return to form.

Out of the all the younger actors, Zhai Tianlin’s portrayal of the talented and proud scholar Yang Xiu stood out the most. Writer Chang Jiang is excellent at dissecting human nature and displaying character growth, and it’s obvious from Zhai Tianlin’s performance that he really understood the character. The scene where he thought he had killed Sima Yi is classic, as the agonising screams reflected Yang Xiu’s utter helplessness at having to sacrifice his conscience in the face of power. The character is summed up perfectly in his final conversations with Sima Yi:

I thought I was faster than everyone else by 30 miles. But it’s precisely those 30 miles that will kill me.
Do you know the difference between us? You can restrain yourself, while I cannot. I will be waiting for you down there. If you can restrain yourself until the very end, come and tell me the difference between leaving then and now.

The cinematography is brilliant, and the close-ups gave all the talented veterans a chance to shine (lesser actors would have crumbled under the pressure). The soundtrack suits the drama really well, though the epic themes would sometimes come in at all the wrong times. However, it’s already an improvement from the modern-sounding pop songs usually heard in period pieces, and S.E.N.S and Dong Dongdong deserve extra brownie points for creating such beautiful tracks.

Part 1 lost its momentum once Cao Cao and Yang Xiu left the stage, and the latter half was bogged down by Sima Yi’s family drama. Part 2 promises more political intrigue and warfare, so fingers crossed it doesn’t disappoint.

 Rating: 8/10

Screenshots credit to 凤殿下


Nothing Gold Can Stay 那年花开月正圆

pjimage (1)Described as the story of a young woman who broke the social norm to become a legendary female merchant, Nothing Gold Can Stay ended up focusing more on the heartbreaking romance between the two leads, with a bit of social and political commentary sprinkled on top. What separates this pair from the rest is that Zhou Ying and Shen Xingyi don’t fall into the usual opposites attract category – they are very much alike in personality, which is probably why I’m been so invested in this pairing since the very beginning (did anyone notice their relationship took a turn for the worse every time Zhou Ying changed dresses?)

Initially I found Sun Li to be slightly over-the-top as a witty street performer, but after Wu Pin’s (Peter Ho) death, she settles into the character of a young widow beautifully. The relationship between a young girl who likes to take matters into her own hands and the perfect gentleman was pretty sweet, but it didn’t get me the same way the angsty OTP pairing did.

If Wu Pin was the perfect husband who respected Zhou Ying for who she was, then Shen Xingyi (played by Chen Xiao in a career-defining performance) is the disrespectful and bratty man child that treats her like a lost toy. He matures after being mocked by the girl he likes and dunked into a garden pond by his father, and everything just kept on getting better from there. Despite being a female-centric drama, Shen Xingyi isn’t just a love interest whose one job is to guide and support the heroine. He gets his own growth arc, and though I like how they tied the character into history by transforming him into a forward-thinking intellectual, the lack of detail regarding his new identity as a revolutionary and the terribly rushed ending just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Other than the OTP, the rest of the ensemble cast each got their own moment to shine, which prevented the lengthy drama from having too many dull moments. Characters that come to mind include treacherous businessman Du Mingli (Yu Haoming), the adorably awkward county magistrate Zhao Baishi (Ren Zhong) who received a rude awakening from his respected teacher, the upright patriarch of the Wu household (Zhang Chenguang) and Zhou Ying’s father (Liu Peiqi), a carefree trickster who ended up giving the best quotes about life.

Aside from the wonderful actors, the drama also benefits from the deft directing by Ding Hei. His attention to detail (such as filming character flashbacks in first person) and ability to bring out the best in his actors did wonders for the show. I’ve never really noticed Chen Xiao before this, and I was pretty skeptical when he was cast. Yet after watching all 74 episodes with minimal fast-forwarding, I’m happy to report that he is one of the most expressive post-1985 actors around, and could really benefit from choosing better projects. The one weak link lies with the script – from shoddy writing and Qiong Yao-esque dialogue to inconsistent characterisation, in the end I was really just watching for the acting. However, given the quality of C-dramas these days, I’m just glad this drama ended up tying most of its loose ends into a neat, nice bow.

Rating: 7.5/10

Screenshots credit to 节操桥上炮龙烹凤的魔女总裁


Currently Watching

Let’s Shake It  颤抖吧,阿部! 

Let’s Shake It is absolutely adorable. The show doesn’t take itself very seriously, which makes all the cheese and ridiculous plots easier to swallow. An Yuexi is absolutely delightful as Abu Chacha, and Wang Yanyang’s ship captain Duo Miaomiao is hilarious. What makes it even better is that the three leads dubbed the characters themselves (even the CG cat!). Looking forward to seeing more from the talented and hardworking newbies.

Day & Night 白夜追凶

I last saw Pan Yueming as the dorky Xu Xian in Madam White Snake 2006, so it was a complete surprise to see him playing twins in this crime thriller. Other actors are aided by different costumes and hairstyles when playing multiple characters , but Pan Yueming doesn’t need that. He is such a great actor that I can differentiate older bro, little bro, older bro acting as younger bro and younger bro acting as older bro immediately. This web drama also has an engaging story line, with nary a scene or sentence wasted.

Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy 九州·海上牧云记

A drama where I can skip entire episodes, but not the opening theme.

What I liked about the first six episodes is that Tribes and Empires actually takes its own sweet time explaining the rules and culture (the extensive use of real landscapes is a bonus) of Novoland, and therefore gives viewers a chance to really immerse into a fantasy world where everything and everyone is guided by divine Fate.

I don’t recall a Chinese drama ever devoting so much time to the childhood portion, but I do think it was necessary, especially when conflicts such as Muyun Sheng’s identity, Muru Hanjiang’s feelings about his family and Shuofeng Heye’s desire to avenge his clan are present throughout the entire show. The characters’ respective teen actors Zheng Hao, Shi Yunpeng (An Di’s brother in Ode to Joy) and Zheng Wei match their adult counterparts pretty well, and their acting puts many of drama land’s popular leading actors to shame.

My excitement over the drama has died down now that I’m 35 episodes in, and I’m pretty conflicted about the show. The acting is solid, and the dysfunctional relationships between Empress Nanku (Jiang Qinqin) and her husband (Lu Fangsheng) and Muyun Luan (Wang Qianyuan) and his son (Zhang Xiaochen) are so compelling. However, the cheesy dialogue, excessive flashbacks and horrible editing is really testing my patience – we’ll see how long I can hold on.


Dropped

CaptureGeneral and I 孤芳不自赏 

Angelababy’s Photoshop controversy and downright terrible acting generated the most buzz, though the story had its fair share of problems as well.

 

 

CaptureEternal Love / TLTWTMPB 三生三世十里桃花

Zhang Bichen and Aska Yang’s ending theme is the best thing about this show, and Yang Mi and Mark Chao’s improved acting comes in at a close second. Dubbers Ji Guanlin and Bian Jiang deserve awards for helping to bring the characters to life.

 

img486936894In the Name of the People 人民的名义

I never thought Lu Yi was a bad actor, but the veterans definitely outshine him in this one. The Chinese government deserves a pat on the back for producing a solid propaganda drama (after a decade long ban no less) that explores its own murky waters.

 

Capture

White Deer Plain 白鹿原

The show boasts a crew of wonderful actors, though the story seemed to be going nowhere. I may pick it up again once I’m in the mood for some serious drama.

 

 

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Ode to Joy Season 2 欢乐颂2

Andi’s story descended into dog-blood territory, Fan Shengmei’s family issues are recycled from Season 1, and Qiu Yingying never learnt from her mistakes. I did enjoy watching cuts of Qu Xiaoxiao + Dr. Zhao and Guanguan + Xie Tong though – the latter couple was especially adorable when they first started dating.

CapturePrincess Agents 楚乔传

The scriptwriter should have devoted more effort to explaining why an amnesiac assassin-turned-slave would be so intent on changing the social order. And with an impulsive Chu Qiao constantly being saved by an x amount of romantics interests, they really shouldn’t have promoted her as a fiercely independent and kickass heroine.

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A Life Time Love 上古情歌

The songs (Peach Blossom Promise, Book in the Clouds) are nice, the drama not so much. I was pretty entertained by the premiere though (Huang Xiaoming’s Tarzan entrance anyone?)

 

 

CaptureThe First Half of My Life 我的前半生

I dislike how they changed the female lead’s personality and the direction of the story, though at least the drama has given us a breakout star in Lei Jiayin (I have a good impression of him from Hunan TV’s dog-blood melo Temptation of Going Home), and allowed more people to notice the gorgeous Yuan Quan.

Game of Hunting  猎场

Whoever thought starting a business drama with a love triangle featuring Ming Tai lite (The Disguiser), Qi Dian 2.0 (Ode to Joy) and a delicate female lead who thinks she’s in a melodrama was a good idea?

 

 

A Love So Beautiful 致我们单纯的小美好

Prime example of an adaption gone wrong by removing all the likeable traits from the main characters. Chen Xiaoxi was never this brainless, and Jiang Chen never leads his potential love interests on. I would’ve preferred a story that spent more time on their adulthood (as in the original), especially when it’s clear the only purpose of the schoolyard love triangles was to drag out the episode count.

Nirvana in Fire II: The Wind Blows in Changlin

Tong Liya is absolutely beautiful, and Huang Xiaoming should just keep on playing normal, upright and serious characters instead of powerful and rich CEOs. Unfortunately I have zero interest in Liu Haoran’s growth arc and his romance with the physician.

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33 thoughts on “XDRAMAsX’s 2017 Drama Review

  1. Pingback: 24th Magnolia Awards | Cfensi

  2. Pingback: The Advisors Alliance cast reunite in The Drug Hunter | Cfensi

  3. thanks for the post! love your thoughts on the dramas you had watched. NGCS was the only drama i completed last year, and it has a special place in my heart because it introduced me to Chen Xiao, who was amazing as Shen Xing Yi (also my fave character in the drama, and my heart still aches for him to this day).. My greatest takeaway was that his eyes can talk, I have so much to write about Xing Yi and how well Chen Xiao portrayed him, but I don’t think I can put my thoughts into words well enough, so I’ll just quote from a review I read previously, “there was no Chen Xiao in this drama, there was only Shen Xing Yi”

    special call out to the also brilliant Xie Junhao as Shen dad, amazing performance!

    • It’s a pleasure sharing them. :)

      My exact thoughts after watching the drama. Hopefully he meets a character as interesting as Shen Xingyi soon.

      • Me too! Really wish for the best for him! He’s filming a military genre drama now, don’t know how it will go, but I’ll put my confidence in him!

  4. Thank you for your review!! Ive been contemplating whether i should watch some of these dramas!!! I always look forward to seeing Cfensi writers reviews on some dramas~~

    And Ohh first time i saw someone saying they dropped ten miles of peach blossom!! I do have to agree with your reasons though! TBH i didnt care for the main couple’s romance at all. The main guy actor was too creepy for me that i preferred him as the master instead. It was the side romances like her niece and her 16th senior brother that actually helped me finish the drama. I also wasnt too happy with some of the actions which was why I liked the movie more though the movie had its flaws sadly.

    • I also dropped it when she became Susu. Their relationship was creepy and the romance was slow. I consider Yang Mi to be a decent actress, but Susu was one of her least convincing portrayal in a long time.

  5. The Advisors Alliance is the best of the batch I watched this year, though I have a different opinion about the parts following Cao Cao and Yang Xiu. I guess as I continue following the episodes, I’m more inclined to think the show is better as a whole rather than dividing it up into pieces. There are arcs that are not so good (the family drama felt a bit excessive) and the editors got sloppy in part two, but I think it makes a very poetic story out of Sima Yi’s life.

    Oftentimes a problem with watching historical dramas is that if you know how things will turn out (“The main character is obviously not going to die because X hasn’t happened yet”, etc.), there’s a lack of suspense and sometimes you get leery of the filler material. The Advisors Alliance places emphasis on the individual characters and how they are motivated or how their personal issues and character led to XYZ happening, while sort of neatly fitting that into the political and military landscape of the three kingdoms period. I can applaud that; somehow they made it so that knowing the history actually makes the storylines a bit more meaningful within the show’s fiction.

    I guess people didn’t like post-Cao Pi ascension in the first part, but I was sort of okay with it. I don’t think there is a particularly exciting way to portray the implementation of the nine ranks system other than a lot of politics. To me that portion demonstrates the grueling grind of governing a country; normally on shows you see the fights for thrones, the fights for power, the battles on the battlefield, but while actual governance is dull, it is so important lol

    Yu Hewei should play Sun Quan sometime in the future please, just to complete the three

    Nothing Gold Can Stay was a lot of fun. I’ve seen general comments saying that Sun Li seems to play the same type of character she had in Miyue and Zhen Huan, but I find that a bit strange. I think I like NGCS more than her previous two dramas because her character is so different, so Sun Li definitely had the chance to flex her acting muscles in another direction. At the very least, I never had to worry that the main character would have horrible or middling acting.

    The production value was really high, and while there are probably what people would consider “weird segments” (the black and white silent movie flashback lol), I got the feeling that it was more Ding Hei having lots of fun with how he was directing and filming a really high budget project.

  6. Thank you for your lovely post. The annual review has been one of the things i anticipate every year. This is one of the few websites where the main focus isn’t on the most idol-y of C dramas.

    AA is the best performance I’ve ever seen out of Yu Hewei. I also really like the plot from the first 2 dozen episodes. Plus the acting from Wang Jiansong and the actor for the minister who got executed.

    Another web drama I like is Burning Ice. I’m just starting Tientsin Magic. It seems to deviate from the usual C drama formulas, which I appreciate. I’m noticing I like a handful of iQiyi and Youku web dramas much more than their TV counterparts.

    I was away from home during NGCS broadcast and watched 30 episodes on tablet. It’s crossing previous Shanxi dramas (like the previously award-winning drama with Chen Jianbin. There was another with Yang Shuo, Mao Xiaotong. White deer plain. Plus many more) and movies (like the one with Aaron Kwok and Hao Lei) and Shanxi culture with idol dramas. It’s well-made. It’s the best idol drama with Shanxi theme but .. I didn’t finish it. Chen Xiao has a habit of hollering out his lines? He has good intense stares. I don’t like NGCS’ standard idol story cliches. Family infighting, required jealous female love rivals who go nuts. Like Li Qin’s batty princess in Princess Agent. I also feel this type of Mary Sue plot is a bit too similar to Zhen Huan for Sun Li, if you exchange palace for Shanxi province. Anhui merchants are almost as famous as Shanxi merchants, and Anhui villages near Tunxi are beautiful. Ang Lee filmed Crouching Tiger nearby. Yet there are not nearly as many Anhui merchant dramas. I wonder why. Has anyone has seen a high-budget Anhui merchant drama?
    I can’t get past a handful episodes of General & I. Watching 2 dozen episodes of Princess Agent was a waste of my time. Li Hui Zhen, TLTW are too vacuous for me. I often have this problem with Yang Mi, Dilraba, Tang Yan, Liu Shishi dramas. They have the outer look for their roles, but still lacking some charisma to really carry their roles. Unlike Sun Li, Liu Tao. I’d rather watch Bai Baihe instead of the YM group. I have yet to want to watch or re-watch any YM, D, TY or LSS drama. ZS, AB are other obvious weak ones.

    • Lol. I agree with your comments on Yang Mi, Dilraba, Tang Yan, and Liu Shishi. I often find their dramas to be very vacuous and one-dimensional. I mean, they’re not bad actresses, but they’re more on the in-between of idol actresses like SNH48 and actresses like Sun Li, Liu Tao, and Bai Baihe.
      Lol your comment on Princess Agents. But, yes, I agree. I was rooting for that drama (insert Tyra’s ANTM gif here) and I watched it hoping that it’d get better, but it only got worse.

      • Many C drama producers, perhaps following the financial success of K dramas, often go for the beautiful Mary Sue in fancy clothes meeting the most eligible bachelor Gary these days. They vary some details as they put the different OTPs in different dynasties and locations. They get billions of views as long as they put names like Zhao Liying in their dramas. It’s the C drama version of tulipmania? I hope it doesn’t end in tears for them. It’s good to see some web dramas are braving new plot lines instead of sticking to the same formula. While it’s understandable why showbiz people want more guaranteed way of making profit, I believe in the long run narrowing their repertoire to MS-heavy plot can backfire should the consumers get fickle and get sick of MS plot and want something else. I hope enough producers and directors still now how to make non-MS dramas if or when the need arises.

        • YES! Your comment is amazing. However, in my belief from what I’ve seen culturally/historically, it’s not as much the success of K-dramas but the ancient stories that were written throughout history. While Western fairytales and now K-dramas usually go along the formula of poor girl + rich guy ==> meet + fall in love ==> happiness for ever and ever. However, Chinese tales usually have to do with rich/Mary Sue woman + poor guy ==> meet + fall in love ==> happiness for ever and ever. (This info is from my dear mom btw.) However, as we can see, c-dramas have been changing to fit the formula of rich/Mary Sue/good background woman + rich/good background/Mary Sue ver. of guy ==> meet + fall in love ==> happiness for ever and ever. It’s like a Mary Sue couple that goes on to take over the world that’s wronged them in ways that aren’t explained by the drama and storyline but in which we instinctually know.
          Yes, I do agree that we need more producers who can make non-MS dramas. Most dramas these days are just glorified idol dramas and that needs to change quickly. The only drama I’m looking forward to in 2018 is Ruyi and that’s it. All the rest, even Win the World, are just gaudy, flashy, glorified idol dramas. Unless some of them prove me wrong. Let’s hope they do.

          • Interesting thoughts! Could it also be that since majority of big budget productions have MS lead, they have to cover the whole wealth spectrum? lol From poor (Love020 – which is my fav in this list, Interpreters; Love, Secret & Lies, NGCS, General & I aka Gary & Mary), privileged ones who met disasters (Princes Wei Young, Cruel Romance, Tang Glory, Qin Shi Huang Fei), or we are just plain special Mary since we have special immortal powers or we time-traveled (TLTW, BBJX, Gong) or worse yet.. Due to a special drama cliche, we behave like the most annoying 12 year old you’ve ever met but men just love us anyway (Stay With Me).
            Part of this indicates there are many shallow people in the world who care most about money and looks. So dramas are just trying to fill this demand. Just aim for low-picking fruits. I’m not going to watch Win the World either. FBB is usually a better actress than Ruby Lin and TY, but they make so many “I’m the one special Mary of the world” dramas, one really has to pick and choose to avoid getting sick of them. They often have too many scenes of a single Mary solving too many drama problems and multiple Gary’s helping them along. Main Mary-Gary pair is so flawless and such world geniuses, typically with the highest moral values in the country too, that the remaining characters become lame accessories to provide opportunities for our OTP to excel. It’s a tacky story-telling. I already had that problem with NCGS’ Sun Li even though they tried to tone it down some. Having a more competent team of interesting characters will be more interesting. Imagine of Legend of Condor Heroes only have Huang Rong conquering West Poison etc easily with just Guo Jing. That’d be a whole different drama. Or a knight in shining armor Mei Changsu winning her Mary using the usual Mary and Gary vs the whole evil world out there. It doesn’t make for an interesting watch. It’d be nice to have harder working scriptwriters than the ones we usually get. What made NIF, LOCH interesting is their villains are not cartoonish or one-dimensional. It’s not all just black and white.

            • I agree with most of what you say, but not really the examples you chose as anti-Gary Sue. LOCH is the classic Gary Sue story, but with much better plots and fleshed out characters. One reason why LOCH is so popular and my personal childhood favorite (other than general Jin Yong amazingness) is because it’s the most black-and-white story with perfect leads that I can live vicariously through. Guo Jing is just a guy next door who’s neither goodlooking nor smart nor rich, but has everyone just giving him magical powers and helping/falling in love with him. Huang Rong is perfect in every way and is good at literally everything. They are also the least morally unambiguous lead pairs in all Jin Yong books if you ignore RoCH, and Yang Kang is one of the least redeemable antagonists.

              • Nice reading everyone’s comments here. Tbh, some drama websites have such extensive comments on beauties and cute guys I get bored.

                Today’s Gary has gotten even more severe, I don’t even see early generation Gary as a Gary anymore. I mean at least Guo J was slow at learning when he was young. Today’s Gary are mostly geniuses. Just a few of them are stereotyped to have a cold exterior. At least before he meets Mary.
                At least Huang R is an us vs them girl. If you mess with my Guo J, I’ll kill you. She takes after her dad, who has that attitude about people who mess with HR. So many recent Mary’s are such goody two shoes it looks as if her entire family came out from a holy Mary conveyor belt. Jing Tian in GOTD, YM in Interpreters.

                LOCH’s more formidable villains make for a more even-keeled fight between GJ-HR and other groups. That’s usually a plus.

                I wonder if writers write their Mary’s thinking that they make great lead characters..Or it’s just to make a quick buck to satisfy reader demands. I hope it’s the latter. I go out on a limb and say that most of us who read this website are not Mary’s or Gary’s but it doesn’t mean that our lives have no value. A good writer should be able to make readers sympathize with the lead characters without turning them all into Mary’s. It’s as if the writer has no confidence in his/her own writing that s/he has to glamorize her/his leads by adding superficial Mary glitter to many female characters they write. In fact, many Mary’s often have a few regular flaws in common. Too egocentric. They can range from condescending, inconsiderate, to not letting people around them shine enough. Perhaps a bit delusional too? They don’t appear like psychologically balanced characters. I’m Princess (Ruby Lin, TY, FBB, etc), and my maid BFF will never be in a noble position to marry well anyway. They can only marry men of their own …well… lower class. So many maid BFFs just end up sacrificed for the greater good of Mary. And whatever is best for Mary is also best for all, because Mary is such a goody two shoes and her goal is always aligned with the good of all people. Then Princess is so wonderful that naturally all fantastic Gary’s just flock to her. The rest of the women can just eat their hearts out. lol.
                This is something that just happened. As I was watching NGCS, I saw Myolie Wu and a thought popped out. Doesn’t Myolie know Sun Li is Mary? Why would you go for her Gary? You just know it wouldn’t end well for those who fight for Mary’s Gary. How many of us can spot a Myolie character from a mile away these days, with the frequency of Mary’s they show us?
                It’s just their Mary style of writing puts such a huge limitation on story development and characters. It leaves little room for creativity. Story of Mary and Gary and people who support them vs those who perished opposing them. It’s probably the main reason why although NGCS is well-made I still couldn’t watch it.

                I watched a few more episodes of Tientsin Magic. I still like it. One of the reasons I like Burning Ice is because Dai Xu’s character slowly gets corrupted. The acting from the cast is quite good. There are some surprise twists and I can’t guess the plot twists. When your drama story’s core is a Mary Gary pair, a chunk of the plot will be predictable as the pair follows a standard drama plot.
                One of the reasons I complain about TY, RL, YM, LSS in their past dramas is because there were years when half the big budget dramas have at least one of them in it. (TY made so many dramas during/after her breakup with Roy Qiu.) So if you are not a serious fan, it’s hard to find things to watch. It’s so nice there are so many more actresses now.
                I hope writers will craft their plots more carefully in the future. And not just write up something quickly for a quick buck.

    • Many of the dramas nowadays are adapted from popular web novels (back in the days), and i think there is a fascination with female-centric characters in China and such dramas appeal to the female dominated television audiences, it may take some years before the television industry mature enough to show other different genre of dramas..

      NGCS’ main problem is the script, but the acting and direction are top-notch. Chen Xiao’s delivery of his lines were quite unstable at times, but you can definitely tell the difference between the Xing Yis of each phase in life as the story progresses..

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    I like your sarcasm.
    The problem is that it left me wishing you had watched Tientsin Mystic and Burning Ice. I wish I could read your thoughts on these two web dramas.

  8. Once I got used to the cast’s average age difference, by about 20 yrs more, with respect to the characters they play, Advisors Alliance turned into an interesting watch. First time really looked at the Sima family in Three Kingdoms dramas. Slow pacing was an issue, but draggy cdrama is the norm. Waiting for regional block to lift on Part 2.

    Tried Let’s Shake it. Take out the aliens, it’s a pretty standard drama for the type of story. Plus, I couldn’t get over the faux-cest. Dropped it.

    Started >16 cdramas, dropped about half. Played most of the remainder in the background to finish them. Intermittently cursed at screenplay writers/adapters and production companies for ruining interesting source materials.

  9. Thanks for the reviews! I like Let’s Shake It too, which is a surprise since I don’t like the concept (aliens in ancient period??? but it works somehow) . On the other hand, I really enjoy NIF 2 and I like LHR’s character + story . I think he and everyone else are doing a great job there, and I enjoy how the show progresses. It seemed to be slow in the beginning, but if I fast forward too much, then I’ll miss some detail , so I went back to follow everything and finally got hooked. I’m really curious to watch the future episodes now.

    Anyway, still, I agree with most of the reviews here . Nice reviews!

  10. All the ones I managed to finish were complete duds – General and I and Princess Agents. I am still mad I wasted so many hours of my life on Princess Agents.

    I started but could not finish TLTWTMPB. I get that people love it. But I just couldn’t do it. Dilraba’s character was so annoying and Bai Qian was not the sharpest tool in the shed neither. Ye Hua was just as bland a hero as I’ve ever come across. The only person I really loved was MO Yuan, and he disappeared pretty early. So I dropped it.

    Here’s to hoping 2018 comes with much better dramas!

  11. Just dropping by to say that I’ve just found out that Yu Hewei played Liu Bei in 2010’s Three Kingdoms and what a fine actor he is! His Cao Cao and his Liu Bei are like day and night! I’d love for him to win some accolades in next year’s awards.

  12. Thanks for the reviews! Thanks also and especially for directly including voice actors in your considerations.

  13. Great post <3

    I’m so glad you’re enjoying Let’s Shake It! I’ve never heard of it before except for a few 0kuo0 posts,but ended up enjoying it way more than most dramas out this year. I love how crazy it is but somehow it works. An Yuexi is easily my favorite new actress of the year.

    The only disagreement I would have with you is I think Nothing Gold Ever Lasts should rank higher. The pacing, costumes and set design, script, and acting were overall the best this year. Advisor’s Alliance got significantly worse with each generation of the Cao family. I would rate Cao Cao’s segment a 9/10, Cao Pi’s a 7, but the first eight or so of Cao Rui’s segment has gone to 5.

    • I actually started watching it after hearing the theme song in a Nothing Gold Can Stay MV from B站 XD

      How’s Zhuge Liang’s segment? Apparently Wang Luoyong held up the first half of part 2.

  14. Oh well, I can’t agree with your review of Ten Miles of peach blossoms, true, it is not perfect but it is emotional and well acted for me.
    I agree with the dropping of General and I, the novel is too cheesy and sugary, the drama is even worse with the horrible Angelababy’s acting.
    I wanted to watch Nothing gold can stay, but unfortunately no one subbed it in english

  15. I really enjoyed reading this review, and am probably going to watch Advisor’s Alliance as a result. I’ve been following Nirvana in Fire 2 and want to give Liu Hao Ran a chance so bad but his acting, especially close ups are making me cringe. Still watching and waiting for his character arc to see if it gets better but one thing that makes me drop dramas even more than bad story lines is bad acting.

  16. I watched Advisors Alliance up until the coronation of Cao Pi because of time management, lol. I’ve been planning on finishing part 2 of it sometime next month and then starting on season 2. Advisors Alliance is really one of the best c-dramas I’ve watched. I agree, Cao Cao was acted wonderfully without the archetypal 2-D villain with flaming eyebrows and a jagged beard. All other dramas I’ve watched that had a Cao Cao character portrayed him as a common ruffian who was given power within the government. Advisor’s Alliance’s portrayal of Cao Cao is one of the reasons why the drama clicked for me. To be honest, I’ve never been interested in watching war dramas/political dramas on the male side because usually I see them as a dick-measuring contest. But the drama did wonderfully in terms of suspense, character portrayal, plot portrayal, etc. It’s the only drama I’ve ever watched that’s kept me on the edge of my seat. The first ten episodes especially. I could legitimately feel the pressure of Cao Cao’s gaze. The one thing that bothered me was Tang Yixin’s character in that after she married Cao Pi, it was almost as if the Sima family’s troubles didn’t even exist in her world. But that might just be my interpretation.

    I started watching Nothing Gold Can Stay and by the second episode, I was already swept away by the acting. Didn’t watch more because of time, but most likely will be finishing it up around the summer.

    Princess Agents, wow, that one I had a lot of expectations going in. Zhang Liying isn’t an amazing actress but she isn’t bad either. I went in expecting so much more from her and the storyline that I suffered an enormous let-down. It’s very obvious even in the first few minutes of the drama that she’s acting a character out of her normal comfort-zone. Just because the person you’re portraying is cold, stone-faced, and not genteel doesn’t mean she’s glaring half the damn time. I had the same problem with Park Shin Hye’s portrayal of her character in the first few episodes in Doctors. These two actresses are way too niche-y to be able to act a bad-ass delinquent without over-acting. Princess Agents’ archetypal female villain who blames everything on the mc for everything was the one who ruined the drama for me. Good storytelling and good character development always rely on the ability for the audience to understand why the character would choose such an action, why the character would do such a thing. Impulsiveness is human nature, but many c-drama villains are 100% impulsive to the point that they’re incapable of being understood. I could barely make it past half the drama. Love ZLY, but she’s either got to only take dramas with bubbly/energetic characters or she’s got to brush up her acting because at this point, she’s a niche actress. But, she’s doing Legend of Minglan so I have high hopes for her. Minglan is super bubbly so they’re a good suit. It’s just… Feng Shaofeng’s Ice Fantasy… the least I can say is that for a veteran actor, he should be ashamed. Ma Tianyu I can understand since he’s an idol/singer but FSF? Nahhhhh… that acting was worse than bad. It was horrifying. You can only blame so much on bad directing/bad script.

    Eternal Love was a pretty ok drama. However, what I was uneasy about was Yang Mi’s portrayal of Bai Qian. She’s a Queen who acts domineering when within her own home but who turns into Qingchuan (Yang Mi’s character from Palace), or, a quivering maid, in front of Ye Hua. Even though Liu Yifei’s acting chops have been called into question, I much prefer her version of Bai Qian. Her Bai Qian is much more carefree, careless, and stubborn. (Please do note that I’m talking about the second part of the drama where Su Su has already jumped off the tower thingy and Bai Qian has had her memory whiped. Yang Mi’s portrayal of Su Su and that abusive love was unexpected. I never expected her to have improved so much. Of course, the voice actors do deserve much credit, but Yang Mi’s Su Su was very good.) Eternal Love, for me, however, was just eye candy. The plot didn’t keep me on the edge of my chair. The angsty love didn’t really make my head hurt. And the fact that Dilraba’s love interest was literally acting a piece of stone didn’t work for me either.

    Hmmm… Love 020 is good for an idol drama, but, like Dilraba’s love interest in Eternal Love, Yang Yang was also acting a piece of stone. Other than a frown, his facial expression would be that of a slight smile. It irks me because after watching Once Upon A Time, I know now that Yang Yang can do much better than just act out a piece of stone. And Zheng Shuang’s hero worship of him when they first started dating reminds me more of a fangirl and her idol instead of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. I couldn’t finish it.

    Welp. Better luck next year, c-dramas, but Advisor’s Alliance will be hard to beat. But with Zhou Xun and Tang Wei coming back… I cross my fingers and hope to die.

    And, thanks cfensi for doing all the stuff that you guys do. This end-of-year review is also very well written. Thanks again. Happy New Year!

    • Nothing Gold Can Stay is one of the better dramas of the yr, well worth the watch despite the flaws.

      You hit the nail on the head with PA. I actually considered writing a couple hundred words on how bad it was, but figured it wasn’t worth it XD

      No problem, we’re glad you enjoy reading our posts. :)

  17. THIS WAS AN AMAZING REVIEW <333333
    Thanks for your input! Now I know what to watch after college apps are due lol… TT_TT

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