Review: Ode to Joy Season I

As Ode to Joy II  欢乐颂 2 is geared up for release, here’s a review of season 1 of the hit series from 2016.

Witty dialogue and a cast of memorable characters make Ode to Joy one of the most fun sit-coms in a while.  Unfortunately, the  series is often dogged down by attempts to shift to a melodrama that makes the ff button a necessary friend.

The series focuses around the unlikely friendship between five women who share a floor in an apartment complex in Shanghai. There’s Andi (An Di?), the business professional with a fear of human touch, Qu Xiaoxiao, the heiress fighting  for the family inheritance,  Fan Shengmei, the gold-digger with an entitled family, Qiu Yingying, the happy-go-lucky college grad,  and Guan Ju’er, the ordinary white-collared girl who has never said no in her life.

Coming from a misogynistic rural  family, Fan Shengmei (Jiang Xin) is vain, self-centered, but also righteous and protective. She would lie to help out a friend, but also to save face. The first lets her befriend the women in the apartment complex, but the second gets her in trouble  as she falls for men who use her vanity to play her.  When she falls in love with a  man faked his own wealth to date her, she is caught between love and vanity.  Imperfect, complex, and sharp-tongued, Fan’s characterization is perfect.

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Jin Dong is Jiang Shuying’s Mr. Right in upcoming romance drama

恋爱先生 Mr. Right comes from the writers behind last year’s To Be A Better Man, and stars Jin Dong (Surgeons) and Jiang Shuying (variety show Divas Hit the Road) as a bickering couple. Like all rom-coms, they’ll progress from enemies to friends and then lovers.

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Chen Daoming guest stars in Jin Dong’s new drama The First Half of My Life

Powerhouse actor Chen Daoming will be joining Jin Dong (Ode to Joy), Ma Yili (Chinese Style Relationship), Yuan Quan (Call of Heroes) and Lei Jiayin (Red Star Over China) in The First Half of My Life 我的前半生, a drama adaption of Yi Shu’s novel of the same name.

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Leading ladies confirmed for Jin Dong and Wallace Chung’s respective dramas

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A drama led by two acting powerhouses.

First off, production has begun for Daylight Entertainment’s new medical drama The Surgeon 外科风云. Jin Dong (The Disguiser) was confirmed last year as the cold and secretive cardiothoracic surgeon Zhuang Shu, while Bai Baihe (Chongqing Hot Pot) will be playing his love interest Lu Chenxi, a former cardio surgeon who has been “demoted” to the emergency department.

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The Disguiser: Dissecting a Dialogue

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Rule #76 of drama-verse: Although check your surroundings for paparazzis, because this hug could incriminate you for life.

This is a series of posts of me over-analyzing The Disguiser. Last time I looked at a painting, this time it’ll be a conversation, next time it will be exactly one line. Can you guess which one?

When a sample of Nirvana in Fire 2’s script was put up by producer Hou Hongliang last week, he got so many complaints about the awkward dialogue and requests to have a co-writer to work with author Hai Yan that  he deleted the post. With so many book adaptations, one of the worst aspect of many recent dramas is their inability to translate descriptive writing into scripts. Luckily, The Disguiser did not fall into that trap.

Here is a closer look into one of my favorite dialogues in The Disguiser, the reunion of Ming Lou (Jin Dong) and Wang Manchun (Wang Ou) here in episode 1. See how natural the dialogue flows while setting up the story and revealing character at the same time, and how much better it is than the lazy method of using a random bystander conversation to introduce the characters.

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The Disguiser: No Guns Unfired, aka The Importance of Home

Warning: this entire post is about a painting.

Warning: this entire post is about a painting.

This is part of a series of posts that still overly obsessed yours truly is going to write on the Disguiser, aka my favorite Chinese drama in the past five years. 

In Chinese, a common word for country is literally translated as  nation-home.  It’s only fitting then that the painting by Ming Cheng and Ming Lou is named Home, for it captures  the two major themes of The Disguiser –   family and country.  It’s one of many examples of how the series by scriptwriter Zhang Yong and director Li Xue is a rare Asian drama that actually tries to uses dramatic principles like  symbolism and foreshadowing and Chekhov’s gun.

The scene of the painting of Home seemed like just another day of Lou-Cheng cuteness at the time, but it actually set the stage for two major plot points and became a reoccurring symbol.

"If Mr. Ming knew, he would skin me." Oh, he knows.

“If Mr. Ming knew, he would skin me.” Oh, he knows.

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Fools of love trailer for Ode to Joy

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Get used to seeing this pair, because they’re going to be collaborating for two more seasons of Ode to Joy and at least one of detective series When a Snail Falls in Love 如果蜗牛有爱情.

First of all, I’m kind of impressed by their use of English songs in the two trailers so far. Hopefully this bodes well for their rather large OST (all the girls and maybe Wang Kai have their own song). Second, can everyone but maybe Jiang Xin please get a new stylist? There is absolutely nothing young and hip about any of Wang Kai’s outfits.

I still think Ode to Joy 欢乐颂  could be ground-breaking in being a female-centric modern drama that isn’t solely-focused on romance (despite this trailer),  so I have high hopes for this series. I like the end message of the trailer, if anything else.  All the leads have signed up for season 2 and 3 for this drama, so that should indicate the script is really good (or they were emotionally blackmailed).

The series has been pushed back for an April 18th release, and still stars Liu Tao, Jiang Xin, Yang Zi,  Wang Ziwen, Qiao Xin, Zu Feng, Yang Shuo, Zhang Lu,  Wang Kai, Jin Dongand Zhang Xiaoqian,

The Disguiser: Until We Meet Again Review

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“Dear brother, then let us enter Inferno together.”                                                                                                                                                              – Ming Lou, Paris 1939, Until We meet Again

This is a plug for one of my favorite novels I’ve read last year, Until We Meet Again/Jusqu’a ce qu’on se revoit/别日何易 by mockmockmock.  Romance, humor, history, culture, and philosophy are blended flawlessly in this travelogue across Europe and China.  The reader follows The Disguiser‘s  Ming Lou and Ming Cheng on a journey of self-discovery in mostly the lead-up to the drama.  Even if you, like me, haven’t read fanfic since 2010 , I highly recommend it.

(spoiler alert!)

The story begins in Vienna on Easter 1933. In true spy style, the Mings meet in front of a painting at a museum. Ming Lou had just finished chatting about  Keynes and ism’s. Ming Cheng had just returned from military academy in Leningrad. They eat cake, listen to opera, exchange intelligence, and brush hands.  The joys of reunion cannot hide whispers of the recent election in Germany.

They celebrate Christmas with a jovial Seville family, but do not miss the underlying tensions of the impending Spanish Civil War. They share their first kiss by the Neva river,  but the beating of their hearts cannot quieten Ming Cheng’s  questions about his friends’ mysterious disappearances.  They shower in the British rain and sing on Qinhuai River, but always in the back of their minds is the war brewing both around them and back home in China. Continue reading