Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Fearless Duo 1984: another Michael Miu/Barbara Yung charming ancient series

Click this to read this post at my new Jianghu blog.

Szeto Man Mo (Michael Miu) & Lam Chor Yin (Barbara Yung), FD ep 19 

So, after finishing Chor Lau Heung 1984 (watched it for three rounds, actually, or perhaps more), I found the Fearless Duo MV with the OST sang by Alan Tam. Fell in love with the song, then binged watching FD the whole weekend. This post is basically the synopsis of FD 1984 and commentaries of major characters (including, of course, the stars Michael Miu and Barbara Yung). I will post the FD episode summary later. 

Fearless Duo (FD) is basically the ‘I fall in love with my neighbour’ Michael/Barbara rom-com series. I’m contrasting this with The New Adventures of Chor Lau Heung 1984 where Chor Lau Heung and Song Siu Ching were practically a super-star couple. CLH had a good reputation in the wuxia world despite his carefree lifestyle (the Emperor sought his advice on a regular basis); Siu Ching was the princess. In FD however, Michael played as Szeto Man Mo, a stroppy and cantankerous young man who was forced to marry the tomboy (and also stroppy) Lam Chor Yin (our darling Barbara Yung). The story evolved from them being bitter and bickering with each other to loving each other in a lovely, organic, down to earth way. I’m not saying CLH isn’t down to earth... but CLH is indeed a high-profile story involving high profile wuxia sects and the empire’s fate, while FD could happen in your neighbourhood. Adding to the FD story is the rivalry between Taoist Supreme Master Cheung and his evil brother, typical village superstitions and some undead and vampires, thus you have the typical “Chinese Ghost Story” with a high dosage of lovely, classical MB scenes that will surely melt your heart (well, at least mine and so many MB fans).

Chor Yin (Barbara) and Man Mo (Michael), pinterest

For a HK production, Fearless Duo is a short series, only 20 episodes (the cut version of CLH is 40 episodes). It is nicely paced, peppered with some 80s vampire/magic ‘CGI’s (just ignore them), very funny humour, and a totally heart-stealing Michael/Barbara interactions (oh, I’ve said that...). In fact, I never thought that Michael Miu could play a comedic drama like this. During the last month, I’ve been watching many MVs of him as Yeung Hong (Yang Kang, Legend of Condor Heroes) and Li Sai Man (Li Shi Min, founder of the Tang Dynasty, in the Foundation), and those two characters were very serious and ambitious. Chor Lau Heung still had the elegance, flair and strategic thinking of Yeung Hong and Li Sai Man, but with a decent heart and righteousness. However, Szeto Man Mo was a different world altogether. If I can give 1-2 words to describe Michael Miu’s famous characters, Yeung Hong’s would be ‘tragic’, Li Sai Man’s would be ‘ambition’, Chor Lau Heung’s would be ‘elegance’ and... Szeto Man Mo’s would be ‘stroppy’. But this character fits well with Barbara’s Lam Chor Yin, hence the result was a very pleasant viewing of my two beloved on-screen couple.

As the pairing for Szeto, we have Barbara playing Lam Chor Yin. Our dearest Barbara developed this character from a stroppy, stubborn and tomboy to a love-struck girl, then morphing her into a grown up woman in the span of 12 episodes or so. However, Chor Yin still had her streaks of naughtiness, as seen in ep 13 when she tricked her pig of a cousin. I think Lam Chor Yin is the combination of a healthy dose of Huang Rong (or Wung Yung, Canto ver, Condor Heroes), a drop of Sik Sik (the Foundation) and a good amount of Siu Ching (CLH), tho SC’s character was created after FD. In all her reincarnations with Michael’s character, Barbara effortlessly created a sizzling chemistry with him, and FD was no exception for that. Well okay, I need to properly watch Condor Heroes to see the chemistry of bitter enemies like Yeung Hong and Wung Yung, but my take is that if they didn’t have a great ‘enemy’ chemistry, TVB wouldn’t even bother pairing them up again for the Foundation, FD and CLH.

Actually, in all honesty, I can’t think of another actress that can pair up with Michael so well (Sharon Yang Pan Pan as Mu Nian Ci came rather close, but not even that close... perhaps Jessica Hsuan?). Hence I’m happy to have three MB series where MB were together in the end (that is, Fearless Duo, United We Stand, and Chor Lau Heung). Well, they paired up as well in the Foundation, but the ending was too depressing...

CMIIW, the authograph is Michael Miu's (pinterest)

Back to the series. The gist of FD is Szeto Man Mo’s romance with Lam Chor Yin, interlinked with his mission to help Supreme Master Cheung defeating his brother-enemy Evil Head. MMCY pairing didn’t start well for both gave the wrong impressions to the other party. Later, due to a misunderstanding, Mr Szeto married his son to Chor Yin, but then Man Mo divorced the girl the day after due to a series of other misunderstanding. The stubborn CY searched for MM for explanation, while MM ran away with Supreme Master. MM’s path later crossed with a pretty actress who had more to her than meets the eye and a village girl who he treated like a little sister before he realised that CY was the girl he wanted to live with. Of course things were not that easy for the couple, for they had to face many obstacles (including a good amount of white and black magic) before being able to truly be together. But, seeing how lovely the ending scene for this series, I’d say it’s worth the journey.

FD was made a few months before CLH by TVB. The two series shared some actors and actresses whose name I don’t know but I recognise their faces. In fact, the third most important character in this series, Supreme Master Cheung, was played by veteran actor Lau Dan (father of Hawick Lau and father-in-law of Yang Mi) who also portrayed Monk Mo Fa, CLH’s nemesis in CLH 84. Although the fight between CLH and Mo Fa was only like 3 min, I was impressed by that scene because we saw CLH fighting a frienemy and was sorry to not being able to save Mo Fa (ahem, I wrote a fanfiction about the repercussion of Chor tai-gor's fight with Mo Fa here). In FD, Supreme Master was Szeto’s teacher and counselor for the Man Mo/Chor Yin (MMCY) relationship.

Inspector Tse, Chor Yin, and Big Mole, ep 2

Another character that was quite important in the first half of the series was Inspector Tse Cheung Leung (played by Kwok Fung). In CLH 1984, Kwok Fung portrayed Inspector Ying Man Lei. Inspector Ying was Song Siu Ching’s bodyguard and, later, chaperone whenever she was dating Chor Lau Heung. I like Inspector Ying in CLH and thought he had a good chemistry with SC. Now I understand why: Kwok Fung and Barbara had worked before in FD hence they’d developed a friendship by the time CLH was filmed. In this FD series, Inspector Tse fell in love with Lam Chor Yin, but the girl already loved the uncouth jerk called Szeto Man Mo. Chor Yin later understood how Tse loved her, but she just couldn’t love another man than Man Mo.

There is one thing that makes me sad about Fearless Duo though. The story is too close to home for MB. See, even after 30 years, many fans are still rooting over Michael/Barbara on-screen (and often off-screen) pairing. Barbara’s untimely death at the blooming age of 26 had raised so many what-ifs, for when she was still alive, Barbara was very close to Michael. If you go online and look for their photos together, you could see how happy they were together, how Michael always put his hand over her shoulder or her waist. But at that time, Barbara was dating Ken Tong and Michael was dating Jaime Chik and later Anita Mui. I never thought of MB as a possible couple until I rewatched CLH last month and found their old photos. I feel guilty for writing this, for Jaime and Michael are a lovely couple, and you gotta respect a couple that has survived 25 years of marriage. I am grateful for Jaime for building a happy life with Michael. But at times I’m still playing what-ifs... what if Barbara is still alive... would she be living a happy life with Michael now? Or even if she is not with him, was there nothing people could do to prevent her premature departure?

(perhaps it's time for me to listen again to Heart Sutra sang by Alan Tam here and hoping to let go...)

Anyway. Thus the Fearless Duo series, despite its rom-com nature, managed to make me sad. The “Who Can Change” theme song is about someone who regretted not taking care of his/her love and found it too late to love the other person. It of course talked about Szeto Man Mo's regret for not cherishing Chor Yin from the start. However, it also really reminds me of how Barbara is gone, and... I wouldn’t be surprised if days, months and years after her passing, whenever Michael listened to the OST, he’d be thinking of what-ifs (even just "what if I called her just to say hi that day?"). And unfortunately, unlike Chor Yin’s fate in this series (she was resurrected from death by Man Mo’s unwavering love to her), there was no way we (or Michael, or Ken Tong, if they did want to) could reverse time and bring back Barbara. The girl that made me fell in love with the Chor Lau Heung series was gone on 14 May 1985 and I’m still having trouble letting go. Thus this series reminded me so much of Michael and Barbara. So down-to-earth is this series that it’s just like watching a reality show where Michael Miu and Barbara Yung just played as themselves, not as Szeto Man Mo and Lam Chor Yin. And thus, despite its beauty and comedic nature, it kinda hurts. The what-ifs kinda hurts... Not even MB's Chor Lau Heung series gave me this sadness...

But nevertheless, Fearless Duo is a must-watch for any MB fans, or any Qing Dynasty romcom fans, or any Chinese ghost stories fans. It’s light-hearted (ignoring my lament about MB) yet doesn’t feel cheesy due to the intense chemistry between MB and the good supporting actors around them. The music is addictive too, hence it’s really worth the ride! Special thanks to Dramanice and Dramatv for uploading the episodes with English sub. If you could replace eps 7 and 9 from the Mandarin-sub to the original Cantonese sub, that would be great. After all, Michael Miu has this deep voice that would go wasted when dubbed. One also cannot replace Barbara Yung’s unique voice with any dubber, no offense...

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