TV Binge: Queer Eye (Season 5, 2020)

Queer Eye (Season 5, 2020)

Queer Eye Season 5

Cast: Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness

A new Fab Five set out to Atlanta Philadelphia to help some of the city’s people refine their wardrobes, grooming, diet, cultural pursuits, and home décor. – IMDB

Season 5 of Queer Eye couldn’t have been released at a better time. With the world being hit by many things including pandemic. Its not been a great 2020 and yet, Queer Eye’s message from the first season always feels like we’re not defined by our differences but our similarities and that’s why every season, we see them moving to different place in the United States as well as picking different people with varying gender, backgrounds, etc. With the latest season changing base to Philadelphia, its yet another batch of “heroes” to discover all with their own touching stories.

At the fifth season of Queer Eye, its still full steam ahead. There are some very small changes to their structure. Its not really needed since they had a pretty good balance. With each person and what they need to makeover, its more about finding that more emotional change to clear out some of that emotional baggage and burden and then balancing it with the other external elements of style, home design/organization, food, grooming. In that sense, while Karamo’s role of culture is a big one, it meshes in with some of the other Fab Five’s task.

What really does stand out in Season 5 is that this season, they picked a lot of people who on different levels related more to one of the Fab Five group and gives them their time to guide each of these people with their own personal experiences. It feels like sometimes the show does help the people they choose but at the same time, it also helps the Fab Five grow as well as there is an obvious change (in a good way) of how they are as people. One of the best parts of watching shows like this is not only seeing the nice makeovers and the shock and often gratitude of the moment but also seeing these more personal stories being told that are very well relatable on different levels. Its the positive vibes that flow in every moment and the value of being able to embrace change that gives so much life to the show itself.

At the fifth season of Queer Eye, you pretty know what to expect from the show. Its a makeover show but somehow, it brings a lot more to the table than just that. Its about everyday people and their difficulties and how to get their life back on track. I’m sure that the show works on many levels because its relatable. Sure, we’re not going to go and do some intense makeover but its a way to look at the people around us as well as even our own lives and issues in a different light and with it, whatever positive message applies to the viewer. Bingeworthy, emotional and sending out positive vibes as always.

Hopefully, we’ll be seeing the sixth season of Queer Eye sooner rather than later.

TV Binge: Floor is Lava (Season 1, 2020)

Floor is Lava (Season 1, 2020)

floor is lava

Host: Rutledge Wood

Teams compete to navigate rooms flooded with lava by leaping from chairs, hanging from curtains and swinging from chandeliers. – IMDB

Anyone hanging around this blog knows that I’m a big fan of binging these reality competition shows from Netflix so in when Floor is Lava was announced, I was really excited to see how it was going to be. In concept, Floor is Lava is a great idea as its a bit of the amateur version of Ultimate Beastmaster where its just every day people teamed together to make it to navigate the room and make it to the exit.

Its definitely a fun idea and for the most part, its pretty entertaining and a lot of it is thanks to a great hosting effort from Rutledge Wood, who has moved from his car-related shows to this type of game show (although I’d really like to know whether a second season of Hyperdrive is going to happen at some point). Still, he pulls off some great background voice with some good jokes and narrating over the whole happenings of the course.

floor is lava

The rooms themselves are quite interesting to watch but as a lot of teams do work in similar fashion, some of those episodes are a little more repetitive. Luckily, these episodes run at around 30 minutes each so it keeps things pretty quick. It has that unknown factor of how many will make it to the end but at the same time, it doesn’t have that many surprises but then, this is a reality show and you can’t really control how things turn out. Lets face it, a lot of these shows work because of watching how these contestants fail or overcome those more challenging obstacles.

If there was something to comment on which makes this show a little inconsistent and feels like they are still using Season 1 to experiment on structure over the 10 episodes.  Here’s the general idea of the structure over the 10 episodes and the changes that occur so that its gives a better view of what I’m about to discuss. The show is structured in first 5 episodes are five different rooms titled Level 1 and the last 5 episodes is Level 2 of the same rooms except with some little changes like booby traps and such. However, not only do the level changes but the second half also fluctuates between some episodes having 2 teams battling it out and then 2 people teams instead of the normal 3 people team and these little changes in the norm happens for one episode here and there. Its a good and bad thing. On one hand, its good because you can see it as variety. However, on the other hand,  it felt more like an inconsistency and not sure why they chose to do it this way. Maybe it meant to feel refreshing. Its not exactly a criticism but something that I’m not sure how I actually feel about it as it didn’t feel like it added to the show as I had enjoyed the original structure of three teams going through each room per episode.

Overall, Floor is Lava is a fun concept. Its something of a silly entertainment as its not exactly serious especially the over the top sinking into the lava portions for the contestants. There are some little things I’m not quite sure about with the structure they chose throughout the season however, Rutledge Wood’s hosting is one of the standout points and some of the room designs are pretty fun and vary in difficulty level. The show has some  space for improvement and hopefully if it does get a second season, it will decide on a more solid structure. Still, its fun enough that I would watch another season.

TV Binge: The Big Flower Fight (Season 1, 2020)

The Big Flower Fight (Season 1, 2020)

The Big Flower Fight

Hosts & Resident Judge: Natasia Demetriou, Vic Reeves, Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht

Ten pairs of florists, sculptors and garden designers face off in a friendly floral fight to see who can build the biggest, boldest garden sculptures. – IMDB

Netflix comes up with a lot of reality competition shows and a lot of times, they do work for the most part and then sometimes, we have shows that make us wonder whether there is an actual market and who else is watching it? The Big Flower Fight is one of those shows where I did enjoy watching it because I’m a big fan of flowers, plants and gardening in general but then I’m wondering how many of us have that ambition to go and make some relatable garden sculptures like these 20 people are doing over 15 hours. However, what makes its fun is that competition element and the whole different themed weeks which bring in different types of flowers and plants that give it that educational element.

the big flower fight

If we take a look at the hosts Natasia Demetriou and Vic Reeves, they do have a nice humorous charm in their hosting style. There’s a lot to love about how they approach each stage. Sometimes, its a big over the top but it does feel like its in the context of giving this tense competition process some kind of relief. I think other than the hosts themselves, the judges themselves deserve some discussion. I’m not an expert at these renowned event florists and landscapers and horticulturist so none of these people mean anything to me and they could be saying anything in terms of their vision and what is being done to judge it, but if anything, it goes back to expanding our knowledge in this field. At the same time, they also share a lot of knowledge on the different plants available in the nursery that fit the theme on hand. The resident judge, Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht is also quite a fun addition because he has some charisma and character that it brightens the show and his views are rather interesting as he looks at each of these sculptures.

the big flower fight

Just like baking shows and whatnot, while this feels definitely more of a niche market, it gives a platform to a different group of people around the world who has a passion for different types of planting from urban indoor gardens to event florists to artists as their outlet and a chance to show the world their skills. For that, The Big Flower Fight does a really good job. Life’s about learning new things. Just like a fraction of anyone is going to join into Hyperdrive or Ultimate Beastmaster, the same goes for The Big Flower Fight where its mostly a learning process. In the end, garden sculptures is something of an art/exhibition piece. Everyone’s interpretation and execution as the show goes along sheds some light on how they use their plants and the whole process of giving them alive. I’m not going to go and plant a garden sculpture anytime soon (or ever) and while I question how popular this show actually is and how many people are turning this on, its a unique angle to focus on and one that I’ve had a rather fun time watching as its not only about plants but also about the engineering behind each of these structures and sculptures and the balance that it achieves. There’s quite a bit of finesse, knowledge and skills needed to do all this.

Have you seen The Big Flower Fight or at have an intention to watch it?

TV Binge: Find Yourself (下一站是幸福, 2020)

Find Yourself (下一站是幸福, 2020)

Find Yourself

Cast: Victoria Song, Wei Long Song, David Wang, Yu Jian Zhang, Esther Yu, Katherine Yang, Miles Wei, Elaine Tong, Jocelyn Zhou

He Fan Xing’s company is at risk of being acquired while her relationship with Yuan Song faces societal pressures due to their age difference. The consecutive blows in her work and love life push her to an emotional quagmire and it is during this time that Ye Lu Ming enters her life. Being older in age, he is mature, stable and knowledgeable. He becomes He Fan Xing’s life coach and the source of conflict between the couple. For He Fan Xing, it’s not merely a matter of choosing the man that she loves but considering the contradictions of adopting the traditional mindset on marriage. – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: Netflix

QUOTES/SCENE

Yuan Song (YS): Almost there! Almost there!
Fan Xing (FX): How long?
YS: Right away. Just a few steps.
FX: Where are we going?
YS: We’re there!
FX: Wow!
YS: Looking at night scenery doesn’t count as creative but when I spend a lot of money, you have pressure. Not spending money and making you happy, I didn’t have time to prepare.
FX: You noticed?
YS: When you filled up my fridge, I already noticed.
FX: What else did you notice?
YS: I noticed that today you are exceptionally pretty, does that count?
FX: *laughs*
YS: What are you laughing at? Was I really weird just now? Did my eyes not attract you? Online, it said that when you look at someone up close, they will be attracted to you. ..Stop laughing. Is it that funny?
FX: It tickles. Stop, stop! *hugs*
YS: I wish that time would stop.
FX: Being in love (relationship) is so good. We can happily make cups together, can go see movies, look at night scenery, have sweet talk and huge each other next to the river. You’ve already made reality all my imaginations about being in love. No regrets now!
YS: You shouldn’t be easily satisfied. You should keep making a lot of requests to me or else I’m scared that I’ll be proud.

STORY

Find Yourself takes a somewhat different approach to the romance drama love story as it tells the story of the love story between a management level lady in her early 30s and an intern 10 years younger. In many ways, this story is a topic very heavily discussed especially in China.

Find Yourself

It takes on various topics/discussions about whether the person you choose to get married should be someone that you love or someone that’s suitable to you (as in their social status/achievements/age, etc.). Its also the concept of whether respecting your parent’s appearance to others and all the other things needed to be done to be considered a filial daughter when you choose someone that will cause a lot of debate. In reality, its a fun topic to look at because the story actually gives the female lead this “stubborn” view of her ideal relationship and insisting on following her heart which is why at 32, she still hasn’t had a relationship, making this first time full of stumbles and bad decisions when she dates the younger intern as her idealistic self is met with some realistic concerns that causes them to break apart (as expected in these series) and to choose to give up her idealistic relationship bar and try to be with a man who is suitable for her. The story direction and premise is a good one to say the least and the execution is decent for the most part however these dramas are always a tad predictable and some of the events were a little unbelievable.

LENGTH/PACING

Find Yourself

Episodes: 41
Episode length: approx 40 mins.

Any dramas hitting the 40+ episode mark is a little tricky. It always has a little too much of something here and there but seeing as a lot of Chinese dramas hit the 50+ episode marks, 41 episodes isn’t too bad. The fortunate thing for Find Yourself is that it uses its time well. It establishes quickly its main couple, Fan Xing (Victoria Song) and Yuan Song (Wei Long Song) and then give them problems that make them question their relationship around the halfway point. At the same time, the story also establishes quite early on the different elements of family, friends as well as work colleagues and focuses on the relationships between these people to create the different dynamic and uses each of those supporting plot lines well. I’ll talk about each of the relationships in the next section but in essence, the story focuses on one love triangle, three groups of friends, a few families as well as one other main relationship and one supporting one. It sounds like its really full but it actually changes between these scenarios and then flows rather well. It also helps that the dialogue and character development as the story moves along is pretty good that it all wraps up in a satisfying ending for all the characters.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Romantic Relationship

He Fan Xing (Victoria Song) & Yuan Song (Wei Long Song)

find yourself

The casting for Victoria Song and Wei Long Song is really good. In reality, their age difference is also rather similar to their characters that they portray making it even easier to believe the two of them. On top of that, they are natural in their roles and its believable when they are together and even after their break-up and still thinking of each other and adjusting to the new norm, the dynamic between them shifts and it helps their characters develop. Its what gives so much to the characters of  Fan Xing and Yuan Song when they finally (inevitably) get drawn back together. This time, its with the courage that they should have. In reality, the show gives them both space for Fan Xing to be more brave to follow her heart and not settle and force to do something that against her own beliefs and for Yuan Song to be more mature about his approach and understanding towards Fan Xing’s standpoint.The chemistry between the two is incredibly good and it has a lot to do with the many scenes (as unreal as it might feel, because I’ve seen discussions about this online) setup and structures.

He Chan Yang (Zhang Yu Jian) & Cai Min Min (Esther Yu)

Find Yourself

A flip side of the main relationship is a later developed story line between Fan Xing’s brother Chan Yang who gets pursued by his quirky and over the top student, Cai Min Min who previously was pursuing actively Yuan Song. Her character plays two fold  and in the second half, when Chan Yang agrees to be in a secret relationship with her, things get complicated because of the teacher-student element as well as the age difference. For them, it brings up the point of how people have double standards in society about men dating 10 year younger girls versus women dating 10 years younger men. That’s just an aside as these two are a different dynamic altogether. Their personalities are both more outgoing and actually they each have their own quirkiness and they both brave in their own way to embrace their relationship once they become more stable. Still, it becomes finding the balance of power between being a dominating and more teacher character for Chan Yang or being a boyfriend toward Cai Min Min. These two also have great chemistry but in a different way.

I’m not going to lie that I’ve seen Esther Yu and Yu Jian Zhang before in other TV series (in separate TV series, not as a couple) however these two are really fun to watch all the time. They do get cast in very similar character types but they also can carry their scripts and present those characters really well. They definitely were a ton of fun to watch in this one.

Cong Xiao (Katherine Yang) & Chang Huan (Miles Wei)

Find Yourself

The previous two was more of a main romance where this pair is also a different angle in a more supporting love story as they are best friends and colleagues with different views on love and because of that doesn’t embrace their feelings right away but works hard to get the girl. Their story drags out a little and flails around as they both find their footing but somehow, these story was one side of the characters and chemistry that I liked a lot and worth a mention.

Friendship/Family/Love Interests

Friendship plays a big part here and in reality, the script for the drama seems to focus a lot on the different friendships through different age groups and the things they are going through, mostly relationship-wise. Fan Xing’s two girlfriends have great communication together as they protect each other just like Cai Min Min’s two best friends who also analyze the situation different from them. You can see the script seeing them deal with different stages in life and having to face different problems from cheating husbands to deciding between a future of marriage and kids. Each of these have their concerns at their own age and their own views, giving them their value in the show.

Find Yourself

One of the better friendships to show up is from its love interests. Cai Min Min being Yuan Song’s previous love interests and ends up in a similar situation to his previous secret romance with Fan Xing and finding their discussions to be reflective on both his characters and hers as their opinions start to flip around. At the same time, Fan Xing’s trial to be in a relationship with her suitable choice, Lu Ming (David Wang) always started with a friendship between the two that was much more suitable. Their dynamic being much better when they were interacting as friends than when they were trying to be together with a goal of getting married. In fact, Lu Ming’s chase game for Fan Xing and his big game plan actually was a lot more fun to watch.

Find Yourself

In terms of family, its a huge highlight and probably one of the strengths of the show aside from the romantic elements. Fan Xing’s family in particular focuses on this fun sibling love/rivalry and the parents are very comedic to say the least and actually different from typical Chinese parents in some ways. They had some great moments as well as some great script.

OVERALL

Find Yourself

Find Yourself is a decent Chinese drama. It has a lot to thank for its outstanding cast and gives so much unique life to its characters. It also has a diverse topics of discussion and web of intertwined relationships of romance, sibling, friends, colleagues, schoolmates and family that all play a part in the story its trying to tell. Its about secret relationships and views in the eyes of others as well as age gaps in relationships. There’s enough character development throughout. The first half is a lot more fun to watch than the second half which is a bit more dramatic in probably the third quarter. Luckily, it still remembers those comedic and awkward moments to keep it more light and fluffy. TV series are meant to bring joy especially dramas in this sort of romance, friendship and family area. There’s a few episodes or moments that feel like it drags out but it does quickly find it again. Can I say that other than my obvious love for Esther Yu and Yu Jian Zhang, I’m finding a love for Victoria Song and Wei Long Song and both of them are really popular now with the former being on a good few variety shows lately and the latter having one TV series recently finished airing (I think) and probably one more series to be released.

MAIN THEME

TV Binge: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Season 1, 2019)

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Season 1, 2019)

breakfast lunch and dinner

Host: David Chang

Guests: Seth Rogen, Chrissy Teigen, Lena Waithe, Kate McKinnon

Chang accompanied by a different celebrity guest exploring a single city, its culture and its cuisine. As the pair travels through each city, they will also uncover new and surprising things about themselves. – IMDB

Hosted by David Chang, Breakfast Lunch & Dinner is a new Netflix docuseries, much like Ugly Delicious, exploring food and culture. The structure of this series is different in this 4-episode series. Each episode sees David Chang going to one city accompanied by one celebrity  that may or may not be from the area to explore the food offered there. In some places, its about authenticity and in others, its about reflecting the place itself. The episodes span over Vancouver, Los Angeles, Morocco and Phnom Penh where the pair will go for a day out in the city eating the different meals throughout the day and talking about the city, the culture and of course, the cuisine which eventually goes to talking about their own lifestyle and more.

Four episode seasons are always a quick binge. It almost feels like this one should have been paired up with Ugly Delicious Season 2’s four episodes to create a full season. However, there is nothing to complain about. This new structure is very refreshing. To a certain extent, this one is more lighthearted to watch. Its less about those societal issues that are often linked in Ugly Delicious but takes a more entertaining level as they talk about the celebrities career and living in the city or other more casual friends hangout topics. It does touch on the societal topics every once in a while but overall, its a rather fun discussion most of the time to see the dynamic of David Chang and his guest celebrity and each one of them brings something new to the table.

Its really hard to expand too much on this show since it is not only short but also with a rather straightforward concept. Breakfast Lunch & Dinner is a pretty fun show. It would definitely be nice to see where they can take this and what other guests will join David Chang as he explores a city in one day and all the food that he tries (especially since I have some foodie friends that I’ve travelled with where our trips are like that as well). Its a nice snapshot of a city experience and in some ways, its almost like a casual hangout or interview that gives space to discuss a wide range of topics. There’s a lot to love about this show and is much more focused on one place and culture and cuisine that gives its a lot of substance as well. Its a different approach to a food docuseries and while I like both this structure and Ugly Delicious’ structure, it would be nice to see this one have more episodes if they manage to get a Season 2.

If you haven’t seen the reviews for Ugly Delicious, you can find it below:

Season 1
Season 2

TV Binge: Too Hot to Handle (Season 1, 2020)

Too Hot To Handle (Season 1, 2020)

too hot to handle

On the shores of paradise, gorgeous singles meet and mingle. But there’s a twist. To win a $100,000 grand prize, they’ll have to give up sex. – IMDB

Netflix has been working on overtime at creating their own exclusive series to cover all forms of reality dating series and social distancing like The Circle and Love is Blind. Its all fairly guilty pleasure watches. What makes Too Hot To Handle from the two mentioned above is that those two have some social experiment elements to it, whereas this one is strictly guilty pleasure and right from the get-go in the first episode when the contestants are announced, its already positive that these people involved are all fairly shallow and full of themselves (there’s a difference between self-confidence and being full of themselves).

too hot to handle

When you pick a series that focuses on watching a bunch of contestants in their bathing suits half naked 90% of the time living together who have to give up sex and any rule breaking is results in different amounts of reducing their total jackpot of $100,000, its hard to think that it is going to have a lot of substance. On top of that, the show has a unnamed narrator which made some pretty funny sarcastic comments, which I did enjoy, and all the contestants were observed by an cone-shaped air freshener-looking AI called Lana that would notify them of rule-breaking, how much money was left as well as liaison between organizing dates and other announcements. I’m not going to lie that I hesitated to start this one up but in the state of the world that this show is arriving at, I was down for some mindless entertainment that didn’t require a ton of my attention.

too hot to handle

Let’s break it down. Too Hot To Handle is full of contestants that honestly aren’t very likable. I mean, in their introductions, they pretty much all share the same values of thinking they are total bombshells and studs. I say, “thinking” because well, beauty is to the eye of the beholder and I’m no longer in the phase of life where looks can cover up some very annoying traits (which some of these contestants do have). But, when you start up a show like Too Hot To Handle, you have to expect a few things and know exactly what to expect and be okay with that. One of those things is cringe-y moments and rather stupid commentaries and boy, are those plentiful in here especially in the first few episodes as we get to know these contestants a little more and they are in their first interactions.

too hot to handle

That’s not to say that the show doesn’t aim to reform these contestants a little by giving them little workshops. They are punished for not embracing the rules and engaging in personal development. All these things results in monetary punishment most of the time with some exceptions. The workshops focus on sorting out their issues whether its in ladies-only or men-only workshop to embrace their own issues and empowerment while also having workshops together on relationship like trust and communication, etc. Its fairly generic stuff that happens as it introduces some exercises with fancy names. Its part of the show that tries to add some substance and give these contestants a little more depth and growth than when they first started. Aside from that, like many of these types of show, they throw in some plot twists to give it some exciting elements and adds in rewards instead of only punishments.

Overall, Too Hot to Handle is exactly what it advertises to be. You already know whether you will enjoy this one or not before you start this up. If you hate reality shows like this, then stay far away. If you like the pure guilty pleasure of this type of show and you might even call this trashy (but I don’t want to be mean), then you will like it for exactly what you expect to get.  For myself, it fit the time and I kind of didn’t mind it too much once I got past the first few episodes and got used to the contestants a little more. As for my anticipation of a second season, I’m don’t really have a preference whether there is one but I’d probably watch it anyways if it happens. Once in a while, guilty pleasure can be good, right?

TV Binge: Restaurants on the Edge (Season 1, 2020)

Restaurants on the Edge (Season 1, 2020)

Restaurants on the Edge

Creator: Courtney Hazlett

Host: Karin Bohn, Nick Liberato, Dennis Prescott

Three food and design experts travel the world to revive failing restaurants by connecting them to the local culture beyond their gorgeous views. – IMDB

Restaurants on the Edge is a new reality makeover series that uses the concept of choosing restaurants on the edge of a city with a gorgeous view but on the edge of failing and leaving their own savings in jeopardy. Its the basis of how each of these restaurants of chosen on an international scale. The three hosts go in as specialists to not only fix the restaurant by introducing better menu options and interior design elements that bring it together with the area they are in to unify the concept but also at times, to help the owners clear up some of their own mindset and mentality on this restaurant. While it does a lot of the makeover elements, what makes Restaurant on the Edge stand out is that its much more of a food, travel and culture show than a makeover reality show. Sure, it explores the owners and their own leadership and business values, giving each of these locations and restaurants their own life and purpose and exposing the world of the different beautiful views that these places have to offer but it also spends most of its time in each of these places visiting the artists and cultural elements and exploring the food and local produces and resources.

restaurants on the edge

While I’ve never heard of any of the hosts before, they each have their strengths and manage to create a nice balance in what they do. The places they go to whether its food, culture and design all brings a good element as they implement it into the end product of the makeover in the final reveal. Dennis Prescott takes on the food and local produces side of things which leads him in some locations to discover some interesting experiences. At the same time, Karin Bohn is responsible of the design and she focuses a lot on use of space and art and bringing culture together. Whereas, Nick Liberato is more of the culture and brings in the entrepreneurship know-how as he usually has the sit down with the owners about their bad online reviews and how to improve it and brings the owners back on track with finding the right mentality of running those businesses. Each of them are good in their own domains.

restos on the edge.png

Restaurants on the Edge is definitely a fun reality show. Its great on the makeover level but I love for its focus on bringing restaurants to embrace their local produce and showing off some of the culture in the area whether its with food, design or whatever else. It chooses some interesting locations to visit and really picks some restaurants that probably would have been hidden if it wasn’t for the show. Of course, for myself, I always love it when the show focuses a lot in Canadian cities as well as even making a stop in Hong Kong where I can truly relate. I’d be down for this to have a second season for sure!

TV Binge: Ugly Delicious (Season 2, 2020)

Check out the TV binge for the first season HERE.

Ugly Delicious (Season 2, 2020)

ugly delicious

With only half the length of the first season, Ugly Delicious is a quick binge to say the least. That being said, it still lives up to what it has built in its first season, bringing food and culture and views together. Its a bit more of a personal journey as David Chang sets out in the first episode looking at kids menu in anticipation of his child. Its a good look at exploring the kids menu at schools around the world and finding the balance of being a chef and family. In the following three episodes, David Chang and friends reunite to look at curry, steak and the turning meat.

While each of these episodes have a lot to offer and to learn, the best episode would be the steak episode which has amazing structure as it divides its discussion into a four course meal and having this central discussion on the different doneness of steaks and why (or why not) its a big deal to ask for a well-done steak. It leads to how steaks are done from fine dining to chain restaurants to little restaurant concepts as well as the different types of steaks including some that I’ve never heard about. Its quite the eye-opening episode especially as it uses this to go into politics, society, etc.

As usual, David Chang is really a great host for this. The guests he invites on each of these episodes or friends that go to the different locations to explore the food all have their own rapport and knowledge that it adds a lot to the series itself. However, carrying forward from the previous season, David Choe has to be one of the most hilarious additions to the friends. A little odd and does a lot of unexpected things but its why it makes it so entertaining. That being said, there are some fantastic travels here as they head to different locations as well like Mumbai and Instanbul just for starters.

Four episodes might seem like something of a short season and it definitely is, but each of these episodes do pack their own punch. Each having their own journey, whether its a journey to understand a cuisine better (Curry) or its a look at the different variations and how people view how certain foods are cooked and its impact on society itself and even expanding to feminism (steak) and finally how immigrants and people moving from one place to the next has brought over their food culture to a new place and the variety that its given (turning meat). Ugly Delicious is much more than just a food docuseries but rather one of the things I like the most about the show is how it manages to tie some societal elements using food as the bridge to talk about these issues.

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

Check out TV binge for previous 2 seasons below:

Season 1
Season 2

On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

on my block s3

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Paula Garces, Reggie Austin, Ada Luz Pla

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up right after the shocking ending of the four friends getting kidnapped off the streets, On My Block Season 3 starts off with them kidnapped to see Cuchillos, the head of the Santos, who end up thanking them for getting rid of The Prophets and then of course, just like expected, sending them on a much more dangerous task: finding Ricky who is probably not dead (contrary to what is believed). This mission is one that they not only have a time limit with some serious consequences if they don’t achieve it but at the same time, one that they must tackle without anyone else knowing but having to find somewhere to start despite their own arguments among themselves and get back together to face it together with the help of Spooky and Jasmine.

on my block

The writers of this show actually did a really great choice at this point as while the four friends, Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao) and Jamal (Brett Gray), are all still our main set of characters, they decided to write in much more depth continuing on from Season 2 for Spooky (Julio Macias) and more importantly, Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) who turns out to be so much more than where she started in Season 1. Its knowing when their problems can’t be the only things in the picture that it gives the show a lot more boost with those two as it turns into a team of five tackling this with a little outside/family help from Spooky. There are still a lot of the familiar problems carrying forward between the four. Monse and Cesar are tackling their relationship and whether they should be together because of bad decisions and other factors as well as family issues; Ruby still has a lot of inner troubles from the trauma he experienced but in this one, he’s also realizing his problems has caused real financial problems for his parents while Jamal tackles girl problems and figuring out his priorities. While Monse used to be the glue for the group, surprisingly, everyone has some healing and Jasmine ends up really getting them straight on what’s more important and how to set their problems aside and work together, even if by the end, things don’t quite work out as intended, which will make Season 4 an interesting change in events for these characters, if it happens. The new group dynamic did give a good boost.

on my block season 3

Another great writing is really giving a lot of balance to the characters. Its a quick 8 episodes every season but getting to see equal doses of these characters for their own quirks and problems is the first step to lead to a realization that this group is not as solid as it used to be in Season 1 especially as they grow up and face more problems. In this one, this mission takes them on some crazy locations and meets some funny and at times, over the top, people that truly give this season a lot of charm. Its the process of this mission that makes more of a bang than how it ends, very in tune with how this show does manage to give it a humorous mostly because of not understanding the seriousness of the situation right from the first season. In that sense, the tone here is darker but still has that balance of light-hearted and awkward humor to make it a fun watch especially in the case of Jamal and Ruby who come together in this one a lot and really come up with some crazy ideas. Together they can make all kinds of bad logic work out in their minds that its okay and that is rather incredible despite things usually not going the way they expected.

On My Block S3

With that said, while the whole series does move fairly quickly and is overall, a fun trip with roles like Jamal, Jasmine, Ruby really having some shining moments as well as giving a lot more for Spooky to do that makes him such a deeper character that would be nice see further how it all plays out in the next season. While its not exactly a downfall, the more lackluster characters do go to Cesar and Monse mostly because they seem to always revolve in the same problems since end of Season 1 to this season and they  have the same struggles, which gives them less character development than before. With 8 episodes though, its definitely a bingeworthy show for fans of the show.

TV Binge: Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

ashes of love

Director: Yui Bun Chu

Cast: Andy Yang, Allen Deng, Leo Luo, Adonis Liao, Zhi Yuan Xia, Faye Wang, Ting Wei Zhou, Yukee Chen, Kathy Chow, Bella Du, Yang Peng, Run Jun Wang, Zhong Hua He

In ancient times, the Flower Goddess dies after giving birth to a daughter. Before she passed, she fed her daughter the Unfeeling Pill, ordered her subordinates to keep the girl’s birth story a secret and to imprison her within Shui Jing for 10,000 years. The girl’s name is Jin Mi. 4,000 years later, the Heavenly Emperor’s second son, Xu Feng, was entrapped by someone and mistakenly entered Shui Jing. He was saved by the ignorant Jin Mi. After living together for 100 years, Xu Feng gradually developed feelings for Jin Mi. Someone close to them wants to use those feelings for their own benefit. – MyDramaList

Where to watch with English subtitles (as at March 25, 2020): Netflix Canada & Youtube

QUOTE/SCENE

Jing Mi: That one’s so ugly. Why did you bring it here also?
Phoenix: I feel that one is the most beautiful of all the Phoenix lanterns, because it contains our memory.
Jing Mi: This is the memory of Saint Girl and King Yi. [pause] What a beautiful view!  It’ll be great if we can drink some self-made osmanthus wine. In fact, before I descended to the mortal world, I buried some osmanthus wine I made here.
Phoenix: I dug it out several days ago. Let’s try  your wine today. [next scene] The wine you made is indeed savory and mellow.
Jing Mi: I must have some skills amongst the six realms. Why are you staring at me like that?
Phoenix: Its great that I don’t have to look at you through the veil.
Jing Mi: Isn’t it beautiful?

STORY

ashes of love phoenix jingmi

Ashes of Love is essentially a love story and its where it thrives at its best. Much like the structure of 2017’s Eternal Love (review) and background, this one is set a little different  in the actual fairy world where this one has six realms however, the Sky realm is still the highest one (as it usually is) and the story resides in these different deity/fairy ranging from flowers to nocturnal creatures to celestial creatures and all kinds of animals and even inanimate objects. In terms of creativity, the story is full of them and that is one of the many highlights of this one and can bring so much fun to this as it makes for some leaps of beliefs but in a fantasy world like this one, its more about learning about it first. And that is a lot of the charm especially as it starts off fairly light-hearted and fun.

The realms here are really where the many past dilemmas have ignited from the past generation between the Floral Goddess, Heavenly Emperor, Water Immortal and all the other people linked to them. Its created essentially what happens to Jing Mi to have been given the Unfeeling Pill when she was born to prevent her from meeting her curse of love with the first 10,000 years of her life, which ends up being the catalyst of all the events that end up happening as misunderstandings happen as the truth unfolds. But that said, each of these realms of the three focused on among the six is different in its own way and has its own traits reflective of the place but yet still has their own good and evil characters.

ashes of love war

At the end of all this, between war and feuds and misunderstandings and realm battles for power, it all dials down to the romance and the love triangle between Jing Mi, Phoenix and Runyu instigated by jealousy and unfairness on one end and then creating revenge and hatred, making things worsen. Its all a story of the basic philosophy and belief in Chinese that what is meant to happen will happen regardless of how you plan on changing its course, that act alone is also destined to happen. Also goes along with you reap what you sow at the end of the day especially as what is given off from one generation can affect its next. Its all very common plot points and themes in ancient Chinese fantasy TV series as Eternal Love has about the same kind of plot point (as an example since its the other one in the same genre). What does work here is that once you get past those similar plot points and embrace what they do different in building this new world and its characters, Ashes of Love has a stronger bond with its love story and leads (for myself) whereas in comparison, Eternal Love is entertaining well-rounded but perhaps didn’t quite connect as much in terms of the main leads and their love story. I don’t mean to compare but I did watch them almost back to back.

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Before we jump to pacing, I need to mention that the costume designs here are really nice. There’s a lot of thought of each one from the Birds Realm to the colorful Flower Realm to the dark Demon realms outfits as as well as the gold and white and more royalty colors in the Heavenly Realm. Its one of the elements that make me love watching Chinese Fantasy TV series. The costumes and the hair ornaments and hair styles are just so beautiful! While I’m talking about this, I do have to mention that when they do close-ups of the props, fake flowers and such, it is pretty apparent, maybe one of the lesser elements of this series. But then, I guarantee you that there is one “sex” scene in this (its public TV so nothing explicit) and its filmed so poetically and beautiful that I was really impressed by the whole thing especially when you remember the true forms of the leads on hand.

LENGTH/PACING

ashes of love jingmi

Episodes: 63
Episode length: 40-45 mins approx.

Its incredible how long Chinese TV series are sometimes especially these big production Chinese fantasy ones. Ashes of Love is surprisingly long at 63 episodes and yet, the script is done so well that the story progresses in phases that gives time for each stage of these characters to grow and develop individually and together in their different relationships, friendships, family, brothers, etc. It doesn’t take a break from this other than maybe the secondary couple from the demon realm which ends up being a rather touching story as well by the end.

Looking at the phase, the first part (as I mentioned) before is about the meeting between Phoenix and Jing Mi and her introduction from the Flower Realm to the Heaven Realm and gradually the reveal of her true identity as well as her growing relationship in their few hundred years as the helper and disciple of Phoenix. As her true identity gets revealed, it jumps into the next phase of the story where it shares about the past and the characters involved and what actually happened, throwing the hatred of the Heavenly Empress and her desire to split up Jing Mi and Phoenix while Phoenix’s brother, Runyu gets pulled into the mix and he learns about his mother and it builds on his revenge and his plot slowly conspire. Things gets more messy here as this also get intermitted with Jing Mi’s mission to become an immortal by going to the Mortal Realm to experience the suffering of mortal life to gain knowledge where she ends up connecting with her feelings more as a turn of events takes Phoenix to have a rather intense romance. Finally, the third phase appears after all the plots of phase 2 unravels and Jing Mi unexpectedly breaks the Unfeeling Pill’s effects and realizes her real feelings and makes up for her mistakes to Phoenix. That turns into the most painful, emotional and heartbreaking moments of search and hopelessness and this last part is just such a ode of how the beginning builds up its characters and relationships so well that this part ends up working a lot. (I mean, I bawled my eyes out a ton in the last 8-10 episodes or something)

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Leads: Jing Mi & Phoenix

ashes of love phoenix jingmi 1

Ashes of Love takes a lot of time and attention on building these two characters. Its great because the focus never quite leaves them even when they are apart and doing their own thing. There’s a lot of factors that work here. The first is that its not dubbed voices and the actual actors are voicing these characters because both Andy Yang and Allen Deng are really talented actors and in their respective roles as Jing Mi and Xu Feng (aka Phoenix, as I keep referring to him), they are incredibly convincing and hard to not ship them, to be honest. These two characters are strong individually as they both have their own family, relationship and realm issues to deal with and consider in all their choices and their own secrets to uncover. Its what makes their love story so heartbreaking and bittersweet altogether because each of their own issues and it all comes down to Jing Mi and the Unfeeling Pill that stops her from realizing her own feelings until its too late which makes their relationship take a very heartbreaking turn of events. The chemistry between these two characters are fantastic especially in some scenes of how the director uses close-ups to the dialogue around them where they both are able to act with their eyes and interpret some genuine feelings without saying anything.

Brothers & Family Feud: Phoenix & Run Yu

ashes brothers

All royalty has their own conflicts and Phoenix’s family is the Heaven realm’s family which creates all kinds of crazy as the Heaven Emperor reveals to be a rather unloyal man where his past creates the Empress’s hate and jealousy making a lot of issues become unfair to the older son, Runyu the Night Immortal. What starts off as a rather good brother relationship despite the parent issues ends up turning sour as Runyu’s character ends up having a subtle villain type of change full of plot and schemes, creating this character that flips from the nice guy at the beginning.

Love Interests, Villains & Other Characters of Interest

Love Interests for Jing Mi is mostly Runyu as well as some other characters that don’t really have too much to mention however the main villains of the series is one, the Heaven Empress, aka Phoenix’s mother (as mentioned before because of jealousy) and the second is Phoenix’s “cousin”/crush who likes him a lot and believes she is the one destined for him and does increasingly evil acts. The two villains in the end are the main cause of Phoenix’s “demise”. Everything comes in full circle in Chinese philosophy and nothing proves it quite like how TV series stories work. You can’t say these two villains don’t do a great job. Empress is portrayed by 90s Hong Kong TV actress Kathy Chow who does a fantastic job that its hard to not dislike the character much like Faye Wang as the love interest who plays on the more annoying side of things.

Of course, the more fun additions do go to the Green Snake and the other colorful character of the Flower Realm just like the Moon Immortal (Phoenix’s uncle) who are comedic but in desperate times, knowledgeable and contribute to the dilemma in their own ways. There’s a lot of characters in Ashes of Love so its hard to talk about all of it.

OVERALL

ashes phoenix

Ashes of Love is a really great series. Its one that takes its sweet time to move through its different story levels to gradually connect with each of these characters as they develop and learn about the different secrete in their life, especially with the main female character, Jing Mi. The magical elements and this new world and the possibilities gives it the space to believe in all the twists and turns and thats because its already given it such a creativity to begin with which also sparks some deeper thoughts on how certain plot points would work but never quite doubt its possibility, leaving space for the audience to draw their own conclusions. The different worlds have beautiful CG effects that make them unique as well as their own kingdom and rules as well as different worlds and their feuds with each other.

Aside from all that is crafting these characters that work so well on their own in complexity. Having 63 episodes to do it definitely feels like it would be a drag but it isn’t most of the time because these characters need it and its because of that, it makes especially Jing Mi and Phoenix’s story so much more emotional to watch whether its happy moments to the extremely heartbreaking moments. Fantastic series that makes me want to watch and rewatch and notice those little story plot details more.

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