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.

ashesashes2

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.

MAIN THEME

TV Binge: Love is Blind (Season 1, 2020)

Love is Blind (Season 1, 2020)

love is blind

Hosts: Nick Lachey, Vanessa Lachey

Singles who want to be loved for who they are, rather than what they look like, have signed up for a less conventional approach to modern dating. – IMDB

Hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, Love is Blind is a dating series and social experiment that aims to prove whether love is blind. How it all works is that a group of men and women who live separately date through these pods separated by an opaque glass over 10 days. During the process, they get to know each other without any physical contact or seeing each other and if and when they fall in love, they can propose. If agreed, they can see each other the next day. After the course of 10 days, the successful engaged couples move onto the next phase to a Mexico resort trip to further their relationship before moving onto the next phase of meeting reality as they move in together into a complex and share the news of their upcoming marriage to family and friends as well as prepare for their marriage in a few weeks. On the day they get married, they get to decide at the altar whether to say I do or I don’t. All this happens over a course of 6 or 8 weeks or something like that. I can’t remember the exact time frame.

In some ways, Love is Blind is kind of taking the dating experience and doing it backwards while taking a blind date for its literal meaning. In that sense, the most intriguing part of this entire experiment is the interaction in the pods. After the couples meet each other, it turns back into a dating reality show where the love is blind element is put more in the background as it starts to depend on the physical attraction as well as the personality of each of these people whether they are ready for marriage. The love developed in the pods might not be enough to get them to the next phase. Watching couples and reality TV, if its your thing, is all about the drama and dilemma and such that the people go through and for this, the couple they have here have them in spades and its riveting TV to say the least, if not for some nice fluffy guilty pleasure TV.

Thing is, my biggest issue with Love is Blind is that in the back of my mind, its a show that somehow sits on the fence of being good and bad. Sure, its guilty pleasure TV and dating reality shows tend to have that. In some ways, its also more grounded because its not like a bunch of girls or a bunch of guys going after one person. Its concept works to a certain extend if not a backwards dating process where they commit to engagement before heading towards marriage. On the dating reality show element, it ticks a lot of the boxes but as the social experiment that it claims to be, I’m not sure it actually proves anything because love may be blind but whether it all works out depends on each individual and each couple.

As a final note, to myself, the last episode being the reunion episode may have turned me off the show and was slightly unnecessary. It felt to a certain extent a lesson on what each one of them learned and then resolving conflicts on the show and bringing up certain conflicts. Some made sense to resolve and some just felt petty to dissect even more. Overall, Love is Blind is fun as a dating reality series but there are some elements here in execution and tagging on the social experiment that felt like it missed the mark. Pushing all that aside, for what it is, its still decent enough entertainment if you are into these kind of shows. What I am curious to see is whether this manages to land itself a second season.

TV Binge: Next in Fashion (Season 1, 2020)

Next in Fashion (Season 1, 2020)

Next in Fashion

Hosts & Judges: Tan France & Alexa Chung

Guest Judges: Elizabeth Stewart, Jason Bolden, Monique Lhuillier, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Adriana Lima, Christopher Kane, Josefine Aberg, Maxwell Osborne, Dao-Yi Chow, Tommy Hilfiger, Eva Chen, Elizabeth von der Goltz

18 budding fashion designers compete for a $250,000 prize and the opportunity to launch a clothing line with Net-a-Porter. – IMDB

Next in Fashion is the the latest global competition that takes on finding the best upcoming fashion designers around the world with a huge prize to help their fashion business grow while giving them a chance to also launch their line online. Its a pretty big deal and one of the best parts of these shows is seeing that there is an international participation with the fashion designers coming from different countries and with different backgrounds. Just like any competition, each week’s task is a different type of clothing to challenge them and to help them break out of their comfort zone.

To be honest, most Netflix competitions (as with most competitions) are structured very similarly. What makes it exciting is the race against the clock to make something that embodies the designers vision. At the same time, the show starts off with pairing the designers into twos and it varies between some duos who have worked together before and some who are completely strangers and need to find their balance in the work up until a certain point where the teams are separated and they compete as individuals up to the finals. This is pretty much the most similar to the Netflix global cooking competition, The Final Table (review). This structure works well for this style of show as you see the idea of cooperation and the new ideas that push through each other’s comfort zones so when they break apart, it also helps give them that individual ideas and direction. I think it happens a little late in the show and I wonder whether it has to do with one of the episodes that result in a dilemma that ends up with no team being eliminated. We will come back to talk about this issue later.

If we look at the hosts, participants and judges, its a pretty nice group. I’m not into the fashion world so I know very little of where these judges come from other than Tommy Hilfiger because his clothing is pretty much a household name and widely available and like Adidas or other big name brands. The hosts are Tan France and Alexa Chung and they are a fun pairing. I’m a big fan of Tan France, even on Queer Eye so its great to see him do this show because he does have a more grounded fashion sense and one that can be elevated. Pairing with Alexa Chung, they both balance each other out pretty well. As for the participants, its nice to see that they are from many different countries: South Korea, UK, China, Mexico, North America, etc. It gives a different vibe as you can see each stylist and their different vision that they bring to the table especially as each challenge always is at least one of their fortes while others will find it challenging. Its a good way to give them a more well-rounded way to attack different challenges and break through the comfort zone. I think those challenges and the teams that can get through it really are the most fun to watch.

Overall, Next in Fashion is a pretty good competition. I’d say that its one entirely bingeworthy. I think I watched it over 2 to 3 days. Its nice to see different fashion and ideas in different types of interpretations. If there was anything to criticize based on that one incident they had (which bothered me a little) is that there isn’t a strong enough system of elimination. Its a competition and sometimes tough choices need to be made. While I can understand that fashion is subjective, there has to be some way where even when its not unanimous to be able to keep with the system of elimination whether giving the guest judge who has the expertise the tie breaker or get some odd number of judges or whatnot. I’m not a competition expert but it just seemed a little unprofessional how the whole thing went down when the editing showed a favor of who was supposed to leave. Either way, its just a thought. I still think its very entertaining as a competition and I’d be down for another season.

TV Binge: All I Want For Love Is You (满满喜欢你, 2019)

All I Want For Love Is You (满满喜欢你, 2019)

all i want for love is you

Cast: Yu Han Liu, Zhao Hua Lu, Yin Jun Liu, Zhi Xun Xie, Yan Qing Sun, Xin Yu Han

A story full of laughs follows sanda fighter Gu Xiao Man and school genius Zuo An as they chase after love. Graduation is fast approaching for 3rd year high school student Gu Xiao Man. Unlike your average school girl, she is a sanda fighter who wins medals at the sport but not in class. Because she wants to continue to be schoolmates with her idol Zuo An, she decides to give the same effort to academics as she does to sanda. Her hard work combined with Zuo An’s efforts to be her personal teacher pays off and they get into the same university. There’s nothing sweeter than to have your crush crushing on you and their story continues on. – MyDramaList

Where to Watch with English subtitles

QUOTE/SCENE

STORY

All I Want For Love Is You is a simple love story. It starts off with neighbors where Gu Xiaoman likes her neighbor Zuo An. However, he is such a genius and she’s really just good at her martial arts that she feels like she will never be able to get his attention until one day, she accidentally rips his track pants and from then on, she catches his attention. Despite his cool exterior, he finds different ways to help her out to get to spend more time with her. However, they never truly find the timing or the courage to tell each other.

All I Want For Love Is You

All this is fairly similar plot line for these youth romance that runs from high school to university romance and following their dreams. There’s a lot of unrealistic things that happen here. That usually isn’t a problem since TV series are meant to have that magic to them that resolves issues making it hopeful and happy for the viewers as well. The story here has a good deal of fluff and it does also have some light-hearted moments. However, it does also have a lot of drama in order to create misunderstandings. There is two rivals, one who likes the girl and one who likes the guy, the former one is a lot more fun to watch than the latter.

The unique element done here that adds some fun comedic elements is that Gu Xiaoman dreams up these ancient China scenes where she plays this martial arts female hero and its all the fantasies that she has as she falls in love and then the misunderstandings which propel further into certain situations. Its a fun little mix-up to the story and gives this series a little more charm.

The story actually is fairly harmless and does a decent job at being an okay dose of light fluffy drama. The only issue that I can’t quite decide is a good or bad thing is how it decides to throw in some additional issues as the ending 2 episodes to give it a dramatic twist, which felt a little too contrived but at the same time, if that scene didn’t exist, the main female lead wouldn’t have been able to show her best acting skills throughout the entire series with a lot of depth. As of now, I’m still debating that point.

LENGTH/PACING

All I Want For Love Is You

Episodes: 32

Running at 32 episodes, there’s shouldn’t be pacing problems and yet, All I Want For Love Is You has that issue. One of the main issues is that the chase takes too long. The couple only get together after 80% of the series is done, which is absolutely crazy as it gets a little tiring and frustrating to watch them dance around their obvious feelings for each other and then go through various misunderstandings created by third parties. There is a good bit of stuff happening to these two main characters, whether its to do with school or friends or new acquaintances or love rivals and so on so forth. The question is whether its interesting enough to keep it fun. This series is aimed towards the youthful genre and usually its meant to more light and fluffy and yet this one seems to have a lot of drama and misunderstandings, making it a tad overdoing it at times. This series could easily have cut a few episodes to make a little more tight-knitted and paced better.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

All I Want For Love Is You is essentially a first love story and in many cases, finding their true love as their first love. With that said, this lies heavily not only on how the story sets up different plot points but also chemistry. Because this is a shorter series, there are less characters and pairings to look at.

Gu Xiaoman & Zuo An

all i want for love is you 3

The main couple here is Gu Xiaoman, played by Zhao Hua Lu and Zuo An played by Yu Han Lu. These two do have quite a good chemistry. Their acting skills are decent and their characters are structured to be more distant with Xiaoman being more shy but brave and Zuo An, the cooler introvert loner. Both their characters have their insecurities and their burdens which has time to develop and together, they change each other for the better. They just take  a little too long to actually get together. It builds up some good moments and they do have a decent chemistry. There’s an awkwardness between them and their first love reenactment that actually does work pretty well and the main development in character in terms of opening up definitely is in Zuo An who definitely is rather smart and sly to catch her in the most unexpected moment.

ChiYao La & Zhan Yue

all i want for love is you 5

The couple that starts off from dislike is the norm in most series. This time, its used for the secondary couple who actually are both best friends of Gu Xiaoman. These two are definitely the ones who break up the tension sometimes in the situation as they both have this silliness to them. Especially when they bicker. There are some pretty fun moments with these two. Although secondary male lead Zhan Yue, played by Yin Jun Liu, starts off as interested in childhood friend Gu Xiaoman and takes a slightly ambitious turn, the roles takes a nice turn with the help of the secondary female lead Chi Yao La, played by Yan Qing Sun. Just like the main couple, they spend most of the series as frenemies and as their friendship grows and their care for their best friend, they find motivation in each other to help each other reach their dreams together.

Love Interests: Sun Anning and Shen Chen Yang

all i want for love is you 4

Both Gu Xiaoman and Zuo An have their hurdles in their getting together. Gu Xiaoman as mentioned before starts off in high school with Zhan Yue liking her and trying to stop her from being with Zuo An (along with all the other girls who liked the school genius). However, the one who definitely made a bigger impact is Shen Chen Yang, a rather eccentric character as he has a pig as his pet but of course, also has a little deeper to his story as he hopelessly falls in love with Gu Xiaoman and of course is all quite unrequited because Gu Xiaoman only ever likes one person. He acts like the childish, attention grabbing sort of guy and a bit of a clown but has quite the character that creates an impression.

On the other hand, Zuo An’s childhood friend Sun Anning, played by Xin Yu Han, is a girl that likes him a lot and expects to be with him. Her story becomes a manipulative story of the usual variety where she acts a certain way but under that elegant and friendly exterior isn’t really what you’d expect. You can say that she does a good job because her character is very annoying and something of a mean girl with her two little minions at her side in some shots but then, she was just slightly frustrating to watch.

OVERALL

All I Want For Love Is You is a harmless series. It doesn’t do a whole lot to make itself stand out as the story itself isn’t unique enough. Its cast is young and they do decent in the chemistry department with what they have but as much as these characters are rather fluffy and lighthearted and its quite the romantic comedy style, they do add in a few dramatic twists to give it some substance. Its a fairly average viewing experience but one that will fulfill that quick dose of cute youthful romantic comedy story. It just seems to run around the chase a little too much for its own good, creating more drama than is needed and puffs itself up more than necessary. Still, they do manage some nice moments but in the long run, its not something that really is one to revisit.

Trailer
(because I can’t find any music videos)

TV Binge: The Circle (Season 1, 2020)

The Circle (Season 1, 2020)

the circle

Host: Michelle Buteau

The Circle is a 3 week limited series social media competition with a social experiment central focus as different contestants living in apartments in one building communicate through social media only and try to gain popularity to get the top spot in the end to win $100,000. In the process, the lowest ranked players are at risk of being blocked where new players will enter to take their place. At the same time, players can enter as themselves or as catfish.

There are so many angles to look at this show. I’m not going to lie that going into this and watching a bunch of different people interact through social media is something of a cringey feeling as you never know who these people are. However, if The Circle does do anything well, its that every contestant (whether intentional or not) proves a few important points about the world interacting through a screen: the level of trust, the easily misinterpreted messages due to lack of interaction and of course, the judgement of a first impression/appearances and photos. Sure, its only 12 episodes and like 12 days or something that these people are together if they were the surviving initial group that makes it to the end and its not enough to truly know who these people actually are in real life but the fact that the show, as the audience observes them and their reactions in their own space, some of the people will change initial opinions. 

The first angle of the show is obviously what everyone goes into this for: entertainment. Its a competition so there will be tension especially as the viewers find their players that they want to win this and in the face of ratings amongst themselves and who gets eliminated, it builds fairly well. The Circle feels natural enough especially as the show goes on and the players settle in. The best moments are probably those where there are shocking moments of player reveals, especially for the catfishes. Plus, watching people react to what others say is pretty fun overall. Sure, some of the players have some big personalities and might even seem a bit annoying in the beginning but its funny how things change in the course of the game. 

If you look at this on the social experiment angle on what social media does to the society and how it builds up an image of what others feel is more accepted regarding appearances or even personality and other preset thoughts and prejudices that people build, it turns into a rather deep contemplation at the end as to whether what the catfishes were proving is a bad thing or whether if you connect with a catfish and its only the appearance that is fake means that it was all a lie in the first place.

Its interesting how we view social media and online interaction at times and for that, I’d say that on some levels, The Circle actually gives some room for contemplation of how online interaction does subconsciously and they did pick out a good group of players that showed a lot of angles of how people can view them or why they picked their catfish alias. If anything, The Circle has proved that the convenience of online interaction has both its pros and cons and highlights some stereotypes that people generally have. The Circle is a surprisingly interesting look at this through a rather entertaining game/competition. 

TV Binge: Eternal Love (三生三世十里桃花, 2017)

Eternal Love (三生三世十里桃花, 2017)

Eternal Love

Cast: Mi Yang, Mark Chao, Ken Chang, Dilraba Dilmurat, Vengo Gao, Maggie Huang, Vin Zhang, Alan Yu, Lawrence Wang, Bambi Zhu, Wayne Liu

After a devastating war, the immortal tribe paid a heavy price to seal the demon lord. 70000 years later, in an attempt to re-seal the demon lord who broke free, Bai Qian was sent to the mortal realm. In the mortal world, she meets Ye Hua and falls in love with him after forgetting about her life as a goddess. Ye Hua gifts her the name of Su Su. Su Jin, who is jealous of Ye Hua’s love for Bai Qian, intentionally creates a series of misunderstanding between them and causes Bai Qian to lose her eyes. Thinking that Ye Hua has betrayed her, the devastated Bai Qian jumps off from the Zhu Xian Terrace. At her request, all her memories have been erased and she forgets Ye Hua. Hundred years later, the two meets again as deities. Another lifetime another world, Ye Hua recognizes Bai Qian but the latter remains indifferent. Three lives three worlds, her and him, are they fated to bear an entangling love? – MyDramaList

Eternal Love is currently available on Netflix (as on January 15, 2020)
You can also find it on Youtube via Croton Mega Hit Channel with English subs.
Below is the playlist:

STORY

ten miles of peach blossom

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Tang Qi and later translated, titled To The Sky Kingdom, Eternal Love aka Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is the most watched Chinese Drama in China to date. The C-drama tells the story that spans over Three Lives, Three Worlds (as the Chinese title calls it) and as its about the love story that happens between the many trials and tribulations between Fox King’s youngest daughter Bai Qian and Nine Heaven’s Prince, Ye Hua. Their story is told over the events of the Sky Kingdom: Nine Heavens, Ghost Tribe, Kun Lun Mountains, Fox Clan and other fantasy lands as well as the mortal world. Suffice to say that, the story itself might sound a little back and forth with its focus on the three lives and three worlds for these two characters and their love stories.

eternal love baiqian

However, the story is done well that it gives room for each of the characters to grow and each love life in each world has their own depth. Plus, the supporting characters also have a good amount of entertaining filler to guide these characters. Between good and evil, love and trust, and the schemes and power balance, the story has a lot to love. It has its frustrating moments with some of the scheming characters but overall, its done really well.

LENGTH/PACING

ten miles fighting

Episodes: 58

58 episodes is the norm for a Chinese drama of this calibre. Anything set in the fantasy world and such always has the 50 or more episodes attached to it. Its something that doesn’t always work depending on what the story interpreted is. Surprisingly, while there are some small moments that feels like the plot stays or simply some characters being frustrating as times because of their stubbornness or whatever character trait (which I will talk about in the characters section below), the story does move forward.

It does so by giving it enough places to move around these fantasy worlds. Between the rigid rules of the royalties in Nine Heavens to the much more relaxed Fox Clan’s Fox Burrow  setting to the dark Ghost Tribe and the beautifully enchanting Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms owned by the Phoenix God, the story shifts from its political elements of war between good and evil to maintain peace and the romances and friendships that happen between the characters and with that, its own set of misunderstandings. There’s a decent amount of action scenes which are well-executed and the dialogue is done naturally, while giving it a good amount of space for building the chemistry between the characters.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

eternal love dilraba

If you haven’t noticed, characters and chemistry are my favorite parts of TV series and with Eternal Love and its 58 episodes and different worlds, we’re in for a ride in this section as there are some really good ones to highlight and talk about.

Bai Qian & Ye Hua
(and their 2 other lives/worlds)

eternal love 1

I’m not going to lie that its a little hard to totally figure out which romance this whole Three Lives and Three Worlds was initially for Bai Qian and Ye Hua but they do make an effort to point it out at the end which is pretty cool. There’s a lot to love about these two as their different romances each have a different sort of feeling whether its the type of love or the conflicts that happen that cause them to break apart and in the end, solidifies their love more by the end. Its the first time I’ve seen Yang Mi in this sort of role and she is so pretty in her various outfits and they match well with Mark Chao’s character in his various prince transformations. Mark Chao’s character becomes one that changes in his personality and not so much the lives prominently so its easy to quickly feel and connect with his character quickly.

Dong Hua Di Jun & Bai Feng Jiu

eternal love fengjiu dijun

While the main couple was done really well, this supporting characters of Bai Feng Jiu, the rare nine-tailed red fox niece of Bai Qian portrayed by Dilraba Dilmurat and Dong Hua Emperor Lord who is has lived so long that he has let go of emotions. These two are the focus of the sequel coming up this year. Suffice to say that they were done very well. Their romance is one that is not only fun because of Bai Feng Jiu who is a bit clumsy and naive but will do anything for love but facing Emperor Lord who seems to care but not reciprocate affections, it turns into a roller coaster of emotions that probably hits even harder than the main couple.

Li Jing

ten miles li jing

Li Jing is the second son of the Ghost Tribe Emperor and ends up taking over when his father’s war against Nine Heavens fails. He is a character that is one that isn’t very ambitious but at the same time, a rather frustratingly silly character as he constantly gets led astray by Xuan Nu, a childhood friend of Bai Qian who uses a prettier face to gain attention. Li Jing also is the first person that Bai Qian falls for romantically but due to Xuan Nu’s action, it causes them to break apart. Li Jing is not exactly a bad character. He actually fills up some of the spaces well as Xuan Nu is one of the “bad gals” who orders harm because of jealousy. Li Jing becomes a fairly tough character who stands up for peace and rights as the Ghost Tribe King and has a bit of character development that suits him well.

Bai Zhen & Zhe Yan

eternal love alan yu

I’m a huge fan of Alan Yu as an actor. There’s something very unique about him that I enjoy about him and as Bai Zhen (Alan Yu), the fourth son of the Fox King and the older brother of Bai Qian, he pops up occasionally in a very carefree and relaxed way randomly and yet him and his best friend (who seems like they have a special relationship) Zhe Yan (Ken Chang), a Phoenix Immortal both spend time together drinking peach blossom wine and playing Reversi and then randomly have arguments that makes Bai Zhen run off to his palace in the Northern Seas. These two are something of a comedic relief as well as surprisingly insightful guidance for all the characters and the myriad of dilemma.

There’s a ton of other characters that we could also talk about but I’m going to leave it at these top ones that truly appealed to me. However, one of the bad ladies in this one is the woman who loves Ye Hua called Su Jin and her role was to create a lot of the misunderstandings and misguidances that lead to a lot of the drama happening. As frustrating as her character was because she was able to get away with it because of her status, it was all merited because she was a character that had nothing to like.

OVERALL

Eternal Love is a much easier mountain to climb than expected. Other than the elements that I talked about for the story depth and the great fantasy world that is presented here with gods and fairies and spirits and a roundup of some well-written and well-developed characters, it also has some lovely visual effects. Every scene is done really nicely. Sure, some of the flowers might look a little fake in some scenes but overall, its done relatively nice for TV dramas. At the same time, as I was researching this up, the costumes are actually rather intricate with each one done by hand to show off the details for each of the characters plus all the sets were newly built to not have any replicas. Not to mention, the soundtrack here is amazing. Every song is so great that I almost wanted to share it all. Eternal Love is definitely one of the better Chinese dramas out there. Sure, its a bit long but it has enough content to make it really nice. If you watch the behind the scenes, its actually a pretty involved process between the actors and the director with how they work the script and how each scene is done. All things great for bingeworthy TV.

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