TV Binge: Julie and the Phantoms (Season 1, 2020)

Julie and the Phantoms (Season 1, 2020)

Creators: Dan Cross & David Hoge

Cast: Madison Reyes, Charlie Gillespie, Owen Joyner, Jeremy Shada, Jadah Marie, Sacha Carlson, Savannah Lee May, Carlos Ponce, Booboo Stewart, Sonny Bustamante, Cheyenne Jackson

Julie is a teenage girl who finds her passion for music and life with the help of a high -concept band of teen boys (The Phantoms) who have been dead for 25 years. Julie, in turn, helps them become the band they were never able to be. – IMDB

Based on the Brazilian TV series Julie e os Fantasmas, Julie and the Phantoms is a musical comedy drama that tells the story of a girl who is able to make 3 teenage ghosts that died 25 years ago visible to everyone whenever they play music together and hence brought about the their band, Julie and the Phantoms. Running at 9 episodes, there’s a lot to love about Julie and the Phantoms whether from the teenage content or the ghost element and especially the musical and band elements. There’s a little bit of romance, family and friendship and talks about loss and dreams and finding the courage to face it all. All in all, Julie and the Phantoms might have some plot points that seem a tad far-fetched but overall, its feel-good element really lands on such positive notes making it quite a binge-worthy experience.

Looking at the young cast, they are all fairly new to acting. With a lot of musical sort of shows or movies, it has a little overacting element however, the band when with each other feels mostly like the characters do fit themselves. The main actress is Madison Reyes who plays Julie, a girl trying to embrace music again after her mother’s passing. Trying to balance being okay for her family and  having the courage to follow her dreams with the help of the band, Madison Reyes does a really good job capturing the role and also showing her musical talents of singing. Playing opposite her are the 3 ghost boys from the Sunset Curve: Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Alex (Owen Joyner) and Reggie (Jeremy Shada),who have personalities that balance each other which makes each of them stand out and each having their own issues although this season was mostly focused on Luke and building up the chemistry he has with Julie. An overall success for the two as they have some great moments together which is not physical but just through looks and conversation.

The story and the narrative does a good layout for the first season. It gives a good foundation and lays out the scene for both the key characters of Julie and her high school scene along with her family and also, gives a look at the ghost side of things and how this world’s ghosts work (which takes a twist at the finale and gives a set up for the second season). In terms of the songs, every episode has at least one musical offering which aligns with the plot and mostly is fun and positive sort of songs especially with its lyrics. They each have their own fun and are pretty catchy overall.

Overall, Julie and the Phantoms for the first season is a fun show. As a teen show, its pretty good. There are some issues probably in terms of over the top acting in certain parts but its feel-good elements and the fun and catchy songs does cover over a lot of its flaws. It does help that I’m a big fan of these types of shows plus its well-paced and the episodes are relatively short so the first season is definitely a breeze to binge. Definitely one that comes highly recommended for myself (seeing as I’ve rewatched the season a few times at this point since its launch and enjoy it equally as much every time) especially for fans of teen shows and musicals. With that said, I can’t wait for the second season whenever it will be released.

TV Binge: Detective Chinatown (唐人街探案, 2020)

Detective Chinatown (唐人街探案, 2020)

Director: Sam Quah & Dai Mo

Cast: Roy Chiu, Janine Chang, Zhe Yuan Chen, Yi Shang Sha, Xiao Cheng, Victor Ma, Ming Shuai Shi

Strange crimes occur in Thailand as the ranking for the world’s best detective sees a shift. New detectives come into the picture to tackle three difficult cases. Lin Mo is the student of Chinatown’s number one detective. Lin Mo pursues two cases: Four-Faced Buddha and Name of the Rose that not only takes place in Bangkok but also in Kaoshiung. The third case about the Ghost’s Invitation takes the story back to Bangkok and then to Tokyo. – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: iQiYi

Detective Chinatown is adapted from the Detective Chinatown movies (which I have yet to see). However, this series is really three cases wrapped up as a series. Each case being 4 episodes. The first two revolving the detective Lin Mo played by Roy Chiu and directed by Sam Quah who also directs Sheep Without a Shepherd (review). I mention this because he uses a few cast members that make up the cast from that movie. The third case goes off in a completely different direction: set on an island in the middle of the ocean, about e-sports competition and starring a five person team lead by Noda Koji, played by Zheyuan Chen.

In many ways, Detective Chinatown should be seen as three separate stories as the timeline becomes a little fuzzy. The first case feels the most recent as Roy Chiu’s detective and high school substitute teacher character Lin Mo takes on almost this modern day Sherlock Holmes sort of role cooperating with policewoman Sa Sha (Yi Shang Zhang). There’s a level of quirkiness that makes him rather charming to watch. The first case, Four-Faced Buddha is rather intriguing as it investigates a group of girls after one of their friends commit suicide. The case gets quite a bit of twist and turns and gives Lin Mo a fun look at how he is plus there’s a decent amount of comedy with the other inspectors in the police HQ getting involved. Its probably my favorite of the three. The second dives back in the timeline before Lin Mo is part of the Detective Chinatown agency and first encounters the police woman in the first case Sa Sha but actually tells the story of his connection with this mystery assassin group that wants to kill him for some reason and he gets entangled with this flower shop owner Ivy (Janine Zhang).

Where the series feels the most disjointed is the third case where Lin Mo is not part of the story and it switches over to an esports tournament and five people team who gets lured to the island for this tournament as a final battle before this online game shuts down the server but becomes a rouse for a disappeared legendary player setting up an elaborate game. As an individual case, its pretty decent but just doesn’t seem to correlate well with the first 8 episodes. It feels like a completely different world with just a hint of connection at the beginning when Sa Sha is sent to handle this case. It definitely feels like an attempt to promote a new direction for this franchise, maybe a second season especially since the five people team includes a few up and coming celebrities like Arthur Ma and Xiao Cheng along with Zheyuan Chen. These young cast lack the acting experience so they don’t reflect as well especially since Arthur Ma and Xiao Cheng gained popularity through music and the third story has a lot of characters and a lot of the supporting cast are much more seasoned actors.

Overall, running at 12 episodes, Detective Chinatown is very bingeworthy. The three separate stories is a good way to execute this series and the pacing is pretty good. Sure, the third case is a little odd and its a bit overacted but the set up and case development is pretty good. Roy Chiu is honestly fantastic as Lin Mo and well worth a watch just for his performance. Plus, the first 8 episodes are directed by Sam Quah who has a great eye for capturing the atmosphere and how some of the shots are done are very well-executed. Its rare that I watch series like this which is focused on investigation and twisty cases that its a breath of fresh air.

TV Binge: Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

dash & lily

Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Leah Kreitz, Keana Marie, Glenn McCuen, Agneeta Thacker, Jodi Long, Diego Guevara

A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. – IMDB

Dash & Lily arrives at a suitable time in our current pabdemic landscape. Dash & Lily is a building connection between two young strangers as they exchange dares in a notebook stashed at a local bookstore all in an attempt to bring in some joy during this holidays by Lily whose normal family holidays plans have been thwarted due to a business trip. On the other hand, Dash despises the holidays especially without a girlfriend to smooth the situation between him and his father while fooling both his divorced parents about his wherebouts. The notebooks ends up being a new start as it takes them both to extend out of their circle and learn and try new things. A runaround New York doing all kinds of unique activities and meeting some a variety of people gives both of them a slight change in their original mindset.

Running at a swift 8 episodes, Dash & Lily is based on a book series called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn (which I haven’t read before). Running very much like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on a book also by David Leviathan), this is a journey through New York. Where it differs that this time, the story is about two separate characters and their own journeys that help them find themselves and find companion in each other and eventually, a stronger connection/romance. Dash and Lily are opposites. Lily sits in her comfort zone and doesn’t really get along with people her own age but remains close to her family and is somewhat of a brighter character where Dash has a more incomplete family and lives with less family guidance but also doesn’t have a friend circle in fear of mentioning his break-up and in turn both needs their own change in view to get back in touch with the space around them. What brings them both together is that this dare notebook turns into something of a tree hole where they can share their thoughts and find their own excitement in life.

As much as Dash and Lily’s characters are pretty fun, the supporting cast pulls in other factors like family and friends. Lily’s family is quite the amusing bunch especially with her grandfather played by James Saito and her great aunt played by Jodi Long, both colorful characters. Lily is also left with her brother who is spending a lot of time with his new boyfriend that makes for some fun moments as they help and encourage her to do the dares and step out of her comfort zone. Dash’s group is more focused on friends with his ex-girlfriend and her group of friends that he meets here and there but mostly his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown) who works at the local pizza place and ends up being a link between Dash and Lily secretly. There was even a little cameo with Nick Jonas which makes for a pretty fun scene.

Overall, Dash & Lily is pretty fun. It doesn’t take place over a long period of time but at the same time, it takes us for an adventures around New York while getting to know these two young characters. There are times and that they seem a little older than they should be but then, the little activities and dares they get sent on are rather unique. This time, its a lot of cutting between the two characters and flipping between them so its less their chemistry together but rather more like friends that builds into more. Its set around Christmas time so there’s a lot of inserts of Christmas themed elements and uses it as a foundation of the difference between the two: one that loves it and one that doesn’t and that’s all rooted from their view about how they view life at that point. Its a fun and bingeworthy Netflix series for sure!

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 Brightest Star in the Sky (夜空中最闪亮的星, 2019)

The Brightest Star in the Sky (夜空中最闪亮的星, 2019)

brightest star in the sky

Cast: Z. Tao, Janice Wu, Jun Feng Niu, Xi Yue Cao, Jin Song Wang, Lan Qin, Chloe Zhao, David Chen, Yi Ling Li, Jin Cheng Zhang, Ji Jia Liu

As singer-songwriter C-POP star, Huang Zitao plays a role of a recalcitrant idol who debuted and become famous since he was young. He deeply likes music and keeps persistent, that is similar with Huang Zi Tao. This time Yang Zhen Zhen is a newbie manager who just starts the work. Being a newbie staff, she faces various obstacles but she never gives up her music dreams. – MyDramaList

Where to watch it with English subtitles

QUOTE/SCENE

the brightest star

STORY

The best stories in dramas are those where both of the characters are made better because of the things they go through while they are pursuing their own dreams. The Brightest Star in the Sky is one of the few Chinese TV dramas that remember that the story is about two young adults who are pursuing their dreams and helping each other in the process. Their meeting was unexpected and it does feel like there is a certain coincidence to it but the central story is about the idol star Boxu Zheng (Z.Tao) trying to achieve his dream of making C-pop music so that the world can see the talent in Chinese music but his company always trying to sculpt him into something else and his struggle to find his footing and his way in the entertainment industry. At the same time, he ends up having Zhenzhen Yang (Janice Wu) as his assistant who turns to work in the music industry to find another option to still work in music while not having enough talent to perform music or become a singer.

The Brightest Star in the Sky

Their love story grows because of working together and understanding each other throughout the series. The love story is never a focal point while there are some cute moments between the two, its focus isn’t that and its what gives this story its unique angle, making it less of a forced situation but one with  more depth to grow both of these characters (as well as the supporting characters), making them easier to connect with.

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 44
Length of Episodes: 40 minutes

44 episodes definitely ranges on the higher end of TV series and will also suffer a little bit of dragging on. Fortunately, The Brightest Star in the Sky overcomes this for the most part. It still has some parts that linger such as a good chunk in the first quarter which is just struggling through the very frustrating love interest with Zhenzhen and Zhirui as they both tiptoe around the situation until fate just passes them by in some ways. For the most part, the drama does keep fresh new struggles and dilemmas to show up to play around with the characters and set loyalties. The most annoying bits might actually go to the actual management of the Star Entertainment with the CEO, his wife and the new VP that comes into the office and creates a somewhat fake love triangle. There are some issues here and there but luckily it remembers its focus on its two main leads and their story so when they are in the scenes, it always has a nice feeling to the scene especially as the characters develop.

CHARACTER/CHEMISTRY

The Brightest Star in the Sky

With that said, the characters in this series, whether its the main leads or the supporting characters are done fairly well. There are some typical roles like Boxu Zheng is the son of a rich businessman so his father has the typical role of being against his dreams and wants him to take over the family business while the sister stands by his side. The main family drama occurs in this level and actually is pretty fun at times to watch and also some of the more predictable elements of the story. Another element here is the character that plays a good friend of Zhenzhen, Gu Ye who ends up being the mentor to Boxu and sends him into a better training for his dreams. Gu Ye, played by Hong Kong actor Jin Cheng Zhang, is actually one of the best segments of the series throughout as it has both comedic moments but also inspirational and guidance to the younger characters.

The Brightest Star in the Sky

The second story line is the second male lead Zhirui Yu, played by Junfeng Niu who is the love interest of Zhenzhen at the beginning but also makes his sacrifices for his success in becoming a music. His character is one that is actually a bit frustrating as he always falls into this circle of bad things and of making decisions that he later seems to regrets. However, his character works best at the beginning and the ending episodes. The same goes for the girl playing Zhenzhen’s roommate and best friend, Xia Yuan (Xi Yue Cao) who ends up being quite the positive character until one little section nearing the end that makes her a bit more frustrating to watch.

brightest star 2

Finally, the main couple is the final one that probably the one that I’ve talked about the most as to how I feel about it. Boxu and Zhenzhen actually works really well together. While the series doesn’t the love in the forefront, they give it enough room to feel their natural connection to each other as soulmates and partners and lovers as their romance grows through their understanding and eventually has some really fun chemistry between the two people. Its a very positive relationship.

OVERALL

The Brightest Star in the Sky is a really well done TV series. Its plot is well-executed with its main plot being about following dreams intertwined with a romance between two young adults. Its done in a fun and comedic way for the most part but with some drama and struggle. It shows the difficulty of stardom and being an idol while in the entertainment business. At the same time, it tries to be a positive type of relationship as the two characters grow together. At the same time, where there are some by the numbers plot points, the characters are done rather well whether its the main leads or the supporting ones. The only elements that might be lacking are some of the not so well done visual effects.

MAIN THEME

TV Binge: Nailed it! Holiday (Season 2, 2019)

Previous seasons reviewed: Nailed It! Holiday (Season 1)

Nailed It! Holiday (Season 2, 2019)

Nailed It! Holiday

Hosts: Nicole Byers, Jacques Torres

Its the time of year for Nailed It! Holiday again! Its always a fun time with Nailed It as I always say in the little TV binges that I do. Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres are a great team together in terms of just finding the chemistry together and being able to deliver the jokes. They both have their own place in the show that helps advance it forward. This time, they picked a lot of comedic guest judges and that adds a lot to how fun the whole experience becomes. There are some returning guests, some of the more entertaining ones for sure and then some fun new ones as well. Of course, we can’t forget to mention (which I always do) associate director Wes, now has a lot of screen time from Nicole cracking jokes at him to bringing all the prizes and trophies in themed outfits sometimes.

Nailed it Holiday s2

Nailed It Holiday also is a bit more diverse than just Christmas, just like its previous season, except this time, they didn’t go into crafts territory and stayed true to different designs in the realm of holidays. The wider themes outside of Christmas like Hanukkah and New Year’s and some Christmas related stories from Christmas Carol to Dr. Seuss stories all really do add to what it does (as well as the latter helping cross promote other Netflix Original series like Green Eggs and Ham, of course). A lot of the Nailed It designs are quite amazing. A normal baker would take it as a feat already but for amateur bakers who audition for these things because a  lot of them get confused in the whole realm of baking, its a mountain to climb and the show is about highlighting their failures and shortcomings and boy, this time does it deliver.

Nailed It Holiday S2

It sounds really mean to have a show that really just picks on its bakers for how bad they do but also giving them pointers on how to improve, whether its as simple as breaking the habit a lot of times of ignoring measurements and quantities. The best seasons of Nailed It is not only its hosts, guest judges but also how the participants are chosen and this season has some real gold and you know that when in one of the episode, Nicole Byers comments “Where did we find these people?” I’m not one to laugh at other people because while I do enjoy baking, I still consider myself an amateur seeing as I don’t do this professionally but some of these things that happen, its hard to imagine how, but then that is part of the charm of the show.

Overall, Nailed It Holiday’s second season is a real fun time. It has some great guests, the hosts are absolutely on point and the bakers that they chose for the competition are a lot of times very entertaining in all their mishaps. Not to mention, they have some really nice baking projects, from cakes to cupcakes to cookies and the designs are really nice. Its an overall good time so can’t really ask for more! Plus, if you take your time  and not binge it like I did, you can actually watch it all the way to New Year’s.

TV Binge: Sugar Rush (Season 2, 2019)

Check out the 1st Season of Sugar Rush review HERE.

Sugar Rush (Season 2, 2019)

sugar rush

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Season 2 of Sugar Rush is here. With a quick 50 mins episode length and 6 episodes for the whole season, Sugar Rush is the perfect type of TV binge. It can be done in a day if you don’t have any other things planned or to do . Just like the previous season and the very on point synopsis on IMDB for the show, this is a professional baking competition which starts with 4 teams who compete in elimination format in 3 rounds to become the final winner of $10,000. Who makes the decision is between the two judges and the guest judge who may or may not be baking saavy but they are eating saavy (meaning they know how to eat and that’s really what is important here since baked goods isn’t only for expert tasting but for normal people too). Some examples of guests this season are Nick and Vanessa Lachey as well as Jacques Torres.

For those who haven’t seen Season 1, here’s a quick little rundown of how the competition is structured. There are 3 rounds to the competition. The first 2 rounds is cupcakes and confections respectively to be completed within 3 hours. Whatever time you save from those three hours adds on to the final cake round which also has 3 hours. The topics for each round is announced as you complete the previous round after the judges taste. The only trick here is that elimination of one team happens after each round as well. What changes in season 2 is two elements. The first is more relevant to the competition structure and that is all round 3 keep going. When Round 2 finishes, the final round topic is given as well as 3 additional hours. In that sense, the clock never stops making it embrace that time element much better and gives less down time where the other team doesn’t stand around waiting for their time to start like in Season 1. The second element is that the judges now all stay in the room while the competition is going on and does commentating which is great compared to the first season where they would leave and come back at the tail end. These little things keeps the process of the competition more engaging.

Other than one or two odd guest choices, Sugar Rush really does a good job in keeping up with the hype of the first season and polishing the structure and concept behind it which works better this time around. It had 2 less episodes from the previous season so its a quick one to binge through. The themes here also are pretty fun from starting with current popular baking trends to more thematic ones like science and love, they choose guests that match their theme while also having focus on both technique and visual appeal. Hopefully, Sugar Rush gets a Season 3 because I’d be down for it.

 

TV Binge: Love O2O (微微一笑很倾城, 2016)

Moving on from Rush of the Dead Summer (review), I really liked Zheng Shuang as the female lead and went to look for her other TV series. Luckily, there was one on Netflix called Love O2O. The other title is One Smile Is Very Alluring, which is the title of the movie that was released which is also available on Netflix that I hadn’t seen yet. Love O2O opened up a ton of talented young actors and actresses that will lead to some of my future TV series choices (as you will soon find out).

Love O2O (微微一笑很倾城, 2016)

LOVE O2O

Director: Liu Yu Fen

Cast: Shuang Zheng, Yang Yang, Xiao Tong Miao, Jun Feng Niu, Ye Cheng Zheng, He Zhang, Bai Yu, Vin Zhang

Xiao Nai is a gaming expert who, courtesy of his basketball skills, academic excellence, swimming talent and game company presidency, also happens to be the most popular student on campus. When he first comes across the gorgeous computer science major Bei Wei Wei, the infinitely talented wunderkind immediately falls in love. But it’s not Bei’s looks that he notices; it’s the ridiculous mastery with which she is commanding her guild and owning everyone in an online multiplayer game that makes her impossible to forget. Now, Xiao Nai must use his skills both in real life and online to capture the adorable but dorky Bei’s heart. But does their love have the XP to succeed, or will this relationship never level up? – MyDramalist

If you want to check out Love O2O, you can find it with English subtitles on Youtube or its also on Netflix.

QUOTE/SCENE

love o2o

STORY

Love O2O is probably one of the more light-hearted and positive Chinese dramas that I’ve seen so far. While there is some drama between friendship, work and relationships, it never over dramatizes and drags out a situation for too long. Perhaps this gives it less depth but the story itself knows how to focus on the positives of each relationship and give its a positive way to solve some of the issues here. There are conflicts that show up especially when dealing with the MMORPG world where the online relationships also result to the expectations and rumors and bullying that happens as well. At the same time, the story is set in the second half on the game development world and the hurdles that they end up facing.

Love O2O

While the story lies mostly in the real world, a portion of it is still in the fantasy world, more the in-game world where they have a lot of computer graphics. They have fighting bits together and has a whole relationships that comes out of there as well as giving it a lot of fantastical elements of online dating via the in-game elements. Its pretty charming to say the least but also has a side warning of how sometimes there can be cases of mistaken identity or lack of communication or misunderstandings and the fragility of building your friendships online rather in-person. The story itself does blend itself well together and as the series moves along, less and less is hidden in-game and more in reality.

LENGTH/PACING

Love O2O has the fantastic length of 30 episodes which borders on my personal belief of the upper limit of where an idol drama usually should be.

The execution and pacing here is very good. 30 episodes with the amount of characters and story arc gives the story a sufficient amount of character development while also giving the story a chance to focus not only on the romantic angles but also touch of friendship, bromance, family, etc. The majority of the story is set over the happenings of a budding relationship that starts at the end of a university semester and the summer time and then jumps forward at the end to push forward the timeline and give it a proper ending. That is a good way to do it because life is always full of crazy events but sometimes its those first moments when its goes from ultra sweet to building a solid foundation. Its why Love O2O doesn’t drag at all and stays fun from beginning to end.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

love o2o

If we look at characters and chemistry, our main leads and couple is Wei Wei, played by Zheng Shuang and Xiao Nai, played by Yang Yang. They are fantastic together and probably one of the best TV ships that could happen (in my short Chinese drama time). What works for them is that their characters are almost perfect from the outside and we soon find out that they each have their similarities and balance between them. Its in their actions and their pure intentions for each other that makes them so charming to watch. Plus, their relationship sprouts of Wei Wei adoration of Xiao Nai and idolization as he is the good-looking and smart senior student in school who all the girls swoon over, while as the show goes on, you can see that Xiao Nai doesn’t care of those things but rather its love at first sight on his side that he knows that she’s the right one and doesn’t know how to be a good boyfriend and just tries his best to protect her and support her.

love o2o

On the other hand, the second leads are Er Xi (Mao Xiao Tong) and Cao Guang (Bai Yu) who are the opposite of the main leads couple because they start off disliking each other, which is the more typical way of how most romantic leads start out in these dramas. However, these two are very fun characters while both of their story arcs have a slight frustrating moments, both regarding each other as well as in terms of friendship and crushes.

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Finally, relationships can be bromances and Love O2O thrives in that department, whether its the bromance between Xiaonai and his roommates, which turn out to be his work team as the series moves forward after their graduation or the girl friends (who really do have less part here) of Weiwei. However, the bromance here is fantastic especially as the friendship expands to a fifth member of the group as they get into the work space area. They add the fun and comedy also which rounds out the story a lot to keep it very light-hearted.

Finally, we take a look at the “enemies”. Be it the love rivals or the schoolyard internet bullies or the competing companies for the projects, it falls into the tone here because as frustrating as they can be, they never feel that harmful especially when they always find some positive outcome or enlightenment for the characters, which is nice to see because it keeps the series in a very positive light and gives hope especially to the younger characters who find their way. Its in the details of the script and the writer for this series manages to keep a good balance and remember the tone that its going for.

OVERALL

Love O2O definitely is one of my faves because of its positivity. There are more tears of joy and happiness and swooning over cute and endearing moments as well as being touched over the perfection of Xiaonai as a boyfriend who thrives in communication and trust over Weiwei no matter what other people say and believes his own eyes and experiences. Its span of touching different modern day themes and issues especially as we navigate the online landscape whether in gaming or blogging. It manages to focus on the love here but also give it a good dose of friendships as well as the reality of school, work and the challenges in life overall. Its charming and fun, romantic and cute, inspiring and positive: all the things I like about TV series.

TV Binge: Nailed It! (Season 3, 2019)

You can find previous Nailed It reviews below:

Season 1
Season 2
Holidays
Mexico

Nailed It! (Season 3, 2019)

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Host: Nicole Byers, Jacques Torres

Home bakers with a terrible track record take a crack at re- creating edible masterpieces for a $10,000 prize. It’s part reality contest, part hot mess. – IMDB

Nailed It has been doing really good. While the series itself really follows one simple formula and stays in the fairly small season batches of only about 6 episodes and a special here and there, it seems to work very well especially in small doses. This TV binge is going to be fairly short because there isn’t a whole lot of different to say about the show. That isn’t a criticism in any way because why fix what isn’t broken, right? To me, that applies very well in this situation.

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For those following Nailed It, the mistakes that people make among the contestants do sometimes feel like they generally get repeated. However, the show still manages to offer tips in both cake decoration as well as the actually baking method and how to approach these intricate cakes. Let’s be fair that some of these cakes look like they probably take longer than the time allotted to them in these situations (but then what do I know, my baking is much less design and more simple practicality). However, it is the accidents and the silliness and in turn, the final results that make Nailed It so much fun to watch. It definitely feels like one of the few that focus on amateur baking. I had some criticisms about the season 2 breaking away from its formula and adding in other elements less baking and more fruit carving and such, however, season 3 finds itself back to its roots and I’m very happy to see it do that. While I think those other things have its potential to be fun to watch, just like its hinting at the DIY Nailed It idea, its a nice spinoff to do but just not as part of an amateur baking show.

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However, the heart of Nailed It still lies in its hosts. Nicole Byers, especially in Season 3, has truly found her place in it. Her humor hits all the time at the right places. Her pairing with Jacques Torres is starting to really also find its rhythm as well. At the same time, over these few seasons, they have also made a true character out of Wes and giving more screen time and having more creative ways of making an appearance with the trophy and whatnot. Its all in the name of fun and entertainment and its only 6 episodes but packed with a lot of it.

Are you a fan of Nailed it?