I swear, this will be the 'best' TVB has done this year, better than that crazily addictive but plot holes ridden Lives of Omission, better than the cute and earnest but fluffy Ghetto Justice. I marathoned 4 eps and it's nth like what I've seen fr TVB for the longest time. I've an uneasy feeling in my gut: is TVB at its death bed, glorious light at end of tunnel epiphany? I'm impressed but not yet frenzied, and here I'm posting coz this is sth Fresh yet Nostalgic fr TVB. It dabbles in music, grief/depression, redemption/atonement, and even politics! We have a radio talk show host heroine, a shady stockbroker, a social worker/politician and a happily married successful songwriter…and a cannibalized dear friend! This drama was slated for 2009 but had been gathering dust in storage since, starring heavyweights of TV actors, one of the supporting actor has passed on in the time between (RIP!), no need of a sharp olfactory to sniff sth funky going on with the backstage shenanigans. TVB is now a drama equivalent of a grandaunt with dementia at family gatherings for me, I rem her very fondly, but it's a shock and utmost pain to see the deterioration. It's almost like TVB has given up and just stop freaken care.
This is still not up to par near anything seminal by the standard of all the dramalands combined, but for TVB, at least scriptwriter Chik has burnt the worn to bones playbook on this one, start fr scratch and clearly some thought has been put to it to no longer insult intelligence, character development is well paced and more gritty without forcing it. It's well-acted all around, can't have a complaint there. I don't really care for any of the main and supporting cast, maybe Maggie Siu back in the 90s, but at least they all are allowed to play age appropriate intriguing damaged characters.
The synopsis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Heaven_Burns is so farfetched I was swearing absolutely no chance I will try it out. (Plus, it can so easy be very poor taste to parallel the key plot of a young 4 member band leaving for a trip with only 3 returning when the hottest HK band of the late 80s, early 90s Beyond shared a similar tragic fate, and a member of the group is now singing the title song.) The gist: 18 years ago, 4 young guys in a band, went on some snowy mt trip and….cannibalism! One of the friend was declared missing and we met his gf first scene ep 1, 18 yrs later, rolling out of a bed, naked guy in shower and she is looking for a ring, her wedding ring. Nonchalant yet smiling, it's her wedding anniversary dinner later that night and the more time we spend with her, we'll notice she's in a constant state of void…and later we know it's mourning and grief. Married to a guy who loves her wholeheartedly, infidelity and all, she has a lover who also will lick the earth she's walked on but still the void is not going away. The remaining 3 guys are all in different walks of lives, no longer seeing each other at all, yet there's an intense bond btn them palpable the second of their fateful meeting at present. The ladies in their lives, wives/gfs/lovers/flings are all 'victims' of their trauma to varying degrees. Everyone seems to be settled in a new normal yet a bit frayed and messed up, lines are sharp and controlled, quiet scenes hit me in my gut when least suspecting. I've cried twice!!!! And I've spent good half hour digging when I've last cried watching a TVB. It's still early on but already we know shades of every character, steadily peeled before our eyes scene by scene…yet we are certain there are WAY more to know of them and this is still the very balmy calm before the storm.
Caveats: The average age of the characters is mid 40s, the actors are not tight pretty faces, we had a murky feel of all the characters still, after 4 eps. There won't be obvious OTPs/shipping. It's also not the usual lightning speed of storytelling, a whole first episode is time with our main lady with not much of the backstory. The background music is excruciating Crap. There are still campy TVB cliches here and there but we love us some cheese in our TVBdramas.
IF you were a fan of the gold old days of TVB anniversary dramas or is curious, this is an updated spicier comfort stew grandmaTVB used to cook up.