After the angsty Glory of Tang Dynasty and the hard-hitting Princess Agents (dont get me wrong – I actually really liked both!), I was looking for a romance palate cleanser and wanted to try a rom-com. I always found C-romcoms too long and too dog-blood but first half 2017 was pretty good as I enjoyed (and finished!) Memory Lost (Yang Rong/Bai Yu), Pretty Li Hui Zhen (Dilireba/Peter Sheng) and The Fox’s Summer (Tan Song Yun/Jiang Chao) although arguably the first was a romantic crime caper.
I have to say that out of the 3 I watched in recent months, I was only anticipating Blind Date as I thought the trailer was quite arresting (kinda like a Chinese Bridget Jones Diary) and stumbled upon Delicious Destiny (it was trending) and Stairway to Stardom (saw that it was subbed on sleepingdragonsub.wordpress.com). My verdict – they all started out fantastic but started to meander mid through, hence giving up on the first 2 but fastforwarded to all the OTP scenes on for Stairway to Stardom. Its no surprise that all 3 were around to 50 episodes!
Blind Date was really promising – Jiang Xin is a great actress and she really imbued her character Xia Tian well. She was believably less fabulous than her conventionally attractive and slim younger sister and Xia Tian was not unnecessarily bubbly to compensate for her “ordinariness”. Xia Tian was relatable but not a victim – their sisterhood was also not overly romanticised and sappy. The weak link in this show would be the guys. I have to say – this is my second time watching Lu Yi and I dont think I am really a fan. He was better as a friend to Xia Tian but when the romance started to bud, it came off rather odd and him pretty caddish (although many other male actors have played it better with demonstrating subtleties in their emotions). I just wasnt feeling it and around ep 28, the sudden push for second male lead as a romantic suitor just killed the drama for me.
Delicious Destiny was actually quite a pleasant surprise for me – Rachel Mao (Jia Ming) is cute and spunky (although veering close to over-cute) and played off well with Mike D’ Angelo’s (Yu Zhe) cool-exterior-warm-heart persona well. They have sparkling chemistry and made a rootable pair although some of Yu Zhe’s OTT romantic gestures were humorously cringing – was the amount of princess-carry(s) really necessary?! Their romance felt quite organic because even though Jia Ming was carrying a torch for her boss initially, it felt unforced when she realised it was admiration rather than romantic affection and acknowledged the affections of Yu Zhe. Unfortunately, their interactions lost a lot of the early-stage buzz when they got together as it basically descended into dog-blood extended family melodrama with a passive-aggressive obsessive 2nd female lead. Here is where they should have taken a cue from Because Of You (Sun Yi/Deng Lun) – while more a family drama rather than a rom-com, 2nd female lead, although an absolute loon, was not driven by her unrequited love for the male lead, hence giving her character much more context.
I think Stairway to Stardom benefited from having an OTP that could really act. Song Yi is an excellent subtle actress who acts with her eyes and Push who clearly has done many Thai rom-coms is spot-on with the feels as romantic male lead with his expressions and mannerisms. While its only subbed up to Ep 21, I finished the whole drama watching it unsubbed but fastforwarding to OTP scenes. Stairway was also different in that Su Cheng (Song Yi) actually dated the 2nd male lead (Zhao Jian looking superfine) before getting together with Duan Chen Xuan (Push) which made it more realistic and not the typical first-love-is-main-love trope. It was a bit distracting as clearly Push is not Mandarin conversant (unlike Mike who was mouthing Mandarin but dubbed) but he is really good looking in all his dapper suits which helped alot! 🙂 Since it is set in the showbiz world, there were quite a few cameos and everyone was dressed impeccably – Su Cheng’s wedding gown was really quite divine I must say! It was not as dog-blood as Delicious Destiny but the supporting characters dragging out the story to 50 episodes were simply not as interesting as the OTP hence the FF button. I was invested solely in the OTP’s interaction which sustained me to the end.
In my personal opinion, 50 episodes is just simply too too long for a modern rom-com. Inevitably, the story gets dragged out and its only the rare ones with excellent writing and characterization that is able to sustain the viewer throughout with the multiple side stories and characters.
One thing that c-rom coms do well is fleshing out the relationship of the OTP without letting the carnal pleasures get in the way. Sometimes, the period is unrealistically long – do these men have no hormones? – but its definitely a fresh breath of air from the excessive gratuitous drop-pants-a-minute kind of Hollywood dramas which perhaps I have watched too much of.
What c-rom coms have you watched and what do you think? Let us know in the comments box!