The contemporary television audience is picky, demanding and hard to not concentrated. This is mainly because of the increasing education level of the audiences. According to Dr. Ma Kit-Wai, it is estimated that among the population of seven millions in Hong Kong, every one in seven has degree title. Moreover, housewives used to be the loyal supporters of TVB television dramas. In the past twenty years, more and more female worked outside and had became professionals and no longer just as domestic housewives that live around their families. Besides working, people have limited time for spare hours such as doing sport, drinking at pubs, hand out with friends and so on. These make watching television become the 'necessary but not important' activity. There are not many "TV fans" as 1970s and 1980, the mayoralty of audiences prefer short, focus, informative and relax television programmes such as The Law, and Minutes to Fame rather than television dramas, which used to affect people's living times and entertain their quick life rhythm.
Then, the television dramas of TVB are no longer as popular as 1980s in the recent decade. It also indicates TVB face a challenge that create more quality rather than quantity television dramas. In the past 10 years, the organization begins to start focus one drama each year that makes it more popular and attracted by audiences, which also the most popular topic in the TVB Anniversary Celebration show and called "anniversary drama". However, it does not means, besides this drama, TVB not takes others serious, the organization also attach other television dramas important. Compare with the anniversary drama, other television dramas of the year not spend such huge amount budget, time, and invite so much big crew for production.
Focus on the strategy of chapter three, this chapter will focus on three TVB prime time television dramas in the recent three years: The War and Beauty (2004), The Charm Beneath (2005) and The Dance of passion (2006). By illustrating these three television drams, I will evaluate how TVB produce anniversary dramas and get the successful by making genre, choosing cast, filming place and the like; how it takes audiences' comments as important to shape the television dramas. Moreover, how the organization produces the serial dramas according the successful one, and how these strategy work for audience in the age of "television is necessary but not important".
The War and Beauty (2004)
As I mention in Chapter 2 and 3, TVB very good at modern television dramas, which set in contemporary instead historical serials because of the local culture and the limited of the location. TVB's heritage and costume dramas are not as famous as its modern dramas so that most of the Chinese historical dramas brought from Mainland China such as the serials of Yongzheng Dynasty (1999), Kangxi Dynasty (2001) and Qianlong Dynasty (2003). The import historical dramas used much popular than those produced by TVB.
However, the anniversary drama The War and Beauty is the exception that it got the highest viewing point of 41. It also became the first historical television drama that stands at the No.1 place of the year's drama in past 10 years. Hong Kong's palace drama always denounced stereotype and as soap opera by audience, The War and Beauty to change the superficial story which cause the popularity and many newspaper, magazine, television station and radio that not only in Hong Kong but also the great China discuss this popularity and the issues inside the dramas.
As the title of "The War and Beauty", this 30 episodes television was set in the Forbidden city in the late years of Jiaqing period (1796-1820) in Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) that focus on the inside war between the queen and other concubines that related to complex struggling between the female in palace. Some new women enter the palace; they would become the emperor's new wives. The story then continued with these new wives fright with each other and also with the queen to attract the emperor and trying to secure his favor. The most important narrative storyline is the real romance love and desire of these women. These royal concubines were trying to secure the power to get their own goal with corruption, intrige and outright deceit being the weapons of choice. These beauties were even to manipulate, betray and kill the people like to get what they wanted. However, their inevitable results become increasing apparent that the main roles lose everything they care for gradually: power, their real love, children, and friendship.
In fact, the title in English is "The War and Beauty" that directly to present the main story of the television drama, it also involve the local Hong Kong culture that pronounce as Cantonese is "Gum Jee Yook Yip", which in Chinese in "????" that literally translated to golden branches and jade leaves. The phrase used to describe the prestigious, beauty young princess at the time, which can also be vaguely indicate the prestigious background woman. According to the local culture, the title is a pun on the orginial phrase effectively, with the third and fourth character being replaced by two other charachers which described the main themes of the entire dramas. Speciaficlly, the last two characters were replaced by "?",which means lust and desire, "?" that indicates evilness and nemesis. Therefore, the title itself, both in Chinese and English, describes the whole plot, which roughly translates to "wars between beauty princesses from prestigious backgrounds with lusts for power and evilness"
Obviously, this television drama is take female as main topic, it also the first television drama of TVB that take female as nucleus though the whole drama, and all of the main female roles are more or less evil. The emperor in the drama just a unimportant role of power, even the two main male characters set for the female roles. Difference with the Mainland Chinese palace television drama, it does not divide good and evil women clearly and presents the the male heroic points insisde, instead of presents those women's two sides as every coin has two side: weakness and merit, evil and kind at the same time. This also speak for common people and consider as a heritage version mirror that reflect the various wars in the contemporary office. The producer, Chik Kee Yee pointed The War and Beauty as a reflection in people's reality life, mostly in their work, people need to handle their problem carefully to keep their job, and guard against their competitors. He said, the production group just change the backgroung to historical palace to present the problem of real life. The emperor as the boss of a company, who can contral his staff leave or stay, more dramatic, the emperor can decide how his concubines live in their rest days, and can they alive or die concededly. Thus, the concubines will to do everything to curry the emperor's favor and cover themselves to fright with other concubines surreptitiously to keep their place. The television drama breaks the rule that goodness victim in hardship is not worth sympathizing, but the people who plays with the political skill.
- Ma, Kit-Wai (1992) The Warring States of Television. Subculture Publish: Hong Kong; pp33.
- Ma, Kit-wai, ibid; pp39.
- Yongzheng Dynasty (1999), Kangxi Dynasty (2001) and Qianlong Dynasty (2003): Produced by CCTV (China Central Televisionin) Mainalnd China.
- "The war and the Beauty" in Ming Pao Weekly: 26th September 2004.
- The Jiaqing period (1796-1820) was followed by Qianlong period, which is one of period in Qing Dynasty (1636-1912).
- Chen Gu Chun (2004) "The period of The War and Beauty" in South City Daily, 23rd September, A8.