Review: Silver Spoons, Sterling Shackles (TVB, 2012)

silverspoons_poster

Silver Spoons, Sterling Shackles (名媛望族)
Genre: Period Drama
Length: 40 episodes
Producer: Chong Wai Kin

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Cast

Damian Lau as Arthur Chung
Mary Hon as Koo Sam-Lan
Idy Chan as Aisin Gioro Yee-yin
Elena Kong as Yvonne Yik
Tavia Yeung as Hong Chi-Kwan
Kenneth Ma as Chung Kai-Sung aka Charles
Vincent Wong as Jimmy Chung
Sire Ma as Elaine Chung
Ron Ng as Kam Muk-Shui
Rebecca Zhu as Kwai Siu-Yau
Adrian Chau as Yung Dat-Chi
Ben Wong as Chai Yat-Fai

and Shek Sau, Stefan Wong, Sammy Shum, Jess Shum, Bella Lam, Charmaine Li, Suki Lam, Alvin Lau, etc.

The Review

Silver Spoons was supposedly one of the most anticipated series of the year. Being a grand production as well as anniversary series in 2012, it was expected to be popular among audiences, especially with favorite cast members Damian Lau, Kenneth Ma, and Tavia Yeung. Unfortunately, it failed to meet viewers expectations with its cliched, predictable, and “boring” plot, as many claimed.

I can see that for a 40-episode drama, it was unnecessary and my biggest problem is that there was a lack of plot half in through the series. Most of the time TVB has a good foundation for each drama and introduces their characters smoothly, but once everything is settled in, the plot drags and nothing really happens. I expected a little more from this production because 1) it’s a grand production and 2) Damian helped with the script writing.

There were several things I expected which didn’t happen. First and foremost, trailers and press reports claimed that Siu-Yau married Charles out of revenge, but this was hardly so in the final product. From beginning to end, Siu-Yau was the same grateful little girl who appreciated everything Charles did for her. Although she was angry at Charles for hiding the truth behind her father’s death temporarily and gave Arthur the cold stare, there were no real plots and plans for revenge. On the other hand, she even took care of her mother-in-law wholeheartedly when she had her stroke.

Secondly, somewhere down the line, I felt like Arthur just ignored Yvonne. Is it because she was causing trouble for Chi-Kwan? I can’t remember, but I didn’t feel like anything she did was detrimental enough for him to break off his relationship with her. Ironically, he cared for Yee-Yin the most before Chi-Kwan’s arrival and loved the latter passionately. It is understandable for him to ignore Yee-Yin when he discovers lingering feelings still exist between her and Yat-Fai. It is understandable why he didn’t like Chi-Kwan going against him. However, it’s still baffles me why Arthur and Yvonne had to go down the divorce route? So that he could end up with only Chi-Kwan at the end? Yvonne expressed that he only married her for responsibility because she was pregnant with their oldest daughter at the time, it did not make sense why he continued to give her the cold shoulder when she was the wife who was most willing to please him. Isn’t submissiveness what he wanted most?

Thirdly, Charles was another character flop in the series. The sales presentation delivered a promising boiling relationship between father and son, but in the actual series, Charles was helplessly submissive to his father and seemed too tired and disillusioned to go against him. The final scene where he helped Yvonne gain the custody of her children was the only scene where they were actually in opposition. And still then, they were too polite and civil with each other.

Characterization and Performances

Damian was, without a doubt, the star of the series. Even though he was portrayed as a controlling and domineering husband who wanted submission of his wives, his tenderness, charm, and intelligence weighs down the cons. He was the most developed character and at times, I even felt that the screen time was not evenly distributed between other actors, most notably Kenneth, who played his oldest son. Without Damian, Silver Spoons certainly would not make it into grand production-status considering its (lack of) plot.

It’s not Kenenth’s best, but the script never really gave his character justice. Charles’ personality seems so secondary and supporting and I felt like he never made a presence. Also, I wanted to add that Kenneth’s puppy eyes are cute, but not very convincing.

Vincent Wong, another siu sang, who is being promoted, outshines Kenneth. Not only because he survived sixteen slaps from his father, but because Jimmy seemed more of a realistic character with faults. He was always the goofball at the Chung family dinner table, quite charming, a bit impulsive, made some bad decisions, but still had a conscience at the end. That makes him forgivable.

I’m glad to see that Sire has improved much in Silver Spoons. She is becoming more natural, but she still sounds deliberate when she speaks. Perhaps, that’s just how she is…

Mary was great as Damian’s official wife. She has always been a reliable veteran. The only problem is that the colors she dresses makes her appear older than Damian. The fact that his husband wears western suits emphasizes that even more.

Idy seems unnatural and uncomfortable in her scenes with Damian. I guess this comes with leaving acting behind for almost two decades. I can’t really complain because I quite like Arthur’s devotion to Yee-Yin.

Elena was wonderful as Yvonne and the most entertaining to watch of the wives. My favorite scenes are when she attempts to seduce her husband. The actress also looks great in her smokey eyes, bloody red lip and has an elegant wardrobe.

Tavia was great in her role and I assume her passionate scenes with Damian made her a little less boring compared to the recent professional roles. I’m glad she won Best Actress for Silver Spoons as it was a deserving win.

Ron marks the beginning of the not-so-great of Silver Spoons. The actor hasn’t had a serious role since E.U. and sad enough, he was not even nominated for anything at the anniversary awards. Even with TVB’s artist drainage, he is still stuck playing supporting and secondary roles. Muk-Shui was a pretty rough and annoying character all around.

It’s an acceptable performance from Rebecca as it’s her debut. Siu-Yau was unfortunate and a quite depressing character to watch. For a newbie, it can be difficult to express all those emotions if you’re wondering why the actress always has her eyebrows knitted. I personally find her classy enough to be casted in period dramas. My problem lies in when she delivers her lines in a clumpy way where she seems to be talking too fast to be comprehended.

Aside from his imperfect pronunciation of Cantonese, Adrian was good as Dat-Chi and made a cute couple with Sire. He has more potential than Ron although I wouldn’t say he’s handsome. He will make a reliable supporting actor perhaps.

I was pretty disappointed in Ben and Idy’s so-called love affair. It was obvious they still miss and care for each other, but neither admitted it. Even when Arthur freed Yee-Yin at the end, they only remained good friends. It didn’t really make sense. It made Yee-Yin’s emotional struggles of living in the Chung family in the second half of the series pointless.

Overall Evaluation

Good foundation, good characterization, the plot was moving at a decent speed in the first half, but lost its momentum in the second half. Great acting overall. Beautiful costumes and scenery.

It’s lacking MORE plot. Either reduce the drama to 30 episodes or have more character development, especially for Charles and Siu-Yau.

Verdict

It has a good balance of the good and bad. I enjoyed the first half of series without having to say it’s boring, but during the second half, I was impatiently waiting for something to happen.

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