First Impressions: Short End of the Stick (TVB, 2016)

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Short End of the Stick (公公出宮)

Genre: Period Comedy/Drama
Length: 35 episodes
Producer: Marco Law

Cast: Wayne Lai, Edwin Siu, Power Chan, Raymond Cho, Nancy Wu, Rosina Lam, John Chiang, Grace Wong, Rachel Kan, Lee Sing Cheung, Toby Chan, Jack Wu, Yoyo Chen, Harriet Yeung, Natalie Tong

What was suppose to be the annual Chinese New Year series for TVB, you can say Short End of the Stick is an indirect sequel to The Confidant as it reunites the the main male cast with the exception of Raymond Wong who had to turn down the drama because he was ill at the time. To be honest, I thought Overachievers was the modern spinoff sequel to the popular original melodrama — and TVB ended it there. To live off of the popularity of the cast again is quite lame, but is very much TVB’s style. Short takes place after the collapse of the imperial Qing Dynasty, but the main male cast doesn’t reprise their roles.

The four friends (Wayne, Edwin, Power, Raymond) escapes Tianjin and arrives in the southern parts of China, where they mistaken and robs Rosina to help fund for Raymond’s hospital bills. Nancy arrives at the hospital to rescue her niece, Rosina, and takes the three in as new workers for her rice business. Although Nancy heads the wealthy Kam family with brains, she is constantly under stress because the family consists of more women and lacks a legitimate male heir to take care of the business. It is also revealed that the influential Qing Dynasty eunuch, Li Lianying (also Wayne’s role in The Confidant) has once cursed the family and ever since Nancy’s older brother passed away, there is even more reason to believe the curse. Lee Sing Cheung plays the family and business rival (of course) and constantly mocks and ridicules the family for lacking a male heir.

To soften these blows, Nancy came to the logical sense that the reason for the lack of offspring is due to the lack of marriage in the village. She then requests that women who have reached their thirties must find a suitor, including herself. This is the first four episodes in a nutshell.

It seems like the series will be centered around finding a solution to the lack of a male heir for the Kam family. So far, there are only a few comedic moments here and there, but if Nancy were to marry Wayne (and he is unable to bear any children), I can certainly foresee how this is indeed the biggest joke in the entire comedy. I can imagine the scene below (see photo) happening… #WealthyFamilyProblems

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I don’t seem to see how this is a “happy” Chinese New Year series and it definitely has most of the elements of a melodrama, though it may not be at the level of The Confidant where the eunuchs lived in “survival of the fittest” mode. But it does fall into the realm of that typical large, wealthy Chinese family where superstitions take precedence over logic and within the family, there is that selfish and mean-spirited woman that secretly wishes all others unwell. Here, that woman happens to be played by Yoyo Chen, who excels at these archetypes. She doesn’t seem to be the big villain, but her spoiled eight-year-old is the future remedy to the “male heir” problem as he’s the only legitimate son at the moment.

As for the remainder of the cast, I must admit I’m not impressed at all with the eunuchs and the feminine way in which they speak. I don’t recall them being feminine and slow in speech in The Confidant, but my memory is blurry. Their feminine way of speech may be their method of humor, which I don’t seem to have patience for, unfortunately.

I thought Nancy was too young to play the role as “head of the family” and ha, I’m right. The role was originally offered to Ada Choi, whose schedule couldn’t accommodate. Nancy, who was originally in Rosina’s role, was bumped up to take the leading role. While I’m always happy that Nancy is landing more opportunities, four episodes isn’t adequate to evaluate her performance. I can see her efforts and with Kam Heung being a strong character, she is easily on our good side, especially with a wardrobe that is as sharply-tailored as her words are articulated. The obvious thing that scratches our heads most is when Rosina, who is only six years her junior, calls her “Aunt.” I do enjoy their aunt-niece (or nephew, as Rosina sees herself as a man) relationship though!

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I’m not sure if it were any better if Nancy were to be playing Rosina’s role either. What’s for sure is that we get to see a fresh side of Rosina, who is an impulsive gambler, but filial daughter. She dresses like a man (to compensate for the fact that her father fails to produce one) and speaks like an uneducated one, often loud and abrasive. Rosina has taken on the role unrestrained, but her accented Cantonese makes her voice difficult to bear at times.

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Grace plays Rosina’s younger sister who is the first in the family to graduate from college. Highly westernized as displayed by her clothing and hair, she is the best choice amongst TVB’s Miss Hong Kong inventory of girls for the role as the big, puppy-eyed and bubbly little sister. She’s a bit high-energy and ditzy sometimes. She also smokes, which is unlike TVB to have one sister gamble and the other smoke. If they were males, yes. Females, not so often. Very interesting. I wonder what those bad habits will amount to later on.

John is Nancy’s half-brother, Rosina and Grace’s father, and also a male who has low status in the family as he was bore by the concubine wife. Lee Sing Cheung rounds out the cast by playing TVB’s favorite type of villain who is constantly finding ways to stir drama among bliss.

Everyone else is forgettable.

Filming took place in Zili Village within Kaiping, China which is a breath of fresh air, literally! The green fields are naturally beautiful and reminds me why I’ve been planning my itinerary to the outskirts of China despite the third world living conditions there.

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Will I continue to watch after four episodes?

Hard to say, I love the landscapes more than the story. I find Nancy and Rosina’s characters more interesting even though it’s suppose to be about the eunuchs. Or not. Here, even their unbreakable friendship seems to be overshadowed by the Kam family’s problems. As for the couples and pairings, I haven’t mentioned them because emotionally, I don’t care and biologically, it’s not going to work. And finally, for a comedy, it’s really not that funny.

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