“The Menu” — Truth Beneath the Words

SPOILER WARNING with regards to The Menu (導火新聞線), a Hong Kong TV drama series.

The above is one of the original soundtracks (OST) of the HKTV Network Limited drama series, The Menu, that I have finished watching just before I decided to disappear from the face of the earth for a very uneventful (aka boring) road trip. =__=”

While the kinds of drama series that TVB (a major TV station in Hong Kong that pretty much monopolized the local TV industry) usually produced are targeted at the home-makers (mostly housewives) population with their predictability and not-so-controversial topics so that their audience’s skulls would not be cracked, HKTV is all about experimenting with creativity and producing drama series that reflect society in one form or another.  In fact, the chairman and founder of HKTV, Ricky Wong, is all about revitalizing the dying TV industry in Hong Kong as the younger generations are fangirl-ing/fanboy-ing over popular cultures from overseas (ie. K-pop/K-drama is a big one these days).  Then, there are some that prefer mainland drama series (hey, they’re actually pretty awesome too)…the point is, no one really wants to sit through a Hong Kong drama in this day and age.  That was until Ricky Wong came along and took upon himself to challenge the status quo.  Unfortunately, so far it seems like it’s a losing battle since he is really up against not just the local Hong Kong government, but the mainland Chinese government.  Anyways, I’ll just leave the politics alone since it’s really not my forte.

The Menu starring Noel Leung, Catherine Chau (a long-time underdog), Kate Yeung, and Gregory Wong.

The Menu starring (the forever young) Noel Leung, Catherine Chau (a long-time underdog), Kate Yeung, and Gregory Wong.

The Menu is all about the newspaper industry, particularly the kind of stories that the industry workers face and that kind of ethical dilemmas that they have to deal with on a daily basis.  In general, it is a touching and evenly-paced drama.  There is never a dull moment in this drama, so it might not be regular HK home-makers’ favourite since they can’t really miss an episode and still be able to follow the plot flawlessly.  Interestingly, this TV series has been praised as a foretelling drama series because most of the sub-plots of the story seem to clearly mirrored some of the major real-life events (Hong Kong events) that have taken place in 2014 despite that the series was filmed in 2013.

Some of the reasons why this drama series is so worth watching (not in any particular order):

1) Exploring various social issues such as bisexuality and how justice is really divided by social classes.  For example, a poor may win justice, but he would need to sacrifice his life fortune just to claim back what was righteously his.

2) Professionalism and/versus ethics.  The layers and complexity are strong with these two words – professionalism and ethics.  The media industry is really just a game of pick and choose.  So, not everything gets to see the light.  Is it okay to toss one news aside if this action can be exchanged for five news?  Also, the primary duty of a reporter is to report the truth and let society decides the consequences.  However, what if the consequences are undesirable?  Then, is there no guilt involved just because one is a reporter?

3) The definition of family.  The drama depicted various kinds of family structures and dynamics.  The saying, “blood is thicker than water”, seems like a double-edge sword.  For some families, it means that whatever what one decides to do, his family will always be there to support him and have his back.  However, for some, it just means that escape is impossible because of the indisputable ties.

4) The multi-layered romance that might be complicated, yet it is understandable.  “I can’t let go/ It’s more than a memory/ I just don’t give up what I own/ I can’t let go/ Still I must let it be.” – the chorus of the OST spells out kind of romance one may found in this drama.  I’m not one for romance (though, I keep writing romance these days which is ironic @___@), but the complexity of this story’s romance is slowly creeping under my skin in a good way.

5) Gender-neutral characters.  The top three main characters of the drama show are women, however, their characters seemed to be playable as men just as well as women in general (albeit some details).  It certainly is a breath of fresh air.

6) Wonderful cinematography that’s a blend between American and Japanese TV series.  There is a lot of sincerity, not just with the plot, but with the way the plot is unfolded across the screen.

7) The parallel junior-senior (aka sunbae-hooba or senpai-kohai) relationships between Fong Ying & Mallory and Alma & Fong Ying.  As I watched the junior-senior relationship between Mallory and Fong Ying, I wondered if Fong Ying would end up like Alma one day.

From left to right, Mallory (acted by Kate Yeung), Fong Ying (acted by Catherine Chau), and Alma (acted by Noel Leung).

From left to right, Mallory (acted by Kate Yeung), Fong Ying (acted by Catherine Chau), and Alma (acted by Noel Leung).

8) Finally, each sub-plot is a touching one that’s full of compassion.

Of course, there is one flaw that I can’t unseen (though, it’s not a major one), which is that these reporters seem to act as if they’re working for the police department or something, pulling dangerous stunts here and there for the sake of seeking the truth.  @____@  Way too dramatized.


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