Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beyond the Realm of Conscience Rating Well

Hong Kong TVB's last major series for the year, Beyond the Realm of Conscience (宫心计, pinyin: Gōng xīn jì), got off to a strong start with ratings in the mid 30s for its first week. The show averaged 33 and peaked at 36, drawing in audiences with a cast that includes four of Hong Kong television's leading ladies, both past and present.

Although the English title sounds like a sci-fi or paranormal storyline, Beyond the Realm of Conscience is actually a lavish costume drama set in the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty. The series, which focuses on the intrigues inside the Imperial Household, is based on Jewel in the Palace, a popular Korean drama from 2007 that remains one of Hong Kong's highest rating series ever.

The cast has been billed as a cross-generational clash of the TVB Fadans (fadan can be loosely translated as diva). Representing the new generation are two of Hong Kong TV's most popular actresses, Charmaine Sheh (佘诗曼, pinyin: Shé Shīmàn) and Tavia Yeung (杨怡, pinyin: Yáng Yí). Michelle Yim (米雪, pinyin: Mǐ Xuě) on the other hand is of the older generation; in her hayday during the seventies through to the early nineties she was widely regarded as the queen of TV drama in Hong Kong. Her career has been revitalised recently by playing some memorable small screen villains, particularly her award-winning performance in last year's Moonlight Resonance. The fourth leading actress in Beyond the Realm of Conscience, Susanna Kwan (关菊英, pinyin: Guān Júyīng), is another older star whose stalling career, albeit in the music industry, received a new burst of life playing characters viewers love to hate.

34 year old Charmaine Sheh entered the Hong Kong entertainment scene through a familiar door for aspiring young female stars - the Miss Hong Kong Pageant. In 1997 she was one of the runners-up and started off in small roles in TVB productions. In her first starring role in 2000, she hit the big time with Return of the Cuckoo, winning the TVB Anniversary Award for Favourite Television Character, an award she has gone on to win an additional four times. She also picked up a Best Actress Award in 2006 for her performance in Maiden's Vow. She has made Next Magazine's Annual Top 10 Artistes list for an impressive eight consecutive times and counting, including the number one position in 2007.

Tavia Yeung may not have as many awards as Sheh in her trophy cabinet but in the past couple of years she has emerged as one of Hong Kong's preeminent actresses. In 2007 everything she touched seemed to turn to gold when she appeared in four hit series in a row. Last year she won the Best Supporting Actress trophy at the TVB Anniversary Awards for her performance in Moonlight Resonance. Beyond the Realm of Conscience marks a departure from her usually sweet and innocent roles as she broadens her acting range to play a villain for the first time.

Both Charmaine Sheh and Tavia Yeung have been nominated for Best Actress at the upcoming TVB Anniversary Awards for their roles in Beyond the Realm of Conscience. They are expected to challenge the early favourite Sheren Tang, star of Rosy Business.

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