A third of the year has passed, and it has taken that long for Hong Kong's TVB to finally air a series that has drawn in the audiences. A Fistful of Stances (铁马寻桥, pinyin: Tiě Mǎ Xún Qiáo) is a martial arts action series set in Hong Kong around 100 years ago. A family drama in the mould of last year's hit Rosy Business, the story focuses on the Koo family who run a martial arts school.
A Fistful of Stances stars American-born Kevin Cheng (郑嘉颖, pinyin: Zhéng Jiāyǐng) as the long-lost son who returns then sets on a path of revenge against the family's enemies. Cheng started out as a singer and won Best New Artist at the Metro Radio Golden Song Awards in 1994. His acting career was confined to supporting roles until 2004 when he played the lead in the TVB series Hard Fate. In 2006 his performance in the romantic drama series, Under the Canopy of Love, won him Best Actor at the TVB Anniversary Awards.
Despite having the lead role, Cheng's performance in A Fistful of Stances was overshadowed by Kenneth Ma (马国明, pinyin: Mǎ Guómíng) playing his on-screen brother. Ma made his screen debut back in 1999, but his breakout year wasn't until 2006 when he won Most Improved Actor at the TVB Anniversary Awards. In A Fistful of Stances Ma won most of the praise from both critics and viewers, so much so that as the series progressed he received more and more screentime at Cheng's expense. Expect him to feature heavily when the 2010 awards are handed out.
Others in the cast included Tavia Yeung, last year's Best Actress winner at the TVB Anniversary Awards, in a smaller but eye-catching role as the family matriarch. Selena Li, Nancy Wu and Natalie Tong played the love interests, while Dominic Lam made a memorable villain. The series also featured appearances by veteran stars Yuen Qu and Kara Hui (who just last week won Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards).
The series had a slow start ratings-wise, averaging just 25 points in its first two weeks. However A Fistful of Stances steadily built an audience and has become the most talked about series of 2010, at least so far. In its second last week it averaged 32 points, and the its two-hour finale averaged 37 with a peak of 43 points, despite being up against the Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony on rival station ATV.