Hong Kong's TVB had its first major hit TV series of the year with the screening of the modern love story, The Rippling Blossom (鱼跃在花见). The film stars actor-singer Julian Cheung (张智霖, pinyin: Zhāng Zǐlín) as a masterchef of Japanese cuisine and heir to a Hong Kong sushi restaurant. Although Cheung has a big fan base his TV roles have been rare over recent years as acting takes a back seat to his singing career.
Other stars in the series are Michael Tse (谢兴华, pinyin: Xiè Xīnghuá) as his half-brother and rival, and Myolie Wu (胡杏儿, pinyin: Hú Xìng'ér) and Tavia Yeung (杨怡, pinyin: Yáng Yí) as the love interests. (Both actresses were recently featured in an article by Hong Kong's The Sun newspaper as future Fa Dans or TV divas.) The series also features veteran actor-director Damien Lau (刘松仁, pinyin: Liú Sōngrén) as a Japan-based chef known as the God of Fish.
Although the storyline follows the well-worn route of TVB's family business dramas with their sibling rivalry and double-crossing, The Rippling Blossom started strongly in the ratings. It not only kept its initial audience but also continued to build in viewer numbers. The 20-episode series commenced on 7 February, and its first week of screening attracted a healthy average rating of 29. Each subsequent week its ratings grew by an additional point, and its final two episodes had an average of 34, peaking at 38. This makes it the highest rating series so far on TVB this year, although of course we're not even a quarter of the way into the year.
As well as the strong cast, the series' appeal no doubt was also due to the beautiful scenery, with a substantial part of the story taking place in Japan in autumn and winter. Numerous cooking and eating scenes also left viewers' mouths watering, and Julian Cheung may have stamped himself as an early front-runner for this year's My Favourite Actor awards. For those interested, here's an informative review from Chen's Just Me blog.