First Impressions: House of Spirits (TVB, 2016)

House of Spirits (一屋老友記)

Genre: Modern Family/ Supernatural
Length: 31 episodes
Producer: Dave Fong

Cast: Bobby Au-yeung, Nancy Wu, Joyce Tang, Jonathan Cheung, Koni Lui, Bob Cheung, Law Lan, Bowie Wu, Lau Kong

Part of TVB’s so-called “Amazing Summer” Lineup includes House of Spirits which casts A-lister Bobby Au-yeung and a supernatural themed storyline consisting of a modern, dysfunctional family of four siblings and two ghosts. The selling point of the series is pretty just that while everything else about the series is quite disappointing, not to mention very boring, slow-paced, and only slightly better than TVB’s new sitcom, Dinner at Eight.

After five episodes, it is suffice to say that there is nothing engaging or creative about the series and that includes the so-called supernatural aspect of the series. Along with Blue Veins which was probably the closest to anything supernatural TVB has made in for as long as I can remember, TVB continues to make everyone scratch their heads as to why the hell there should even be an “undead” character in a modern crime thriller. Spoilers, if you aren’t watching or caught up with Presumed Accidents.

It seems like writing in a supernatural type character is simply the norm in a regular modern-day storyline nowadays and this just might be what TVB believes is their new definition of creativity.

At least in Ghost of Relativity, as silly that was and you’ll wonder how it made it to being the highest rated series of 2015, we were lead through the process of how Nancy Wu became a ghost. In Blue Veins, after a series of events and thunderstorms or something of the like happened, Kevin Cheng became known as a new species, the undead. In Presumed Accidents, the process of becoming the undead got easier when all Lawrence Ng had to do was pop a pill. By the time House of Spirits rolled around, the writers didn’t even bother to explain why Bobby and his niece were the only ones able to see ghosts while everyone else in the household didn’t Not sure how that works.

The supernatural genre aside, there is nothing novel about this series and it picks up and showcases the everyday lives of Hong Kong people through the lives of four siblings played by Bobby, Joyce, Jonathan, and Bob. The premise of the show occurs after the siblings’ father (Lau Kong) passes away and in his will, he left the house to his four children, but only under the condition if they moved in and live together for nine months before selling it. At first everyone was reluctant to move into the old building, but when they learned of the real estate price going up, they all eagerly moved in. As the oldest, Bobby also selfishly ran away from his younger siblings to pursue his own dreams when he was younger, thus creating much friction and resentment amongst the siblings.

Bobby plays a principal of a children’s learning center, with high morals and can be quite stubborn at times. As the second child, Joyce was left to take care of her younger siblings when Bobby packed his bags and left to pursue his dreams; because of this, she missed out on her chance to go to college and have a good career. As a mom, she is very anxious about her daughter getting into a good school and has no problem using relationships that helps her get in through the backdoor to much of Bobby’s disapproval.

Having been to college and works in investment funds, he can be snobbish and materialistic. He married Koni because she is a ditz who knows when to play dumb, but he also acts as a slave to his wife. As the youngest sibling, Bob is a poor and lazy college student who always has his headphones on to avoid any family drama.

Nancy plays a electrician handyman, rare for a female and completely the opposite of the uptight her in Ghosts of Relativity. Koni plays a selfish, loud, and ignorant model with a terrible attitude who also happens to be Jonathan’s wife. Law Lan and Bowie rounds out the cast by playing the two ghosts who lurks around the sibling’s old apartment building. While they mean no harm and have been around for years, Bobby feels very uneasy knowing their existence while his niece enjoys playing with her new supernatural friends.

Five episodes in, the series seems to focus on nothing more than petty, trivial family matters. For a 31-episodes series, I’m sure the siblings will work out their differences at the end, but the process doesn’t seem engaging or even remotely interesting. The comedy aspect is exaggerated and slapstick. The supernatural aspect is lazily weaved into the plot.

Perhaps if you enjoyed Ghosts of Relativity, you might enjoy this one as both are quite silly. One takes place in the office while the other takes place at home. House simply doesn’t have that couple chemistry that Nancy and Kristal shared, however — and that’s what made that series memorable.

House seems like nothing more than another attempt by TVB to use Bobby’s name to sell a series. While all the actors are delivering, the characterization and storyline is as cliched and repetitive as TVB can ever get.