Review: Two Steps From Heaven (TVB, 2016)

Two Steps From Heaven (幕後玩家)

Genre: Modern Drama
Length: 35 episodes
Producer: Joe Chan

The Rating: 3/5 stars

The Cast

Bosco Wong as Chun Sing Hoi aka Sheldon
Edwin Siu as Feng Jik Yi
Louis Cheung as Tim Yau
Priscilla Wong as Koo Sing Seung
Luk Wing as Koo Sing Hei aka Ted
Katy Kung as Carmen
Moon Lau as Emma
Gloria Tang as Maple
Jacqulin Ch’ng as
Kandy Wong as “Da Jie”
Alice Chan as Koo Sing Fun aka Selina
Pat Poon as Koo Fuk Sung

and William Chak, Claire Yiu, Rainbow Ching, etc.

The Review

For the most part, at least entertainment wise, Two Steps didn’t quite make it as successful anniversary series for it’s long and draggy plot that didn’t have much, if any substance. Behind the young and good-looking cast and a promise of glamour, I found the characters quite aimless and for 35 episodes, I expected way more drama and backstabbing. At the best, it was a longer sitcom with prettier faces, but the majority of the characters were an absolute bore.

It tried too hard to be a little of everything. A bit of office politics, a bit of love and tragedy with Bosco’s family, a bit of friendship, a bit of typical wealthy family backstabbing, a bit of romance that wasn’t very romantic, and a bit of ambition that was half-assed. I believe the intentions and concept of the series was better than the actual execution though. Because the series spread itself so thin, it really didn’t have a focus so I’m here now with no clue what to say about the plot.

But I’ll take a stab at it anyway –the same way how one of the characters died in the series.

So basically, three very good friends played by Bosco, Edwin, and Louis are quite fun-loving, talented, and ambitious though always being backstabbed by another team in the office. All turns for the good when Edwin and Priscilla reunites again and marries on a whim. His wealthy father-in-law (Pat Poon) offers the PR company to them as their wedding gift. While Priscilla became the new CEO of the PR firm, her values and ambitions moves closer to that of Bosco’s who has always hated being looked down upon.

Bosco and Priscilla’s foot steps move in a different direction than Edwin and Louis, who still treasures a simple life and friendship more. While Bosco helps Priscilla rid of her main enemy and half-sister (Alice), Priscilla also learns that Bosco is behind the death of her most-beloved brother (Luk Wing). By pretending to trust Bosco, Priscilla eventually poisons him to death only to have Bosco’s crazy ex (Moon) stab her to death with a knife.

The fact that I can sum up the plot in two short paragraphs shows how there series doesn’t have any substance. It has one of the biggest cast with more handsome and pretty faces than any other series this year, but the drama would have escalated quicker if it was only 20 episodes. Quite honestly, I was only engaged with the first five and the final three episodes.

Lack of plot aside, I did notice how calm and aesthetically pleasing some of the scenes were filmed. One particular scene that really stood out to me was Ted’s (Luk Wing) funeral where everyone carried black umbrellas with a panorama view. Even the final scene right before Priscilla’s death was so calm that it made her death so shocking and unpredictable. One moment you’d think she’ll happily get back together with Edwin (Wah?! No punishment for murdering Bosco?!) and the next, (poof!) stabbed in the front with a knife.

Forget about the backstabbers, Moon just did it in public. In front of everyone. Talk about being crazy.

Characterization and Performances

Besides Louis Cheung and Kandy Wong, I’m quite lukewarm about everyone else for one reason or another. Louis really killed it as the guy who was always there for friends. Like usual, he executed the role with a bit of sass as shown by his floral bomber jackets but hidden behind that mask is a good-hearted man. It was particularly hilarious when he tried to secretly escape Hong Kong so Gloria will accept her lead actress role in Korea. Who did he think he was trying to trick in that scene? Louis isn’t handsome per say, but he does so well in his grungy roles.

The other character and performance that I particularly liked was Kandy who played “Da Jie.” Even though she didn’t even have a love storyline with one of the main characters, she was the only one who’s somewhat levelheaded, grounded, and up to speed with reality. Where her height usually limits her to playing someone’s 16-year-old sister, this time around we were all shocked that she was a mom with a teenage boy. Woah! Instead, if anything, I thought she was too calm and mature, especially when she didn’t react heavily to Luk Wing’s death.

I felt lukewarm about Priscilla, Bosco, Edwin, and Luk Wing’s character x performance. It’s Priscilla’s first role as a villain and while her performance wasn’t particularly “bad” in anyway, she was too calm and unpredictable in many ways that didn’t make her villainess redeemable or even discussion-worthy. I wasn’t moved by Priscilla’s story with her ex at all. Those scenes itself didn’t tell us very much about who she really was and why she became more aggressive. This is the most “adult” and scheming role of Priscilla’s, but also the most ladylike and prettiest she has ever been.

If there was anyone who had a proper character and story that wasn’t just floundering around in the series, it was Bosco (and maybe Louis). You get to see Bosco’s background as a failed and unsuccessful journalist-turned-PR guy and how those embarrassing and powerless moments channeled into ambition. I’m not wow-ed by this type of story at all as it’s overplayed by TVB scripts too many times. As a bad husband, Bosco also doesn’t win the audience’s sympathy either. And his last five minutes of redemption wasn’t enough to really have any sympathy for his character either.

If anything, I liked how he told Edwin he didn’t have any regrets and that people who do big things don’t turn back. The whole “I want to see my wife and daughter on my death bed” was a bit fake and hypocritical, especially because I really believed that he never loved Katy and he only married her for responsibility. Still, I felt Bosco’s shift to the dark side was unnecessary and unconvincing as he seemed to have it all but was unsatisfied with his position. What’s wrong with being in PR? He held one of the highest positions in the company and had lots of freedom when Priscilla became the new CEO.

What made Sheldon great wasn’t the character, but Bosco really delivered in the role.

And the flip side of all that unnecessary ambition is Edwin who pretty much had one of the most boring characters in the history of TVB anniversary series. His marriage to Priscilla happened way too fast. The writers were probably thinking that since the audience is already so use to the pair being a couple in real life, let’s just skip to the wedding in series. Lol. As a couple Edwin and Priscilla’s steps in life couldn’t be more different and their divorce was probably the next best thing after their wedding. The only time that Edwin’s presence was even necessary in the series is the final 3 episodes when he helped his former father-in-law get out of a mental rut.

There was the good, the bad, and now here’s the ugly. As for the supporting characters, Luk Wing as the “bai ga jai” was pretty much the most spoiled you have seen in a while, but the actor really has a bone for acting. I still can’t wrap my head around Katy who played Bosco’s wife. She still gives me the “little girl” vibe, but the the most cringing part was her dramatic crying. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

Jacqulin who played Bosco’s fraternal twin had the most annoying role this year as a 30+ year old woman who was going through a divorce while still acting like a teenager. Now you know why that divorce took place. Moon really demonstrated a lot of potential and almost had raving fans in Fist of Four Walls, but falls short again with her stiff and raw acting here.

If there was any miscast, she would’ve been Gloria who played Maple, a girl who turned out to have a crush on Louis three years ago. Well, I was pretty shocked when Gloria confessed her love to Louis at the end, but between all the women that Louis was involved with, I’m glad it was Gloria he ended up with — and not Jacqulin or Moon. The short hair, black leather jacket, and carefree role doesn’t suit Gloria at all. Not to mention that her acting was the rawest you can ever see; she also didn’t complement Louis’s character or looks that well either. I had the hardest time predicting who Louis will end up with because he didn’t have great sparks with any of the women.

Pat Poon who played the wealthy tycoon wasn’t suave enough to be deserving of having young girlfriends around him. Finally, Alice rounds off the cast by playing the same old, cold and corporate women she plays in every TVB drama. She’s a little less sexy here, but at least she looks the part of a semi-villain.

Overall Evaluation

The only reason I pulled through with the series was for the eye candy. The writers and producer tried to cram too many things into one drama: romance, family, friends, politics, etc. that at the end, it wasn’t focused on anything. Every plot device, trick, character archetype is overused to the bone. I really expected more substance from the characters, more background and more action. And for those characters who turned for better or for worse, we either didn’t care much about them or their turn was absolutely unnecessary.

The series would’ve been more tolerable if it was only 20 episodes, but at 35 episodes, I really expect a lot more than a waste of film.

A more relative comparison in terms of how I feel about the series is, genre aside, the idea is better on paper and in conception but falls short in execution and reality — just like the fate of Blue Veins earlier this year.

The Verdict

The writing is neither good, bad or horrible. Its’ just boring. It makes you innocently wonder, “How could this rise to become an anniversary series and got served to us on plate?” Anyway, what I really mean is it’s not really worth your time.