Six classic TV series to binge-watch during Super Typhoon Mangkhut
With the biggest typhoon since records began bearing down on Hong Kong and predicted to shut the city down on Sunday, we have some ideas to keep yourselves amused while the weather rages outside
Whether it’s a super typhoon passing over or a staycation, binge-watching television shows is the best way to keep the household entertained. We look at six Western and Chinese series, ranging from detective drama to imperial court intrigues, that have audiences hooked.
The Wire was released in 2002 and is rightfully classed as one of the greatest television shows ever. However, its success initially turned people against it. You couldn’t go into a bar without overhearing a conversation about how good The Wire was, and it put some off watching it.
That was then, though, and 16 years on it’s time to revisit it. Created by former police reporter David Simon, the series looks at the illegal narcotics scene in the American city of Baltimore through the eyes of law enforcers as well as drug dealers and users.
The workings of government and bureaucracy, schools and the news media are also dealt with over the course of five engrossing series that made characters Jimmy McNulty, Avon Barksdale, Omar Little and Stringer Bell household names.
You can catch up with all five series now, as episodes are currently being shown in Hong Kong on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 10.30pm on ViuTV channel.
The Story of Yanxi Palace
The hottest show across Asia right now, the series features a harem of concubines in the 18th century Qing dynasty court back-stabbing their way to power. Catch up on the series to follow the plot points that everyone and their aunties is discussing.
The drama’s heroine is Wei Yingluo, a servant from a poor background who entered the court serving the empress Fucha. Through the 70-episode show, she becomes a concubine herself and goes head-to-head with other consorts in a match of wits and scheming.
The series is available on Hong Kong’s TVB channel and has been optioned for several platforms elsewhere in Asia.
The Larry Sanders Show
When US comedian Garry Shandling died two years ago the comedy world lost one of its most unique voices, but not before he created one of greatest comedy series to be aired, in The Larry Sanders Show. The series offers a behind-the-scenes look at late-night talk show host Larry Sanders (Shandling) and the production of his show.
Like any real-life late-night host, Sanders is surrounded by the various people who make a production like that run, including gruff, no-nonsense producer Artie (Rip Torn), desperate-for-attention sidekick Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), and obnoxious agent-to-the-stars Stevie (Bob Odenkirk).
Filled with celebrity appearances and cringeworthy moments, it ultimately serves as a sort of love letter to Hollywood, while hilariously sending up its insecure and indulged stars, the best of which is Larry’s hapless sidekick Hank.
Hungry for fame and vindictive, “Hey Now” Hank is doomed to fail – repeatedly and very publicly. But like everyone in Tinseltown his quest for fame keeps driving him on regardless.
In the Name of the People
An anti-corruption show in China may sound like a propaganda vehicle, but In the Name of the People was one of the most critically acclaimed television dramas in the country in 2017.
Praised for its daring script and stellar acting, the series took audiences by surprise in China because shows about sensitive topics such as corruption rarely get made due to censorship.
The 52-episode show follows the exploits of anti-corruption investigators, corrupt officials and scheming lovers. Several of the plot lines in the show were based on real-life cases, including a memorable scene where a greedy bureaucrat’s flat was lined with 240 million yuan (US$35 million) in cash, in the fridge and behind the walls.
The drama can be found on Chinese video streaming sites such as Tencent Video and iQiyi.
In the 1980s British actor Ian McShane became popular for playing Lovejoy in a BBC series about a roguish art and antiques dealer. Little did we know that, years later, he would become famous for his role as a treacherous, knife-wielding, saloon owner in a Western series – but Deadwood was no ordinary TV show.
As Al Swearengen, McShane was a cunning psychopath who spat out profanities at every turn in a role that couldn’t be further from that of a roguish British art and antiques dealer.
But he was only one of a plethora of characters played by an incredible cast that included Timothy Olyphant, Powers Boothe, Brad Dourif, Keith Carradine, Brian Cox, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcomson, and John Hawkes.
Set in a mining town that was not part of any US state or territory in the post-civil-war years, making it literally lawless, Deadwood attracted people looking to get rich quick from the gold mines, as well as those looking to capitalise on the lack of organised law in the town.
In short, you would struggle to find more despicable and incorrigible characters as these, and classic television was all the better for it.
My Own Swordsman
A favourite that enjoys frequent reruns on Chinese television channels, My Own Swordsman is a comedy set in China’s Ming dynasty. First screened in 2006, it was one of the most-watched shows that year.
The period drama is set in a kezhan, a type of rudimentary hotel where travellers of all sorts, such as swordsmen and assassins, cross paths.
My Own Swordsman riffs on the conventional tropes found in Chinese martial arts novels and films, such as the beggar gang and the tough-talking widow.
The 80-episode series can be found on Chinese streaming sites such as iQiyi and Tencent Video.