This review is written by Edmund Yeo. If you have any comments whatsoever, please email me at  

Country Spirit

How long
21 tapes - 42 episodes

Year of Production

Can't remember the name of their roles, so I'll just list out the actor/actresses. Oh, I'll refer them by their real names in my review later too.

Gordon Lam= The main dude.
Chairmaine Sheh= The main dudette.
Paul Chun Pui= The wise patriarch of the family.
Joe Ma= The eldest son of the patriarch.
Tang Sui Man= The patriach's younger sister.
Yuen Wah= The eccentric yet skillful master.
Esther Yeung= The doe-eyed loyal servant.
Suet Li= Gordon's crazy mom.
Loh Hoi Pang= The scheming elder bro of Chun Pui.

There are a few more important roles, but I can't even remember their real names. Bummer.

When either Seagull or Funn does a review of this series, you'll get a more in-depth summary of the plot. For the time being, all I can say is that this drama revolves around a prestigious family which makes wine. Members of the family, people who work for the family, people who works against the family, people who doesn't work for or against the family, blah.

Romance, drama, intrigue, suspense, damn great sceneries, action etc. thrown into the mix.

Being a pretty bad History student, I think this story is set in the 30s to the 40s (during the 20th century)

I'm a great fan of Plain Love 2. A GREAT one. I think Plain Love 2 is one of the best TVB dramas (if not THE best) in recent years. Instead of seeing cliched love stories, brothers plotting against each other, business rivals hiring assassins to kill each other, some pointless action scenes, people throwing their enemies down from a skyscraper etc. I got a simple sweet tale of friendship, family love and romance which isn't overdone like the infamous soap opera 'A Kindred Spirit', the overhyped megacrap 'At the Threshold of an Era', stupid excuses for a cop film 'Detective Investigation Files 4' and 'A Matter of Custom'.

Solid acting, breathtaking scenery, warm storyline and well-developed characters. Plain Love 2 won the hearts of many viewers. And it wasn't surprising that it beat 'At The Threshold of an Era' in the ratings war back in the year 1999. A sleeper hit which is still talked about until today.

Retaining a few cast members from Plain Love 2, TVB decided to make another drama which will using the same formula. Even the title seemed almost similiar in Cantonese.

While Plain Love 2 is about tea, Country Spirit is about tea. And we can also see that this time, TVB had a bigger budget for this drama. Expectations became a lot higher suddenly...

Immediately after watching Country Spirit, my thoughts were pretty messy, and I wrote a disorganized, slightly disjointed short review and posted it on the E-Buzz mailing list. More than a week later, I decided to organize my thoughts and start writing this review you are reading now while using some paragraphs from my previous review. Bad thing is, many names of the characters have escaped from my mind.

Here are the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of this drama. Contain spoilers of some romantic pairings, though.

The Good
Great performances= Especially from who else, but Chun Pui. Yup, him, this man really deserves to be named as everyone's fave veteran actor in our mailing list. Gordon was pretty solid, as usual. Charmaine's acting skeelz improved quite a bit (compared to her 'Snow Fox' and 'Detective Investigation Files 4' days). Tang Sui Man had a breakthrough performance (thanks to those scenes she had with Chun Pui and Lo Hoi Pang). Joe Ma's very great too, I wish he'll get a push to A-list. Lo Hoi Pang's brilliant as Chun Pui's scheming big bro. He has the type of look which shows you how bitter he really is with his life. And Yuen Wah's a very lovable 'devil may care' character.

Intrigue and suspense= Love it when you see those villains scheming against Chun Pui, Gordon and Chairmaine. What they do to achieve their goals are downright despicable and cheap. All these will keep you interested with the drama cos' you'll be hoping that your fave characters will overcome the odds and triumph against the baddies.

Beautiful scenery= You gotta see it to believe it.

Good characterization= Most of the characters have their own distinct personalities that set them aside from others. They all have their own wishes, dreams and agenda. Some characters you'll definitely root for, while some are characters you simply love to hate. By the end of the drama, you'll feel sorry that you gotta say sorry to these characters.

The last few episodes before the ending= Yup. Characters who were once evil became good to help the good guys in rebuilding the wine-factory. Like Plain Love 2, no one here are really bad guys. No matter what happens, they have their redeemable qualities. And unlike most other TVB dramas, they don't get horrible violent deaths to pay for their misdeeds. All they get is a second chance to redeem themselves. Because of this, you'll realize that how harsh and unforgiving our modern culture has become.

The romantic sub-plots= Yuen Wah, Tang Sui Man, Joe Ma and Esther Yeung's characters are all appealing in their different ways. And I like their pairings too.

Yuen Wah/ Tang Sui Man: It's strange to see how a serious character like Tang Sui Man get involved in a romantic angle with the big foul-mouthed jerk, Yuen Wah which is played for laughs. But then, both of them are so funny that you feel that they should be together. After all, Tang Sui Man brings out the best from Yuen Wah.

Mah Tak Chung/ Esther Yeung= Great stuff here, not overdone and overblown. Just a few subtle hints and you feel that the doe-eyed girl deserves this honorable and wonderful Joe Ma.

The Bad
The main romance= Yeah, Gordon and Chairmaine's characters are likable, and they do have chemistry (though not as much compared to Gordon and Maggie's). You see how they started off hating each other's guts than gradually become great friends,saying inspiring things to each other, doing great wonderful things to each other. But when they really did declare their undying love for each other. The whole romance angle began to suck. Why?

Firstly, Charmaine's a married woman. She thought her 'husband' was dead. (Some weird chinese tradition, some rich family make virgins marry their dead sons) Technically, she should has the freedom to be with Gordon eh? Nah. When you see them together, they give you the feelin that they are adulterers.

Their romance ain't sweet, man! They even rip-off something from J-Drama, Beautiful Life too. Takuya Kimura and Tokiwa Takako wanna look at the moon everynight. Gordon and Chairmaine wanna look at the sunset everyday....

They were so bloody in love with each other that they became selfish and not give a damn about the feelings about those around them. Hell, they even planned to abandon their duties and elope!! Charmaine's a fool for not appreciating a great guy like Joe Ma (yeah, her ' dead husband' who miraculously came back from the dead)....

Honestly, I didn't root for them to be together at the end. And I was glad that Joe Ma stepped out from the love triangle.

The Ugly
The ending= I can't say whether the ending is good or bad. I lack a good word to describe it. It was pretty unnecessary... unbelievable... and just plain crazy. You might feel satisfied after watching the entire series, but you'll wonder why the hell did the producers make a weird ending like this. Will not reveal anything here, watch it yourself.

The theme song= I won't say that the theme song by Jackie Cheung and Kit Chan is bad. But compared to the fantastic, beautiful theme song of Plain Love 2, this falls short.

Fave Characters
Yeah, I did say that this drama has pretty strong characterization. Lots of character development too. Unfortunately, not for Gordon's character, who remained the same boring nice guy from start to finish (and a selfish jackass when he fell in love). His character from Plain Love 2 was more interesting, when you see how the coward grew a spine, fought for his ideals, expresses (cutely) his love for Maggie etc.

Chairmaine's character is developed much though. She started off as an illiterate village girl and rose up among the ranks to become the powerful and brilliant caretaker of the wine-factory (and a selfish jackass when she fell in love). But due to her lack of acting skills, and the aforementioned romantic angle, I couldn't like her too much either. She may have improved much in acting, but still pretty lacking compared to the vastly superior Maggie.

So, I'll choose the father and son team of Chun Pui and Gordon's characters as my favourite characters!!

Chun Pui was magnificent! So wise and understanding, I wish I have a boss like him too!! He doesn't bear grudges like his big brother, loves his family, his underlings and the wine-factory a lot. Lots of great things about this character, but lazy to do psychoanalisises.

Joe Ma's THE man! Sacrificing so much for a woman he loves although he knew for sure that she wouldn't return his affections. Yeah, so he got weak and drank a lot, but after he recovered, he became the nicest, most noble, honourable dude in the drama, just like his pa. I screamed many times "This is what a man should be like!" at the TV screen during the last few episodes.

Enough with ya ramblings! Should I rent it?
Yeah. This drama, despite a weirdo ending and a wince-inducing love story, really does worth your time. Although I've made many comparisons between Country Spirit and Plain Love 2 (can't help myself, both dramas are in the same genre), and Country Spirit fails to compare, lacking both the charm and appeal of Plain Love 2. It's still an above average drama with great acting, a plot that draws you in, and something else...

I always feel that dramas like Plain Love 2 and Country Spirit are a celebration of what people were like before being corrupted by the contemporary culture: people who regard moral values, family love and friendship highly.

I can go totally philosophical with this, but that will be too much for a drama review...hmm...

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