Three MUST-WATCH Chinese Modern TV Series (2017 Update)
Time flies – 5 years ago, I handpicked 5 must-watch Chinese modern TV series based on the hundreds of titles that I’ve seen. Why recommend Chinese “modern” drama? Here’s a quick refresher on the western world’s awareness of asian tv shows: korean drama > all other asian drama > chinese historical drama > chinese modern drama.
Well seeing as the purpose of my blog is discovering the best Chinese dramas, of course I had an obligation to update this after five long years! The good news is, Chinese dramas are getting way better than before, in both production quality, acting, and storylines. The wait is over… so what are they?
The First Half of My Life – 我的前半生
I saw this one most recently, so I’ll talk about this first. I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed this series. Premise is about a young stay-at-home mom who gets cheated on by her husband, white-collar worker Chen Junsheng. Before you get all up-in-arms, Luo Zijun (played by Ma Yili) has problems of her own. She regularly flaunts wealth, treats shopping associates poorly, and generally has a spoiled wife attitude. Well the story really starts after this cheating incident and subsequent divorce. What’s a previously spoiled housewife to do now? After the divorce, Luo Zijun struggles to head back into the workforce with the help of her dear friend Tang Jing and He Han, both are white-collar workers and elites.
My favorite thing about this entire series is how unpretentious it is, achieved mainly by having the character He Han be the lecturing type (take on the ‘pretentious burden’) to get housewife Luo to face reality. Oh my gosh, the character development with Ms. Luo is incredible. Also, applaud the series for not portraying everything as black and white… meaning the show actually delves deeper to show more than just “good” and “bad” people, and that karma can be accomplished in a not-so-extremely-dramatic kind of way. The entire series is paced quite well, and I find myself rooting for Ms. Luo’s development from a scared, mopping housewife with no future to someone who could stand on her own two feet.
2. Ode to Joy – 欢乐颂
I mean, if you haven’t already read my *flowers and unicorns* review on it…
Penned by screenwriter Yuan Zidan, and based on A’nai’s original novel of the same name, “Ode to Joy” is the tale of five girls who live on the 22nd floor of a building called “Ode to Joy” in Shanghai. Departing from the cliché Cinderella storyline, this series is a refreshing nod to the era of girl power. Five single women, from different walks of life, struggle with their own challenges at work and at home. They bicker, fight, and gossip, but also learn and help each other grow, forging incredible friendships along the way. – talented Michelle Dong of Soompi, I couldn’t have said it better
It’s a series that will bring you hope in your darkest of heartbreaks, a relatable friend for those times insecurity hits you the hardest, insight for when you are lost in your career path, and humor for when you aren’t having such a perfect day. Plus, you’ll see how Chinese 20s-30s women think and act these days (sort of, everything with a grain of salt).
3. Back in Time – 匆匆那年
So I am forever interested learning about times that I haven’t experienced, or not learned in our school history books. What better than to experience that in a well-made Chinese series ridden with teenage love (angsty teenage love)? This is a coming-of-age drama.
In 1999, five high school friends formed a bond so close that they thought it would last forever. At the center of the group is the couple, Chen Xun and Fang Hui, whose relationship brought everyone together. As they laugh and dream together as carefree teenagers, the reality soon sinks in that these happy days of their youth cannot last forever. With adulthood and the real life outside of high school beckoning, they all must make decisions for their futures that affect the friendship they once believed would stand the test of time. When later looking back at the days of their youth, they all realize that there’s no going back and those days will only exist as a wonderful memory. – another talented soul who can do synopsis better than I, Anna of Drama For Real blog
Anna goes on to mention some spectacular aspects of the series, which I totally agree: The filming quality is so spectacular that it’s hard for movies, let alone dramas, to even come close to how beautiful this was. The sharp yet soft colors and ever-so-slightly out of focus camerawork perfectly captures the nostalgic quality and feelings of the setting and time period. Along with the visual beauty, the music of this drama makes it a bona fide treat for the senses. The original soundtrack combined with the music hits from the ’90s and ’00s adds another layer to the story’s setting. And if that’s not enough nostalgia for you, there are pop culture references aplenty (Huan Zhu Ge Ge, Slam Dunk, Backstreet Boys, etc.) that anyone familiar with that culture would instantly recognize.
Thanks for reading this ‘master list’ like post of my favorite modern Chinese TV series, that I had the pleasure of watching in the last five years.
Want to revisit my popular post I did on “modern Chinese TV series to check out” back in 2012? Read it here.
PS – Let me know if YOU have any personal favorites that I missed out – and tell me why you like it!