The drama Real Love Please Ring The Bell Twice is a poor third to Office Girls and In Time With You in Taiwan’s idol drama time slot on Sundays. And it’s no surprise why.
The bell doesn’t ring… twice.
I don’t mind fairy-tale-like plots but what I hate is when the audience is treated like a bunch of idiots.
The story itself starts off very promising enough. Zheng Xiao Xiang and Ren Jia Kai meet under unique circumstances: during the outbreak of a disease in 2003 that suspiciously looks like SARS but they call as CIV. She’s in quarantine while he volunteers to take photographs of the patients. They are drawn to each other but because of a series of misunderstandings, let each other go. She thinks he has a girlfriend already (well, if you’re Peter Ho, it won’t be a surprise) so she goes and entertains the first guy to ring the bell at her door, Wang Ke Jie. He sees them together and gives up on her. But they promised to each other to live a happy life blah blah blah.
Nice start actually… but it all falls apart the moment they meet again.
I mean, the premise of ill-fated lovers meeting again for another chance is an overused plot but it still works. If only the series of events that followed did not just defy logic but became totally preposterous.
When Jia Kai took photos of her in the hospital, he clearly saw her face. He was wearing a face mask but she wasn’t. True, many things could change in seven years but all that changed in Xiao Xiang was her hair. Besides, he is a photographer, he should have a photographic memory especially of a subject that he was so fascinated with, but he does not recognize her at all? I would understand if Xiao Xiang had undergone plastic surgery. Also, he had met her mother in 2003 but he does not seem to recall her at all? OK, granted that was a fleeting meeting outside the hospital, but him not showing any hint that he recognizes Xiao Xiang is just hard to believe. He does spew out those lines every now and then that seem to show that he remembers her after all but it seems that the writer is hell-bent on playing with the audience on whether they remember each other or not. Clearly, Xiao Xiang does. But until when will Jia Kai’s character have this superficial amnesia? And if he’s pretending not to remember her, some of his actions just contradict how he felt then, like why would he care if his ex-wife misunderstands the situation between him and Xiao Xiang? The flow is not just logical.
Now Xiao Xiang… I am getting annoyed with her character. I so want to sympathize with her, being dumped by her self-centered boyfriend and left with a child that’s not even her own, plus there’s the naggy mother. She also seems to be a favorite of bad luck: slipping while joining a contest to be an employee and getting colored water splashed all over her, getting splashed by passing cars, fainting in the middle of an intersection while doing a temp job as a sign holder etc etc. Are these all meant to make the audience sympathize with her character more because I am ending up thinking she’s either always at the wrong place at the wrong time or just plainly stupid. And what’s with going to the house of her ex-boyfriend to goof around? And going there thrice at that and not even realizing bloody Wang Ke Jie does not live there but another person? She has lived with the guy for seven years and she does not even know his habits and his stuff? And she doesn’t even recognize that the voice of the house’s owner is not her ex? Oh man, she really is a big idiot then.
Then there are the endless coincidences. Taiwanese director Lin He Long said before that without coincidences, there won’t be dramas. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are tons of coincidences here than you’ll see in a crime case because the writer is Lin daoyan’s frequent collaborator, Mao Xun Rong (Sharon Mao), who also wrote Meteor Garden, Devil Beside You and Why Why Love, among others.
It’s a good thing that Kingone Wang is not the second male lead here, otherwise the story would veer too much on him the way it did for Devil Beside You and Why Why Love. But the thing with Sharon Mao stories is, she gets lost in the sub-plots that the main story loses its way. The premise was already good but why ruin it by unbelievable story arcs? Sure, leave your disbelief at the doorstep when watching films or dramas but shall one leave common sense behind too?
Minor irritations about a plot pile up and may make people give up watching it. I have seen some of the comments on the drama, the reviews are mixed and that may be a good thing because there are still people who won’t give up watching it and would keep it in third place in the ratings game. If it gets beaten by Love Buffet, which appears to be a typical Taiwanese drama with a smorgasbord cast and no real plot at all, that’s just a pity because Peter Ho (though I am distracted by his underbite) and Janine Chang are good. It’s the story that is the problem.
It does have nice lines every now and then:
“You don’t keep important information in your cellphone. You keep them in your heart!”
“There are 6 billion people in this world. Aside from the one who hurt you, there must be others who love you.”
(This must have been written before the world hit 7 billion people.)
“Don’t let one star cause you to give up the entire universe.”
“My life can’t always be stopped by red lights.”
However, the few lines–some are just too cheesy to even quote– can’t save an entire body of work. I hope the bell does ring twice in the coming episodes… but it may not be real love, it may just be the postman… with more bad sub-plots.
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