Monday, March 16, 2015

Raising the Bar Review

Producer: Joe Chan
Genre: Legal
Cast: Ben Wong, Grace Chan, Jeannie Chan, Stephanie Ho, Moon Lau, Louis Cheung, Elaine Yiu, Timothy Cheng, Natalie Tong

Raising The Bar takes a fresh angle on the oft-seen TVB legal drama. Instead of the typical case-by-case structure, this series focuses on the daily routines of a lawyer. The depiction of a lawyer's job is fairly realistic and shows the less glamorous side of the profession. There are also little tidbits, like the call to the bar or scheduling hearings, that are rarely seen in other legal dramas. The cases cover a variety of matters before the court and do not shy away from sensitive topics. For once, legal procedures and reasoning are mostly followed. It is also shocking to know that there is actually more than one judge in Hong Kong.

I was worried about the overwhelming number of characters at the beginning, but the series quickly deals with that by regulating some characters to the background. That is not to say, however, that the focus went to the best stories. The second half of the series put an overemphasis on romantic lines that no one cared about (ie. Elaine's affair). Further, it throws logic out the door with the sexual harassment case, which any competent lawyer should have gotten rid of a long time ago.

The four girls were surprisingly capable of carrying the series. They clearly had a lot of fun filming together, which shows in their on-screen interactions. Grace Chan shows why she is perhaps deserving of her rapid climb to lead status as she looked comfortable and natural in her role. Jeannie Chan suited the role of the snobby rich girl and smoothly managed her character's transition into a more humble person. Stephanie Ho is cute and provided comedic relief. Moon Lau fared well for her first series; though she was not particularly impressive, she was certainly not bad either.

Ben Wong hits the nail with his professionalism as an experienced barrister, especially with those reading glasses. Elaine Yiu needs to stop being given these discontent wife roles. Natalie Tong has been doing a great job with her subtle performances. Louis Cheung is a really versatile actor, but his character's odd obsession with aliens was something that I don't get. Timothy Cheng is funny in his interactions with Stephanie and Natalie. King Lam does a good job with his clueless lawyer, while Hugo Wong is great eye candy despite limited screen-time.

So does Raising the Bar actually raise the bar for TVB productions? Maybe slightly, but it is not without its faults. What does the jury think?

Rating: 4/5

Raising the Bar Alternative Ending


  1. Nice and concise review as always. :) I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second. I think then, it showed the less than glamorous and more regular and daily aspects well but towards the middle the characters spent an awful lot of time on vacations and personal matters. It felt like they went from all work to all play, lol, or maybe it was just me. And hey, I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed Hugo Wong as great eye candy. ;) I was hoping he would get more screentime since he was Jeannie's love interest, been hoping to see him in a more substantial role since he was Nick on TITS2.

  2. On a side note:

    (1) I think, the parts where Stefanie found her dad in prison and Natalie and Jeannie are siblings of the same father, are still very formulaic. Otherwise the whole plot goes a very atypical route thus keep people interested to continue watching.
    (2) While the romantic scenes were quite a focus towards the end, I must say Louis and Grace's scenes are very cute and it's probably the first time I fall in love so much with the characters.
    (3) I also agreed that Elaine's affair plot is very painful to watch. They could've got a better actor to be her affair at least. Sam is just too one-faced.
    (4) Natalie on the other hand was surprising and impressive, but pairing her up with Timothy... does not quite make sense in my opinion.
    (5) I personally think Hugo needs to loosen up himself a bit more in order to breakthrough.
    (6) While not the most important thing, I would like to see the four girls in the center of poster. Anyhow this drama is still called 4 girls and 3 barristers? And, perhaps a happier poster too?

    Just a few of my humble opinions :)

  3. A relaxing drama with more emphasis on the lawyer job rather than the cases. Nothing too exciting or dynamic. But it is nice seeing Ben Wong as the lead actor of a show.

    The actors were impressive, I would say. Like you said, Grace Chan seems comfortable and suited for her role.

    But I would blame the script and the plot. Elaine's affair was unneeded I would say. Ultimately it served no purpose other than to tell audiences that she is great at acting unfaithful wives. The affair concluded messily and abruptly, making me wonder why was there such a plot in the first place.

    Several of Louis' character was also uneeded, such as his obsession of aliens as you have mentioned. His character seemed to have much potential, but ended up being a mediocre character.

    Overall I would give this drama a 2/5. It felt like a drama to boost new actors' popularity but I would agree that the 4 girls did their job well and proved to have a lot of chemistry on and off screen, and probably are my 'eye-candies'. Ben Wong also nailed the character very well.

    My only complains are that Elaine and Louis' characters were poorly developed and perhaps unnecessarily created/developed.
    The 'climax' of the series felt unneeded and 'unclimatic', serving no purpose as a plot device or to the storyline.

    If any consolation though, imo, this is still better than Tiger Cubs 2 which was cringe-worthy to watch.

  4. Hi! You seem to know pretty much everything about TVB... So i was just wondering if you know how you get into TVB acting classes as a European citizen? Thanks :)

    1. You have to watch out for their recruitment ads (usually posted on or their social media pages). For the last two years, their recruitment cycle was around August to September.

  5. I thought the show started out okay, EXCEPT for the over-emphasis that Giselle was from Australia with her posters and flags plastered everywhere (which no Aussie would do) and then Grace's lack of an attempt at an Australian accent. I let that go until her friend Brian showed up and said they often trekked in their off time and apparently walked from Kosciuszko to Canberra, which is a pretty flat highway and would take over 44 hours!

    I guess like all TVB dramas it goes quite downhill in the second half with the ridiculous sexual harassment case, Giselle's lack of objectiveness during the saga and then her "hard to get" play with Quinton. She basically spent two episodes looking over at the guy, thinking he's not interested in me but in the mean time she's (kinda) cosying up with the other guy - including the reference to double dating (wtf!).

    It sounds like I hated the character Giselle but I didn't until the last few episodes :P

    I think I liked the relatively minor characters more, like Timothy - so glad he's not a 'bad guy'. I would have also liked it if they resolved the inmate case he was following with Stephanie.

  6. i thought the show started out alright. i didn't really care about grace working in jr and they could've gave more screen time to stephanie and jeannie. i felt like grace and louis's relationship kept getting which i hated! i think hugo and jeannie matched perfectly, they are both model material and look so good together which made me really wish they had more screen time. my favourite couple was hands down stephanie and king, they were soo cute and i wish they had more scenes as well because they were hilarious because it was so laid back and comfortable. another thing that caught my eye was stephanie's theme song. the first time i heard it, it already immediately caught my attention because of the catchiness, then i realised stephanie sang it and that's when i realised she's a really good singer. he character is very lively and happy which brings comedy to the show. elaine's affair was so dumb and boring and ben's rape case at the end was a waste of time because everyone knew he would end up winning. timothy and ram were quite funny with their students. as for moon, her relationship with jayden was kind of cringe and i wish they put william chak on screen earlier and made a relationship between moon and william. overall i love this drama and still love the 4 girls!!