Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Hong Kong's Late Night

Johnson Lee's first guest on Sze U Tonight is Sandra Ng
For the longest time, I always wondered why Hong Kong didn't have a late night talk show format like David Letterman or Jimmy Fallon. The city is full of celebrities and socialites -- who wouldn't want the exposure -- particularly a relatively controlled one -- to promote their movies, albums, concerts and products?

Seemed like a natural to me, but the entertainment media scene in Hong Kong seemed to be dominated by print and online, with particular attention paid to what the stars were wearing than what they were saying...

Or perhaps there were concerns a celebrity wouldn't be able to sustain a relatively intelligent conversation for more than five minutes?!

But now my notion has been realized by TVB.

On Sunday the broadcaster debuted Sze U Tonight, featuring host comedian Johnson Lee Sze-chit. Check it out here.

However, critics pounced on the show for copying the look of Late Show with David Letterman complete with a skyline of Hong Kong in the background, a wooden desk, vintage microphone and a mug with pencils.

Cultural critic Jimmy Pang Chi-ming said the show demonstrated Hong Kong's television industry hitting a new low, with ATV recycling programs and struggling to pay its staff their salaries, while TVB had a virtual monopoly.

"TVB has no competitor, which means they do not need to invest in production," Pang said. In the long run, the TV industry will shrink if it cannot keep talented people. This is definitely a new low," he said.

Content-wise the first show was on the crass side. There was a long trailer explaining how Lee was lured back to TV (a long-winded and outrageous situation where he was a hermit somewhere in the New Territories with long gray hair and relied on a cane).

But all of a sudden he was transformed into a clean cut man complete with a sharp suit walking along Lan Kwai Fong and in front of The Peninsula before bursting onto the stage very much like every other talk show host in the United States.

However, unlike Conan O'Brien who was so nervous on his first outing that he constantly fiddled with his watch, Lee was relatively comfortable in front of a studio audience that included his parents. He claimed that for 30 years he had watched late night television in the US and so you could see he was keen to imitate those before him.

First up was actress Sandra Ng Kwan-yu, who is promoting her upcoming Chinese New Year film 12 Golden Ducks (ie gigolos). After showing a clip from the movie (that included Michelle Loo), Ng invited three male co-stars to come out where they strutted their stuff.

Then Lee suggested a competition between him and one of the men with the other two in a dance competition that Ng would judge. One had to dance as if he had to go do a Number 2, another like he couldn't scratch his itch... you get the idea.

It was a good laugh, but what about a decent conversation with Ng about the film or more on how she had to transform herself physically into a man for the part?

Nevertheless, the show continues with three more stars, two women and a guy coming out and playing another game with Lee with a selection of raw and cooked eggs. They have to smash them on the opposite sex's head, and whoever pics the raw eggs wins. It's funny to watch because Lee gets three raw eggs.

The musical guest? Alex To.

We'll have to see how long this show lasts, but with Lee being so passionate about finally being able to do a late night talk show format, it can't go any lower... can it?

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