Night Market Life a part of life

Night Market Life a part of life
Television still: Night Market Life starring Chen Mei Feng and Chang Chiung-tzu
PHOTO: Mediacorp Channel 8

After long-running Taiwanese series Night Market Life airs its finale next Saturday, the Lim family can finally dine out on weekends.

Loyal follower Carol Lim, 42, says: "I seldom cook, but I make it a point to do so on weekends so that we can stay home to watch the show. We have dinner while watching."

Her daughters, aged 15 and 13, tune in to the 1,008-episode show too. If Mrs Lim had to go out on weekend evenings, she would record the episodes.

A fixture on Channel 8's weekend primetime belt, Night Market Life took over hit long-form Taiwanese series Love in February 2011.

It airs from 7 to 9pm on Saturdays and 7 to 10pm on Sundays.

Another Taiwanese long-form series, Lee's Family Reunion, will take over Night Market Life's time slot next Sunday.

Taiwanese long-form dramas are popular among Singapore viewers.

Night Market Life, which aired in Taiwan from 2009 to 2011, has an average reach of 949,000 viewers to date. Love attracted an average of 897,000 viewers in 2010 and 796,000 viewers in 2011.

The popularity of both dramas has also fuelled demand for fan meets and concerts.

Concert organiser Biz Trends Media has held five Night Market Life themed concerts over the past two years, where cast members such as Fang Xin (she plays the rebellious Li Youhui) and Lee Zheng-ying (he plays resident villain Jin Dafeng) serenade the audience with songs and perform skits at the shows.

The audience members are typically aged 40 and older.

Mrs Lim, a department head at a multi-national company, will be seated in the front row at this Sunday's Night Market Life Finale concert, which has sold out 95 per cent of the tickets.

"I've attended almost every Night Market Life concert.

The audience will scream the actors' character names.

Actually, I can't remember their real names," she says. Her husband and daughters will be attending the concert with her.

Nostalgia may set in once the series ends, but fans say they are looking forward to some closure to the epic series.

For one thing, they are itching to find out if Jin Dafeng, whose crimes include alledged murder and hatching unscrupulous get-rich schemes, will get his just deserts.

Ms Winnie Nai, 42, an administrative executive, notes: "It's starting to get draggy.

I just want to know whether Jin Dafeng will get punished.

He's a totally bad guy, he will do anything to get money and power."

Such distinct good and evil characters make the drama appealing to the masses, says Mr Paul Chan, MediaCorp's vice-president of branding and promotions, family.

Viewer Tan Liling, 28, who works in the healthcare industry, concurs: "The characters are either very good-natured or extremely evil. You feel vindicated when good triumphs over evil."

Another appeal of long-form dramas is that the sheer length allows the characters to grow and become part of the viewers' lives, Mr Chan adds.

As its title suggests, Night Market Life's story grew out of a community in a Taiwanese night market.

The plot starts from the childhood days of Jin and his friends and viewers follow them into adulthood.

As the series progresses, a complex web of subplots is woven - relationships sour and revenge plots are hatched.

During a 45-minute telephone interview, retiree Karen Seng, 64, rattles off character names and their relations, and condemns the villains' evil-doings.

The long-time viewer of Taiwanese dramas such as Love and Parents' Love notes that the trademark of Taiwanese long-form dramas is the complex relations.

"The characters are all out to get one another. I'm amazed at how the scriptwriter can come up with so many ways in which people get harmed."

Though she reckons that Taiwanese soap operas typically attract a more mature crowd, there is a handful of young professionals who tune in.

Ms Sharon Yan, 30, an administrative assistant, says: "As long as I am at home, I will watch the show with my parents." She also wants "to see what happens to Dafeng in the end".

Ms Tan offers a different perspective of the show's appeal. Though well aware of the absurdity of some of the scenes, she says it is part of the fun of watching.

She points out, for instance, how delayed medical treatment actually killed one of the characters. In one long-drawn scene, a female character is stabbed, but instead of sending her to the hospital, the characters launch into an emotional conversation and even have time to take a family photo.

It's no wonder that she died, Ms Tan says.

But, she adds: "These dramas are so nonsensical that they provide an escape from reality. We just laugh and scold the bad guys as we watch."

Catch Night Market Life on Channel 8 on weekends at 7pm. The finale airs next Saturday.


Night market catfight

In the first episode, night market vendor Cai Yuexia (Chen Mei-feng, far left) takes on her husband's mistress He Nana (Chang Chiung-tzu).

The messy scuffle had only about three minutes of airtime, but it took three days to film.

Chen recalls: "The director felt we were not fierce enough. He told us to grab and smash whatever we saw. There was only ketchup and soya sauce on the table, so we ended up splashing them on each other.

"Because we filmed for three days, we could not wash our clothes to ensure costume continuity. Our clothes really smelled."

Blinded by love

Childhood sweethearts Li Youhui (Fang Xin) and Jin Dafeng (Lee Zheng-ying) turn against each other.

In a memorable scene for both actors, Li seduces Jin before striking him with a glass bottle, which blinds him in the right eye.

To get into the mood and "calm themselves down", Fang reveals that she and Lee downed a little alcohol before shooting the scene.

Jin eventually regains his eyesight. "Thanks to foreign mysterious forces," Lee says in jest.

Death at a wedding

Till death do us part. Unfortunately for ill-fated couple Li Youzhi (Wang Shixian) and his bride Pan Kexin (Chiang Tsu-ping), that marriage vow takes effect on their wedding day. Pan gets stabbed trying to protect Youzhi's sister Youhui from the villain Jin. Viewer Winnie Nai, 42, administrative executive, says in exasperation: "Kexin died in her wedding gown. Kexin and Youzhi went through a lot before they could get married. They could have lived happily and have kids. The bad guy Jin Dafeng destroyed everything."

Flying character

Taiwanese primetime dramas are known for their short turnaround time before broadcast.

The tight schedule coupled with a fatigued video editor resulted in a blunder that had audiences in stitches and netizens churning out parodies.

Star-crossed lovers Michael Jin (James Chen) and Jiang Yifan (Ye Jia-yu) are on the run as their family members chase them.

Michael is hit by a lorry, and here's where the blooper occurs - he suddenly acquires supernatural powers and is thrown backwards into the air with arms flailing. Looks like the editor forgot to snip the stuntman's rebound. But hey, we had a good laugh.

Explosive orange squashing

It's all about the drama and even fruit props are not spared.

A jealous Jin Jufu (Lei Hung) is incensed that his wife Fang Qiaqia (Cheng Chung-yin) is smitten with another man.

Improvising on the spot and shocking crew members, Lei, in an attempt to show his character's anger, squashes an orange till its juice spurts in all directions.

His newly discovered talent earned him spots on Taiwanese variety shows to squash all kinds of fruits - from apples to, yikes, durians.

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