TV shows: Far-fetched but fun

With Secrets For Sale, Game Plan and now Disclosed, WaWa Pictures is growing a sexy subgenre in local television - I think of it as the bad-boy procedural.

Unlike regular police procedurals, WaWa's shows centre on mavericks who operate outside the system and play by their own rules: private eyes in Secrets For Sale (2011), swindlers in Game Plan (2012) and, yep, computer-hacking publicity strategists in Disclosed.

The job sounds quite far-fetched but the show jumps into action, opening with a potential sex scandal and an SMS so explosive, a bride who reads it runs away from her wedding and walks into oncoming traffic.

And the drama keeps all its moving parts whirring, as a cool computer and public relations expert (Tender Huang) tussles with the bride's best friend, a hot- headed lawyer (Jesseca Liu), to determine and protect the secret at the heart of the case.

Drawing together high-tech and human elements, the show delivers an up-to-the-minute buzz with investigations enabled by smartphone spyware even as it pokes fun at annoying social media and selfie addicts who go on blind dates with Liu.

Then there are complications that are unlikely but cute: After Liu joins Huang's employ as a legal adviser, she lets a pop star move in with her temporarily to avoid media attention surrounding a celebrity prostitution ring, when Liu's younger sister (Tang Lingyi) is a snoop for a gossip website.

But Liu's little brother (Shane Pow) is a big fan of the singer and he may, or may not, save the day.

Although the show is pacy and snappy fun much of the time, it does stumble sometimes. A comic detour to Sim Lim Square fizzles out when Liu's fight with an amorous laptop repairman with greasy hands drags on.

At other times, Liu's acting feels exaggerated, perhaps because Huang is understated as a man who tucks his emotional baggage behind an unruffled exterior.

On the bright side, Patricia Mok doesn't miss a beat as Huang's adoring, eyelash-batting assistant.

The show is so busy, really, that I barely have time to feel deja vu watching Liu play another assertive heroine and spar with another rebel hero (as she did with Christopher Lee in Secrets For Sale and The Oath, 2011).

A policeman (Andie Chen) is introduced as Liu's former boyfriend and Huang's rival, in another of WaWa's tropes, and I expect a cat-and-mouse game between the two men quite soon. I look forward to it, actually.

Because if there is a formula here, it is a successful one, making the show one of the most reliable pieces of entertainment on Channel 8 right now.

Formulaic yet fresh - that describes What's Up!, a timeless musical drama by South Korean cable network MBN, too. Certainly, the show is a stroll, next to wearying current K-dramas such as Secret Love.

Young people sing, dance and fall in love in What's Up!, which they have been doing from time immemorial and in dramas such as Dream High (2011).

What is lovely here is how a pickpocket (Lim Ju Hwan) finds his way to the musical theatre department of a university.

Remorseful after he flees from the police on a motorcycle and causes an old musician to be hit by a truck, he enters a theatre in a daze and comes across a musical rehearsal, which affects him powerfully.

It feels like an emergency exit, he says later, leading him to a better, safer place.

So begins his redemption and as he tries to go to musical school, he learns that his street-honed ability to impersonate other people is useful at auditions.

In art, his skill has another name - improvisation - and his sensitivity is a boon.

woeiwan@sph.com.sg

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