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Nonsense dramas: A holiday for my brain

Samseng Zhabor
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A good drama with a tight, intricate plot and compelling characters is an incredibly satisfying thing. But sometimes I’m just not in the mood to follow so many twists and turns, or get caught up in the emotions of deep and fulfilling character arcs. Sometimes I just want something that’s suitably entertaining, and doesn’t require any brainwork whatsoever. Better still, a drama that improves if you don’t bring your brain along.
Over the years, I’ve watched quite a bit of what I call 胡闹, or nonsense, dramas. Their premises are ridiculous. Their plots—if they can even be called that—are all over the place, and might not even be particularly consistent. Their characters are outrageous. There’s slapstick, and the characters almost always have bad ideas or schemes that predictably don’t work, or get them into even more trouble. No matter how high they say the stakes might be, you never get too stressed, because you know the show doesn’t have enough emotional depth and plotting to really mess you up. That’s why you can just relax; whatever happens, happens. You don’t have to take these shows too seriously.
I’m not going to go into a list of some of the nonsense dramas I’ve seen. They’re all Chinese dramas, because I’ve not seen nonsense dramas from elsewhere yet. I have seen some melodrama/makjang from South Korea, but they don’t fit in this issue because, while they were ridiculous, the drama was intense and actually did stress me out. (I’m looking at you, The Innocent Man.)
WARNING: There are spoilers in this issue. But let’s be honest: with these types of shows, it really doesn’t matter.
The Eternal Love I, II, III
《双世宠妃 The Eternal Love 》
《双世宠妃 The Eternal Love 》
《双世宠妃 The Eternal Love 》, not to be mixed up with 《三生三世十里桃花 Eternal Love 》, tells the story of Qu Xiaotan, a modern-day real estate agent, who finds herself in the body of Qu Tan'er, the soft-spoken second daughter of the Qu family in the kingdom of Dongyue (wherever and whenever that may be). The two women, both played by Liang Jie, end up sharing one body, switching over whenever one lies.
This is inconvenient, because while Qu Tan'er is in love with the eldest prince, Mo Yihuai (Wang Ruichang), she’s been betrothed to the Eighth Prince, Mo Liancheng (Xing Zhaolin)… who is falling in love with Qu Xiaotan. (In this show, we see the eldest prince, the Eighth Prince, and the 14th Prince, Mo Jingxuan. Who knows what happened to the other royal siblings? 🤷🏻‍♀️)
All sorts of hijinks ensue as the women swap around inside that body. It all has to do with some sort of soul magic, which in turn has to do with a Demon King who, as you can tell from the name, is a baddie. It all culminates into a mind-bending conclusion that involves previous lives and grudges and longing and promises. The fewer questions you ask, the better.
It was not a big budget production, and I have serious questions about the costume designer’s judgment (see screencap below). But it nevertheless turned out to be a massive hit, so…
MY EYES, MY EYES... The costume designer really did Fourteenth Prince a dirty.
MY EYES, MY EYES... The costume designer really did Fourteenth Prince a dirty.
…THEY DID IT AGAIN!
《双世宠妃 II The Eternal Love II 》 opens with some quick reference to how our romantic heroes, Qu Xiaotan and Mo Liancheng, have ended up in modern-day China. She doesn’t seem to remember him anymore, but he remembers their love, so he’s trying to woo her back, and then they somehow or other fall through time and space again and end up in a parallel Dongyue from the one they were in last season.
《双世宠妃 II The Eternal Love II 》
《双世宠妃 II The Eternal Love II 》
Mo Liancheng continues in his pursuit of Qu Xiaotan, but now there is two of him. They’re not living in the same body, though, so Mo Liancheng-with-the-memories-of-their-love has to disguise himself. Don’t worry, the two Mo Lianchengs manage to merge themselves—again, I am not taking questions at this time—so our heroine doesn’t need to be in a polyamorous relationship with two of the same dude. (Would that still be polyamorous?)
So, I thought that was ridiculous enough, and that we’ve had enough fun with this random world. Until this year, when I discovered that…
《双世宠妃 III The Eternal Love III 》
《双世宠妃 III The Eternal Love III 》
…THEY DID IT AGAIN, AGAIN!
《双世宠妃 III The Eternal Love III 》 is the fourth time Xing Zhaolin and Liang Jie have starred in a drama together as the main romantic couple. Apart from The Eternal Love seasons, they also did 《你是我的命中注定 You Are My Destiny 》 together.
At this point, I think fans just like to see them making out. The kissing even becomes a plot point: in this other parallel Dongyue (different from the Dongyue of season 2, which was different from the Dongyue of season 1), Mo Liancheng is facing some memory problems, and only occasionally snaps back to himself—which gets undone if they kiss. Which makes you wonder why they still kiss so much.
(Liang Jie and Xing Zhaolin have so much chemistry and seem so comfortable with each other by now that I’m half-expecting them to one day confess that they’ve secretly been married for years.)
Thank God, the costumes improved drastically between season 1 and season 3.
Thank God, the costumes improved drastically between season 1 and season 3.
Just to mix things up a little bit more, the parallel Dongyue of season 3 turns out to be a matriarchal society, where it’s women who rule, sit for the imperial exams, and become officials. Women are also the heads of the household, and allowed to have multiple husbands to serve them.
(There is one bit in the series where Qu Xiaotan observes that, given this matriarchal arrangement, all the children in the Mo family in this Dongyue must have been born from the same mother, which means… jeez, she’s birthed 14 kids?! Mo Jingxuan, the 14th child, briefly explains that there are multiple sets of twins among his older siblings. But in this season, we only see the three sons and one sister, so I guess we’ve got to assume all the twins are dead or something. The show moves straight on with zero explanation.)
The swapping of gender roles creates some opportunity for a bit more sub-plot and fun, and leads the characters to talk more about gender equality. It’s a nice side point to their bigger mission of trying to figure out what is up with this parallel dimension—an evil queen is involved—and how they can get home to their Dongyue (i.e. season 2 Dongyue) and their son.
(In season 1, they also have a son before getting transported to modern-day China and then to parallel Dongyue, but no one seems to remember or ask about Season 1 Son. I guess they just don’t love him as much as Season 2 Son, sorry.)
Kirsten Han 韩俐颖
That moment when you're watching a silly drama and they suddenly start talking about fighting gender roles and trying to make their manor more gender equal https://t.co/WxNRlk3yTH
I Cannot Hug You
I kind of think of Xing Zhaolin as one of my go-to nonsense drama idols, because here he is again with another ridic show from 2017.
《无法拥抱你 I Cannot Hug You 》 is about vampires. Yup. Vampires. But they aren’t the vampires we’re familiar with. These vampires can walk around in daylight. They also don’t drink blood; instead, they get their sustenance from touch. When they make skin contact with humans, they suck a little bit of their life force from them. Brief contacts are fine and cause no harm, but prolonged contact can be dangerous.
《无法拥抱你 I Cannot Hug You 》
《无法拥抱你 I Cannot Hug You 》
Li Shiya (Zhang Yuxi) is a beautiful but somewhat jaded vampire, who one day comes across the yummiest life force ever ever ever. Unfortunately for her, it belongs to Jiang Zhihao (Xing Zhaolin), a germaphobe who hates being touched. How’s she gonna get him?
The story’s based on a Korean webtoon that I’ve not read, but just that premise alone guarantees it entry to the nonsense drama category. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched this show, and to be honest all I can really remember about it is how nonsense it was. The Xing Zhaolin x Zhang Yuxi chemistry doesn’t come anywhere close to Xing Zhaolin x Liang Jie, though.
I watched 《无法拥抱你 I Cannot Hug You on Viki. It’s technically two seasons of 16 episodes each, but they’re presented as one big series on Viki.
My Amazing Boyfriend and My Amazing Boyfriend 2: Unforgettable Impression
As far as nonsense dramas go, I actually really enjoyed 《我的奇妙男友 My Amazing Boyfriend 》. It has a premise that’s very similar to the Korean drama My Love from the Star, which I haven’t seen, but that’s apparently where the similarity ends.
Wu Qian (who I love) plays Tian Jingzhi, a slightly spoilt but quite unlucky actress, who crosses paths with Xue Lingqiao (a very clearly dubbed and somewhat awkward Kim Tae-hwan), a mutant man with immortality who has lain dormant for a very long time. Because of a car accident, Jingzhi’s blood awakens Lingqiao, and they become connected (he can sense when she’s in distress, etc.)
《我的奇妙男友 My Amazing Boyfriend 》
《我的奇妙男友 My Amazing Boyfriend 》
Naturally, there’s a bad guy who knows Xue Lingqiao’s secret and wants eternal life, so they have to guard against that and try to catch the bad guy, while falling in love. ❤️ There are fun characters—I really enjoyed the supporting cast as well—and it’s a nice OTP.
My Amazing Boyfriend itself almost didn’t qualify as a nonsense drama, because I liked it so much as a rom-com, but its sequel is definitely nonsense.
《我的奇妙男友 2 之念念不忘 My Amazing Boyfriend 2: Unforgettable Impression 》
《我的奇妙男友 2 之念念不忘 My Amazing Boyfriend 2: Unforgettable Impression 》
They couldn’t get the same actors for the leads when it came to the second season, but weren’t going to let that stop them. Enter Thai-Chinese actor Mike D'Angelo and the very cute Esther Yu, putting their spin on the same characters. There might be some continuity in plot, but no need for continuity in character personalities for a show like this!
Following on from the previous series, the premise of My Amazing Boyfriend 2 is that Tian Jingzhi is pregnant, but because the baby is half-human, half-mutant superhuman, there are a bunch of complications. Enter other mutants—there are others! one of whom is her adopted uncle! where the hell did that come from! and she never knew!—and lots of drama about this pregnancy and the future of Xue Lingqiao and Tian Jingzhi as a couple.
King Is Not Easy
I watched this one ages and ages ago so here’s what I remember of it. A young woman, recognised as the best chef in the capital, falls in love at first sight with a handsome imperial guard. To get closer to him, she signs up to be a servant girl in the palace. But everything goes ridic when she accidentally ends up swapping bodies with the emperor himself.
Thrown together, the two have to figure out how the hell they’re going to deal with the situation, and it seems like a fairly straightforward, albeit silly, body-swap drama until the very end, where they throw in this whole backstory about some sort of thing about “sky demons” and illusions and revenge. A fan has taken a stab at explaining it here, but trust me, this shit just comes out of nowhere rrrrright at the end.
《大王不容易 King Is Not Easy 》
《大王不容易 King Is Not Easy 》
The Birth of the Drama King
I have no idea why the English title of this 2019 show is The Birth of the Drama King. It has nothing to do with the actual show. The original Chinese title is 《少年江湖物语》, which translates to something like “the story of the jianghu youth”. (I have no idea how to translate “jianghu”, but here’s a link to a paper that I found tracing the use of the term—I haven’t read it all myself but am intending to!)
Two brothers were separated as children after the death of their parents. Zip forward 10 years, and Ji Chuan (Zhou Yanchen) is the new leader of sect of supposed baddies (although you don’t see them actually do anything that bad?) Zhao Qingfeng (Luo Mingjie), on the other hand, is recognised as the top swordsman in the pugilist world, although he belongs to the rather downtrodden Haoran Alliance where everyone is very poor but extremely soft-hearted.
Zhao Qingfeng decides to infiltrate Ji Chuan’s sect so he can collect intel on when they are planning to attack the Haoran Alliance. Unfortunately, he’s not a very smooth operator; he’s actually what we in Singapore would call a blur sotong. He and Ji Chuan end up developing a silly but sweet bromance. Of course, it’s made quite obvious from early on that they are the long-lost brothers, only one is too afraid of making assumptions, and the other is too lost in his own world to see what’s in front of his face.
《少年江湖物语 The Birth of the Drama King 》
《少年江湖物语 The Birth of the Drama King 》
Once you accept that this show is not here for any deep, intricate plots or schemes, and that its sets are so low-budget they literally wobble, then you can just sit back and take the humour as it comes. And it is very silly humour. I gobbled this show up, and my brain thanked me for it because it just clocked off while I watched. Also, if you’re a fan of The Untamed, you get to see Song Jiyang play a very different role here; he is sooooo rude and bad-tempered in this show that I actually found it cathartic to just watch him shout at people for no good reason.
You can watch 《少年江湖物语 The Birth of the Drama King for free (with some ads) on iQiyi.
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Kirsten, the Samseng Zhabor
Kirsten, the Samseng Zhabor @kixes

A random, whimsical newsletter on dramas, cats, and life. Written by a journalist in need of a break from the news.

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