According to the creator of The Twilight Zone, the late great Rod Serling, writing for TV is like being a plow. In the case of these Chinese costume serials, the writers must be digging a very deep trench.
1) The heroine is:
a) A poor servant-girl bought from her family after some natural disaster wiped out her entire village.
b) A poor orphan sold as a concubine to a rich patriarchal merchant-class family/ royal family.
c) A poor girl sold into prostituition and then sold on as a concubine to a rich patriarchal merchant-class family.
d) A poor girl whose mother was sold into prostituition and then sold on as a concubine to a rich patriarchal merchant-class family/ royal family.
2) The heroine’s love-interest is:
a) The eldest son of the patriarchal family.
b) The younger brother/ best friend of the eldest son of the patriarchal family.
c) The captain of the guard of the royal family.
d) The son of the antagonistic patriarchal family.
3) The main antagonist is:
a) The cast-off first wife who wears pearls in her coiffed hair.
b) The matriarch of the family
c) The town gossip.
d) All of the above combined into one character due to TV budgetary constrictions.
4) The comic-relief is provided by:
a) A physically handicapped fat kid.
b) A pair of well-meaning but dim servants who are on the heroine’s side.
c) The flirtatious interplay between the heroine’s best friend and another lower male servant.
d) A pair of eunuchs. Sometimes the pair referred to in (c).
5) Every episode MUST contain scenes of:
a) Conspiratorial second glances, close-ups and quick zooms of the actors’ faces.
b) Copious weeping.
c) Some character’s mother banging her heads against the floor or next available pillar, imploring the antagonist to spare their offspring’s life.
d) The heroine stoically rebuffing the hero’s romantic intentions, with more copious weeping.
6) Every week must end on a cliffhanger. Choose one of the following:
a) The heroine faces rape at the hands of the patriarch of the family.
b) The heroine is raped and is forced to marry her rapist.
c) The antagonist commands the heroine to be raped by one of her sons/ servants. And (b) is the continuing story arc.
d) The hero is wrongfully accused of raping the heroine’s best friend and the heroine must clear his name in a climatic court scene, during which the hero’s mother implores the chief justice for mercy and bangs her head on the floor/pillar.
7) Costumes should be made according to the following specifications:
a) Yak hair wigs and false beards for the men.
b) Flyaway hair extensions for the ladies, that fly away during action scenes.
c) Appalling synthetic silks in florescent colours
d) Utter disregard for historical accuracy.
8. Essential props and scene decor:
a) Inlaid mother-of-pearl furniture. And tea-sets and figurines to put on top of the furniture.
b) Gallons of glycerin for the copious weeping
c) Sliding doors made out of rice-paper.
d) Plastic swords- or failing to procure these; stiff cardboard covered with tin foil
9) The target demographic for such TV serials consists of:
a) Bored housewives
b) Desperately bored housewives
c) Desperate housewives who are bored
d) Housewives who feel neither bored or desperate, but cannot decide until they tune in.
10) The soundtrack for the serial MUST include:
a) A namby-pamby title song sung over the opening and closing credits. Available to download as a ringtone.
b) Lots of percussion and woodwind. As if the session- musicians were trying to exorcise evil spirits.
c) Blatant copyright-infringing use of theme tunes from well-known movies such as ‘Star Wars’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Titanic’.
d) Bizarre use of jazz-guitar picking out arpeggios on the oriental scale, during scenes of copious weeping.