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TV Drama Explores White-collar Dark Side
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Overwork, tension, competition, insecurity, office politics. Sound familiar? Then you'll enjoy From Nine to None, a new Chinese TV series about the Shanghai - and the universal - workplace. Shooting is underway, Shanghai Daily reported.

Nine to five are the traditional office working hours, but more and more stressed white-collar professionals are used to longer hours and working overtime. Their hours are more like nine to "none."

Stories about work - the serious, the funny, the bittersweet, above all the true-to-life - will be told in the new TV drama From Nine to None, which started shooting last Wednesday. It will begin airing late this year.

The TV series explores the heavy workload, driving ambition, stress, tension and, of course, the ever-present office politics of the workplace.

"Naturally, white-collar office workers with decent position and enviable salary are the envy of many," says Yip Chiu-yee, director of the drama. "But what we want to explore are the depression, puzzlement and insecurity beneath their glorious appearance."

College students, new graduates and those just entering the workplace will be key segments of the target audience.

The drama is the latest offering from the newly founded TV drama production company of the Shanghai Film Group Corp. Hong Kong actor Frankie Lam and the mainland actress Zeng Li will play a dating couple - Jin Luyi and Peng Jingying who are both ambitious, forceful and successful in their careers.

Zeng is known for her impressive performance as a tender woman who is unable to defy the destiny in the late designer/artist Chen Yifei's film The Music Box. Now for the first time she plays bai gu jing, an evil sprite in the classic novel Journey to the West. Now the term is widely used to describe the "white-collar elite." Zeng plays a powerful senior executive. Her ambitious lover tries to manipulate her.
"It is different from my former roles," Zeng says. "I have to showcase both her competence and strength at work and her femininity within."

Other characters also suffer from a heavy workload, continuing tension and long-standing, intricate office politics, an unavoidable fact of working life nowadays.

A veteran in TV drama filmmaking, Yip has participated in directing many popular sitcoms set against a metropolitan backdrop for Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) in Hong Kong, such as The Greed of Man and Looking Back to Anger.

"People living in the modern fast-paced city, whether Shanghai or Hong Kong, share similar emotions and pressures," Yip adds.

He says shooting will last for about two months and include Shanghai's landmark office buildings and the Bridge 8, a creative industrial park.

Contestants in the star-making TV show My Hero and Timothy Chao, a host of the popular talk show Work Stuff, will be guest performers.

Producer Zhang Wei says the boom in many entertainment alternatives has made Chinese TV dramas less popular among the young generation. The question is how many young people actually watch TV these days.

"We hope to draw their attention back to Chinese TV dramas through a work that is based on their real-life experiences and can resonate with anyone who seeks the fine balance between work and family," Zhang says.

New college graduates who will soon embark on a promising career are also targeted audience of the series.

"There are still few TV productions to help young people know the world outside the 'ivory tower'," Zhang adds. "This program prepares students to be familiar with knowledge and skills of working."

Television is not the only platform for the TV series as it will also collaborate with Love Radio 103.7 and www.metroer.com to present its special radio/online editions. The cast of the drama, including the scriptwriter and director, will talk about office working with local audiences.

(Shanghai Daily July 3, 2007)

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