[Drama Review] Channel-X - Episode 1

The episode starts off with Hong Xiao-lu (Amber Kuo) falling to her death and An Zai-yong (Joe Cheng) at the scene of the crime. As Zai-yong flees the scene from police, he spots a surveillance camera and blames Xiao-lu's death on the television viewers. Flash back to the past, and Big TV news anchor Zai-yong is about to do a news broadcast of an environmentalist protest led by his fiancee Luo Shan-shan (Michelle Chen). The protest is against big oil company IPIC -- whom also happens to be Big TV's new parent company -- in front of the Big TV building. As the protest is taking place, Xiao-lu sneaks in the Big TV building to sabotage the visit of IPIC CEO and Big TV's new president Chen Jia-lin (Ivan Ai).

Zai-yong later secures an exclusive interview with the new Big TV president regarding the protest following the president's welcome ceremony, but the ceremony is cut short by Xiao-lu's indoor fireworks and anti-corporate banner sabotage. As the president is about to leave the building, Joe forces an on-the-spot interview and questions the president for using Big TV to propagandize IPIC's environmental actions to the public. The president counters by denying IPIC's environemtal damage and pledges that the channel will broad fair and balanced news, which Zai-yong grudgingly accepts.

There's conflict between the news staff as Zai-yong seeks for the truth and news reporter Li Wen-qing (Hank Wu) seeks objective reporting, but news producer Kong Yuan-qing (Chris Lee) sides with Zai-yong because his coverage brings in top ratings. Meanwhile, realizing that Xiao-lu's plans to discredit IPIC and Big TV backfires, she decides to follow Zai-yong back to his home and find some dirt on him to discredit Big TV's ratings grabber. Xiao-lu soon discovers that Zai-yong's fiancee Shan-shan has an ambiguously close relationship with a fellow environmental activist friend, whom happens to get arrested that night for assault due to his paranoia that IPIC is trying to kill him. Zai-yong's fiancee leaves to the police station later at night to pay his bail, and Zai-yong secretly records the colleague physically showing his feelings on his fiancee.

More conflict in the news room as Zai-yong and the news reporter quarrel, but the news producer sides with Zai-yong again due to ratings. The Big TV president then gets a call from Shan-shan's activist friend threatening his life, and Zai-yong is later on the beach taking wedding photos with his fancee, whom later spots Xiao-lu spying on them. Zai-yong gives chase, catches Xiao-lu as she reveals photos to him that his fiancee is having relations with her activist friend.

One of the riskiest things that a drama serial can do is to show the ending or a significantly future event and then try to tell the story of how that latter event came to be.  Done well, and audiences are left in suspense at trying to piece together the details that brings everything into full circle.  Done poorly, and audiences will need to trudge through the story if they wish to see what they know will eventually happen.  Unfortunately for SETTV's latest drama Channel-X, it's initially turning out to be the latter case.

That's not to say that the ending starts off with a bang, because quite simply the ending is truly attention-grabbing: they literally kill off the Amber Kuo's main female character in the first few minutes.  As one wonders how Joe Cheng's main male character got into his position and how he'll get himself out of it, the show does a flashback that tries to show what goes about.  And that's where the problems begin.  What could have been a riveting start that fleshes out the characters and bring about their intentions, instead becomes a checklist of what events happen to reach the shown future event.  Because of this, all the characters show their true colors of either being good or evil, and end up being pretty one-dimensional.

With Joe's news anchor character fighting for the good through reporting the truth, Amber's paparrazi character fighting for her selfish motives to bring down the corporations, and Ivan Ai's character fighting for profits as the evil corporate guy, it's very difficult to care for these shallow portrayal of these characters.  The supporting characters do provide hints of multi-dimensional alignment, having flaws to their own stances of being either good or bad, but they're treated so much like filler characters to advance the plot that already has main characters whom are difficult to sympathize with.

The drama's sole saving grace is that the mystery that led to the eventual deathly fate of Amber's character will pull some people to bear with the current shallow storytelling.  Maybe the drama will indeed get better, and that much desired substance behind the characters' more fleshed-out personalities will come to light.  But when the drama provides little suspense to the next stop in the story timeline, it's easy to ask what the point is to keep watching.  Good dramas shouldn't expect viewers to hope that it gets better in the next episode, especially on the first episode.

Final Grade: C-

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