Hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers watched with delight on their smartphones and television screens on Monday night the first live TV show produced by satirical magazine 100Most.
People laughed and people cried as they found their feelings reflected in a way rarely attempted by free-to-air broadcasters Television Broadcasts Ltd. (00511.HK) and Asia Television Ltd.
The show was named “TVMost 1st Guy Ten Big Ging Cook Gum Cook Awards Distribution (毛記電視第一屆十大勁曲金曲分獎典禮)”.
It had nothing to do with cooking. Here is what its name, in a mix of Cantonese and English, means: TVMost is 100Most’s online video channel; “1st Guy” is Chinglish for “first ever”; “Ten Big” means “top 10”; and “Ging Cook Gum Cook” is the Cantonese name of TVB’s Jade Solid Gold awards show, which was a must-watch in the heyday of Cantopop but now has a dwindling audience.
Parodying the TVB gala, Monday night’s show awarded prizes to the best performers in TVMost’s weekly online program in 2015.
The program features classic Cantopop songs with lyrics revised to reflect the feelings of Hongkongers on the issues of the day, from politics to the economy to education to the entertainment sector.
The songs, created by 100Most’s in-house team, recall those made wildly popular in the 1970s by Cantopop singer-songwriter Sam Hui Koon-kit, whose biting lyrics addressed the problems and concerns of the time.
Hui’s songs are now classics of Hong Kong culture.
As laughter reached the rafters of a packed Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai Monday night, those who weren’t lucky enough to get tickets in the few minutes before they were sold out watched a live cable broadcast on Now TV at home, with friends in a karaoke room or on open-air TV screens set up in several housing estates.
The award for best Hong Kong male singer went to Australian-born Gregory Charles Rivers (河國榮), who has lived in the city for more than 30 years.
His rap song, Hong Kong (香港地), struck a chord with many in the audience.
Hong Kong people judge the success of individuals on their results and hard work, not on who they are related to or their political stance, the lyrics said.
Hong Kong people love their city no matter whether they are sad or happy, alive or dead, Rivers rapped.
What touched the audience most is that Rivers sang in Cantonese even though, as an Australian, he might have been expected to sing in English, his native tongue.
His fluent Cantonese demonstrated his commitment to the Hong Kong way of life and his pride in speaking the language.
Many in the audience may have been thinking at that moment of former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung, who was chastised for calling last weekend for schoolchildren to be taught Putonghua instead of Cantonese for their Chinese language subject.
While on the topic of language proficiency, pro-establishment lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun was the butt of a song by Denise Ho Wan-see (何韻詩).
Ho, a Cantopop singer who actively supported the Occupy protesters in 2014, brought down the house when she parodied Chung’s occasionally unintelligible remarks, whether in English or Chinese, in the legislature. Such is the quality of local politicians, she seemed to imply.
A song by the “Busy Children Chorus (繁忙兒童合唱團)” satirized the Hong Kong education policies that “incubate” hundreds of thousands of extremely busy schoolchildren, who are shuttled by their parents from supplementary classes taught by private tutors to non-stop after-school activities such as music classes.
Rivers sang another song, Forever ATV (亞視永恒), lampooning the broadcaster, which clings on to life even though its license expires in April. His target was the authorities who have kept the pro-Beijing station on life support for as long as possible to prevent the entry of competitors in the TV market.
Many who watched TVMost’s show shared on social media Monday night the rare feeling they had of “We are Hong Kong”.
In Hong Kong, the mainstream media is dominated by pro-Beijing TV and radio stations, and conservative tycoons control most of the major print outlets.
Traditional Hong Kong media are losing touch with the bulk of their readers and audience as media owners put pressure on editors to avoid politically sensitive content.
By contrast, 100Most, which is run by three former radio program hosts, breaches the red line with a wide range of original works, parodies and satire — content that speaks to the hopes and fears of Hongkongers.
However, whether the show can go on next year is uncertain.
First, if the Legislative Council passes the copyright amendment law this year, 100Most could face legal uncertainty about whether the law’s exemptions for parody and satire cover its works when they are part of a live show with commercial sponsorship.
Second, there could be a change in the ownership of 100Most’s parent company, Blackpaper, as One Media Group, which holds 10 percent of the firm’s shares, plans to sell some or all of its stake.
Even though One Media is only a minority shareholder, what if the new shareholder is pro-Beijing?
Will it allow 100Most to put on such a show of genuine Hong Kong culture?
Let’s wait and see.
(Gregory Charles Rivers x MC Yan)
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