Anita Mui, 1963-2003

A legend lost with Mui’s passing (The Star Online), Hong Kong star dies from cancer (BBC News, video)

Listen: Xi Yang Zhi Ge (MIDI)

For those of you that aren’t Cantopop fans, Western audiences know Anita Mui as the shopkeeper in Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx. Those that are more familar with Asian film remember her as Wonder Woman in The Heroic Trio . What has to be remembered is her long time generosity in support of charity and of younger performers that followed her path. I don’t know too many people who have the strength and willpower to do an 8 night in a row solo concert series while suffering from the final stages of cancer.

I knew nothing about Cantopop before my first trip to Hong Kong in 1991. By then Anita had already retired from singing for the first time and was well into her second career in movies. However, one always knew about her career as the running theme and the continual reinvention of Hong Kong entertainment; she wasn’t called the “Madonna of Asia” for nothing. She was part of my education, in my playing catch-up in Asian culture. I know some people snicker when you mention Cantopop and culture in the same breath, but you miss the romance of the Hong Kong people without it. Thank you, Anita.

According to the Star’s article (Malaysia), Anita had said if she had the chance to further her education, she would rather have been a lawyer.

Eve of New Year’s Eve’s new ad commentator, Seth Stevenson, presents a hilarious review of the ad for “Levitra” (a Viagra competitor). He’s different from’s previous ad commentator, Rob Walker – Stevenson’s quite sharply funny (with fine tuned opinion-making), while Walker was more analytical and less ha-ha funny (but still witty and critical).

David Bianculli, tv critic of Daily News, the NY hometown paper, did his year-end list. I wouldn’t exactly put out a list, as I would have trouble ranking things. But, I’d note a couple of things.

I’m still hoping ABC will improve its outlook (having long been my old favorite network), but it’s a slow climb to travel up the ratings.

– I agree that “Alias” is still strong – although it’s not as fun without Lena Olin as Secret Agent Sydney’s Evil Spy Mom, I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing Isabella Rossellini as Sydney’s Evil Spy Aunt (yet another European actress of a certain age making a shot at American television) – should be good viewing for 2004.

– “Karen Sisco” – will ABC put it back on? It had such potential, but, I kept wanting… more. Too bad actor Gary Cole only had a few episodes in the show – he was fascinating as Karen’s counterpoint.

– I’m pleasantly surprised that “8 Simple Rules…” has continued to do all right so far. Not bad. I still miss John Ritter as an actor, but good to see that his okay show is on.

– “Threat Matrix” is still on? Wow. I still don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

WB and WB-related stuff:
– “Buffy” is sorely missed, even as it ended its run on UPN. But, “Angel” during the last quarter of 2003 has been amazingly picking up the slack in the Buffy universe/timeline. I didn’t quite like how the previous season of “Angel” ended back in May, but it has been solid so far in this television season. Let’s see who is the Big Bad Villain really is in 2004.

– “Everwood” on WB is good viewing, even in reruns. But, I wouldn’t get too excited about the WB otherwise; I’m not sure what to make of the so-called angst on the “One Tree Hill” (only knowing what I see when I see commercials and channel-change). Oh, and let’s not forget that 2003 said “so long” to “Dawson’s Creek.” It was a strangely moving series finale – satisfying, in an unfair way (for instance, did Kevin Williamson really have to do in Jen? But, ah, nice way of making Pacey and his brother settle down and making Dawson move on with his life (the Dawson storyline was the only thing predictable)). Anyway, the Dawson crew have moved on; so have we.

Fall 2003 introduced us to “Joan of Arcadia” – and I’m still very impressed about it. It’s almost making me like CBS again (otherwise, I get so tired of being jerked around by the “huh?” plotlines of “The Guardian” and the “Good grief” plotlines of “JAG” and “Judging Amy” and tended to avoid the sitcoms, except maybe “Raymond” – and I have yet to forgive CBS for cancelling an old favorite show from long ago). “Survivor” still rules, apparently. Whether I like the rest of reality tv is a different story.

I agree with Bianculli about “Monk” – it’s a fun, light show. A further plug for cable – I enjoyed much of the “MI-5” series on A&E (thanks to my sis for the cable access), a Brit-imported series about Britain’s counter-espionage agency. You never know who’s going to die in that show, unlike most American shows.

I will miss “Boomtown.” Not an easy show to grasp, with its weird storytelling, but a creative tout-de-force nonetheless, even if NBC tried to make it simpler. I caught a bit of the episode yesterday (regrettably missing the marathon on Saturday – shame on me!), as NBC burns out what’s left of the first-run episodes – Neil McDonough as David McNorris, the deputy DA of LA – such a good tv actor. Can’t believe it’s time to say goodbye to “Friends” in 2004; and will we really say goodbye to “Frasier”?

FOX: “Arrested Development” is a strangely interesting. Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie are… well, my brothers like “A Simple Life.” ‘Nuff said, I guess. “World Idol” has been a fun holiday thing, even if not very holiday-relevant. “American Idol” is what it is.

It has been quite a year for tv news – but, news junkies already know that. 2004 won’t end the media mayhem, but we should be hopeful for more positive news. Maybe.

I’ll say it now, while I can – Happy New Year! See you in 2004.