Empresses in the Palace (American Version)

EmpressesInPalaceSuggested by Brad Nelson • Set in 1722 during the Qing Dynasty, this an epic tale of love, betrayalm and scandal told from inside the Imperial Harem. In a world filled with treachery and corruption, who will truly win the Emperor’s heart and reign supreme?
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One Response to Empresses in the Palace (American Version)

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Because I have two episodes under my belt, I thought I’d report back on this TV series.

    Empresses in the Palace is “the grand story of the inner workings of the harem of classic China.” It’s set in the Qing Dynasty and centers around the life of Zhen Huan, played by Li Sun. She is not the most beautiful of the harem in terms of physical beauty. But when you add her talents and her soul, she’s the girl the others love to hate.

    This is a little dull and disjointed. Filmed in China, you get the impression this is the Chinese version of “Masterpiece Theatre.” It’s heavily based on dialogue with very little action, per se (or, if there was more action, it was cut out for this extremely shorter American version). But I found the first two episodes fascinating if only for the immersion in this culture which on the surface was as polite and formal as could be, but underneath was roiling all the human passions and evils.

    Instead of being blown on sword fights and battles, the budget for this series seems to have been blown on the costumes and amazing sets. To my untrained eye, they certainly look authentic. In the costumes alone there is a richness and splendor far surpassing the slutty attire of the jet set that you see on Oscar night.

    The emperor, Yongzheng — played by Jianbin Chen — judging by these first two episodes, is an even-tempered and cultured man. Indeed, he also seems to be a likable and congenial man, and a father-like figure to many. But he will, of course, sentence someone to death in a heartbeat if certain rules are broken (such as trying to poison one of his concubines). But he is not quick to anger and has the benefit of the wisdom of his Empress, played with regal sophistication by Ada Choi. It is a complex life at court, and the Empress Dowager Renshou has reminded the emperor, in effect, that to avoid unneeded tension and rivalries, he needs to make sure to spread his “affection” around his harem fairly evenly.

    This 2012 series consists of 6 episodes (9 hours — available for streaming on Netflix), cut down in this American version from the original 76 episodes. But with 84% of the original scenes cut, I think one should either go back and do the Fully Monty (and learn Mandarin, because there are no subtitles in the original version broadcast in China) or learned to live with the chopped-up nature of this summary of the series just to get a feel for what it is. This severe condensation is a problem because the way it’s done, you are doing little more than fast-forwarding and then wondering what they hell it was you missed, because there is definite discontinuation in this short American series.

    Still, it’s good for a couple episodes anyway to see the splendor, mystery, and pomp of ancient Chinese court life. More info on the American version can be found here.

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