These reviews are still far too long and take far too long to do. Time to try a new format change from next week, I think.

This week’s non-Exiern featured item is the UK TV show “Life on Mars”

As the narration says, after a hit to the head, our hero finds himself back in 1973. Is he mad? in a coma? or really back in time? Am I trying to say something here about this show? I don’t know, am I?

The sequel “Ashes to Ashes” is also definitely worth a look too. Yes, they’re both named after Bowie songs and use his work a lot. Yet another reason why to see them, as if one was needed.

Right, I’m not going to spend too much time on this episode (yes, I know you’ve all heard that before) but basically this is what happens.

Qi Sheng’s grandmother hears that the whole ‘online’ shopping mall has been a big success and tasks who she thinks is her grand-daughter to find an item.

In getting that item, Zhang Peng spies another forbidden item of great interest to him but has to remain hidden lest he get in trouble.

Predictably, there’s a mistake and said item gets sent to Qi Sheng’s grandmother by mistake. Basically because, deep down, Lu Li can be a bit of an idiot sometimes.

That letter that eunuch Qiang was writing gets delivered to the Qi Sheng instead. I think by the amount of serious side eye that Qi Sheng starts giving him after reading it, we can also guess what the gist of the content is.

Then, we get a demonstration as to how tight money must have been on this production after a word … a very long word from our sponsor

OK, this episode starts with Zhang Peng doing something for the grandmother of Qi Sheng. [NB: between last week’s episode and this one, I’m getting really confused as to who was the previous emperor. I guess I could work it out and I could have re-edited both of these reviews as I wrote them at the same time and the day after Episode 10 went up but I don;t think it really matters, these are all people we never saw on screen anyway.]. She seems to like some sort of finger bending backwards massage thing and Zhang Peng’s more than happy to score gold stars and brownie points.

Have to think of something shorter to call the grandmother of Qi Sheng, so I’m going to go with former Empress. She tells Zhang Peng that the whole shopping mall idea seems to be working quite well. None of the official wives are fighting with each other. Zhang Peng says it’s because it’s providing “psychological sustenance” (i.e. distraction) as he’s doing some sort of finger bendy back thing that the former Empress likes and is basically being a big suck up in order to entrench his position as grand-daughter in law number one.

Qi Sheng might be Emperor now but the former Empress is still the one person who can give him a clip around the ear and put him back in his box. Next step is to find a vase that the former Empress is after. Presumably something by somebody famous which Zhang Peng manages to mix up with a contemporary (for him) artist. Not surprisingly, yet again the former Empress Does Not Get That Reference (would it have hurt to have watched less Korean drama and cracked open a history book or two? I mean, once again I did watch a lot of Korean movies and television but compared to this guy …).

Cut to an incognito meeting with a “dealer”. I’m starting to suspect this show was deliberately not taking things too seriously given that they’re quite clearly out in the open and Zhang Peng’s outfit to not draw attention to himself is exactly the sort of thing that would actually draw everyone’s attention to you.

Luckily, I’m guessing the budget didn’t cover any extras in the background for this scene and so they’re safe. Though probably the first clue to how seriously this show was in the very first minute of the very first episode where one of our hero’s jilted ex-girlfriend was racing towards him along a Chinese freeway in a clearly major city – on a horse.

So, after the obligatory “Oh fancy meeting you here.” after coincidentally walking backwards into each other is out of the way, it turns out one of the eunuchs has been running a very successful trade in antiquities of dubious provenance for some time now. You have to wonder how he’s lasted so long, though because you make sure the item is provided to the buyer away from your stash, don’t take them to where you hide all of it, you fool!

Because if you had, you would have been able to avoid the following debacle. After receiving the vase Zhang Peng was tasked to find, carelessly (and terrifyingly to those who appreciate art) tosses it back to the dealer so he can have a stickybeak at what else he has in that hideaway of his. That hideaway in a strangely open and not terribly well-concealed opening hideaway at that. In short order, we see a not sufficiently concealed scale model of Michaelangelo’s David and then the dealer immediately begging for his life and offering Zhang Peng anything he wants for free.

Turns out Western imports are more dangerous back in the day, like death penalty for possession dangerous. Zhang Peng offers to take it off the dealer’s hands, he’s befuddled as it’s both a fake miniature copy (well, obviously not the original original as that’s huge but I do believe there were genuine scale models Michaelangelo made and used too). Zhang Peng says he’s helping the dealer by getting rid of it for him. He then leaves, promptly forgetting the vase he was sent to get in the first place, necessitating the dealer to chase after him with it.

OK, bit of a history lesson (told you you’re going to get an education here), in the very first episode as Zhang Peng was still trying to get himself killed so he could return to his own time despite there not being a shred of evidence it would work. Important life lesson to reiterate yet again. Just because you saw it on television doesn’t mean it’s true. Even if it’s the news or a supposedly documentary. Especially if it’s the news or a documentary, add to that lifestyle shows and the whole gamut of others that purport to give advice on every facet of your life.

Actually, to intrude on the intrusion, watch this segment on financial planning by John Oliver. This is OK because it’s not telling you how to invest your money, it’s telling you to not to invest your money without doing your research extensively. Don’t give anyone a penny until after watching this and then really think about what you’re going to do with your money before you let go of any of it. After all, it’s much harder to get it back once you’ve let go of it.

Couldn’t find a full clip of the segment but this has some more audio snippets and is also worth a listen.

OK, stepping back up one step on the Inception ladder, back to my earlier point, Zhang Peng said in that first episode that even if they made him Wu Ze Tian, with his current appearance, he would not do it. Who was Wu Ze Tian?

Basically, she was the only female emperor of China. Of course, there were plenty of empresses but she was the only one who ever ruled (The Emperor of China was the title of any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of the Qin dynasty that unified China in 221 BC, until the abdication of Puyi in 1912 following the Xinhai Revolution and the establishment of the Republic of China.). That’s why when Zhang Peng first asks upon arrival if they’re still in China, Lu Li had no idea what he’s talking about. (China, referred to in the term ‘Emperor of China’ is different to what we call modern China).

She lived between the years 624 and 705). Michaelangelo’s David was unveiled in Florence in 1504. So that would seem to go some way to saying when the show is happening. However, there are descriptions in various places (may well be not by the makers) saying this show is set 1000 years or more. It could be any number of reasons. The makers may not feel the need to be bound rigidly to history, they may not have specifically thought about it.

Or what if … what if it’s because Zhang Peng’s just dreaming or hallucinating all this, so that’s why so many things in the so-called past are jumbled as much as they are, because they’re drawn from his memory and he’s remembering facts wrong? Is that what I’m saying? I don’t know. Am I? Is the choice of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes (where after a hit to the head or other injury leads to seemingly traveling back in time) as the TV shows to be featured a coincidence, is that what happened in those shows? Is that what I’m trying to say? I don’t know, am I?

Well, all I’m going to say is that as of yet, they haven’t really specified when this is set and leave it at that.

Moving along, cut to the very next scene where Zhang Peng is looking around his abode in a very concerned fashion. That’s right, we’ve immediately jumped from acquiring the potentially deadly statue to losing the deadly statue. Zhang Peng has also gone through another outfit change for this episode. Unlike Typh who did have one but we barely ever saw wearing anything different, Zhang Peng will be needing an extension to his closet at this point.

Turns out Lu Li saw the covered statue and thought it was the vase that Zhang Peng wanted to send to the former Empress. So she gave it sight unseen to the delivery service (who does that?). At this point, it’s worth remembering that Lu Li is kind of stupid. Zhang Peng isn’t that far behind though with not putting it completely out of site in the first place. What do people do when they see something covered, they often look under the cover (though in the one case it would have helped, the person didn’t. Mind you, even covered, did that even seem like a vase to you, Lu Li? Really?). Additional fun fact is that Lu Li doesn’t react well with talking about penises when Zhang Peng is trying to explain what Michelangelo’s David is given her reaction is a big long “Ewwwwwwww!” (so she clearly didn’t look at it).

Zhang Peng is probably letting this whole being an important personage go to his head as he runs into the mail room to try and intercept the package and first thing he does is boot Yang Yan in the ass. He’s probably done something at some point recently to earn it, though. Zhang Peng throws parcels everywhere (so much for shipping fragile objects) and then learns Scud Delivery has taken it .. for delivery. Yang Yan gets a nosebleed at the sight of the merest hint of cleavage, Zhang Peng is not impressed and even less so when Yang Yan says he can’t betray the Ninth Prince (what does *that* mean?). Nosebleeds are in Japanese manga visual shorthand (and censor-dodging) for being turned on like how tentacles are actually stand-ins for … never mind. You get the picture. It’s been around so long, it’s basically a trope.

Cut to Qi Sheng hearing from eunuch Qiang that the delivery service is doing quite well. Qi Sheng oh so subtly asks about the confidentiality of the service. Qiang says that it doesn’t reveal the name of the sender to the delivery person (Give it up dude, we all know what you’re up to. ) and if you are happy with the service, you can leave a 5 star review. Great, they’ve invented Yelp. Well, this was all good while it lasted.

Anyway, the last bit of this episode proper involves another delivery screw up and this one could be the delivery service’s fault. That letter that eunuch Qiang was writing to ‘little apple’ (whoever that was – Lu Li perhaps? – but why? Also, he’s a eunuch, what would be the point? I guess we’ll find out). Yes, it ends up with Qi Sheng. He definitely shows some emotion after reading this. Sheer terror, mostly as you see his eyes totally bug out. I’ll take the subtitler’s word for it that the letter is the lyrics of an AMA winner in 2014 (some sort of music award, I’m guessing). He’s also giving Qiang some serious terrified side-eye given that he signed it (word of advice, don’t leave a paper trail for this sort of thing). For some reason, a delivery from some distant province of actual apples no less turns up for the Emperor’s inspection and he absolutely flips his lid, shouting “No more apples!” and even trying to stomp them after knocking them on the ground. Qiang, wondering what that was all about, ends up eating them after Qi Sheng runs off. Hey, 5 second rule and all that and even more than 5 seconds is OK depending on circumstances, though I’d recommend running them under a tap first.

It gets worst when the next scene is Qiang coming to give Qi Sheng his bath. To really play up the comedy aspect, they even play the romantic music that usually accompanies Qi Sheng and one of his potential romantic interests when Qiang enters the room while a clearly terrified Qi Sheng watches his approach. Qiang also picks the worst possible time to complement Qi Sheng on his admittedly impressive pectorals and abdominal muscles. Trying to touch them at that point was definitely a bridge too far. At this point, Qi Sheng says he’ll do his own bath, thank you.

He also says he doesn’t want to hurt anyone and invents the metric system and the restraining order to make a point of asking Qiang to stay 3 metres away from him at all times (OK, I might have the sequence of events a bit out of order here but never mind, you get the idea and it doesn’t matter anyway.) Qiang is just a bit perplexed by all this as he doesn’t know about the letter (thinking it’s elsewhere) and he’s served Qi Sheng since childhood and this hasn’t happened before (the implications of serving since a young age … well, given what that means for someone in his position … I’ve leaving this point hanging now …).

The very final scenes abruptly jumps with no explanation to Qi Sheng and Prince Zhao in armor and about to throw down while being watched by everyone else over Qi Sheng’s relationship with Zhao’s Wife. Which then abruptly turns into some sort of rap battle instead announced by a character who we won’t see for some episodes yet carrying a big sign. Which then turns into a very long condom commercial instead.

Yes, that’s right. Remember how I said the budget is very low for this sort of show? Well, apparently Armor (the brand name) was the only sponsor. So we get things like this. Everyone’s still their characters (there goes the Fourth Wall, already teetering but probably beyond repair at this point as it’s been blown into a million pieces at this point) too but now we see make-up people and the very modern director with megaphone yelling orders and kicking eunuchs who step out of line. So, this is not so much embedded advertising as taking over. They have a lot to say about this product (in verse, no less). Ends with Qi Sheng posing with four of his five wives hanging off him. Is the message that use this product and you too can have all this? Zhang Peng for once is clever enough to be nowhere to be seen while this was all going on.

Still, it’s only 5-6 minutes of one episode and if it helped get the rest made, we can live with it. Now I could do the sex education talk now but I’ve already done the financial advice one, so maybe later. We don’t want information overload now, do we? I bet you can all hardly wait.

Miscellaneous observations:

This is a very, very silly show.