Happy Friday! This week’s “global TV to watch” includes three series from the Far East in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US.

The Ghost Bride
The Ghost Bride: Huang Pei Jia as Pan Li Lan — Photo credit: Creative Stew / Netflix

Here is the States, May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, an observance which, per the U.S. Department of State, “celebrate[s] Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States and pay[s] tribute to the generations who have enriched and strengthened our nation.”

Our “global TV to watch” selections today are titles that contribute to audiences’ entertainment enjoyment. They include series from Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam — three countries in Southeast Asia whose television productions seem to get acquired less often by non-Asian streaming or linear channels, and thus get less media coverage, than shows from, say, South Korea, Japan, and China. (It could be that the former produce fewer shows, but still.)

Against the Tide (Singapore)

Full disclosure: I’m only a few episodes into this 23-episode crime drama/psychological thriller, so details will be limited here. The series follows three central characters who, in effect, partner up to solve crimes. They initially become linked through one crime: the abduction of a young woman, Agnes, who goes on “compensated dates,” a very polite euphemism for prostitution. After escaping her captor and while recovering in hospital, Agnes is confronted by Superintendent Zhou Jian-fang (Desmond Tan, The Truth Seekers), a hot-headed, presumptuous, almost abusive cop intent on interrogating her. Trying to protect Agnes, but asking her own set of probing questions, is Dr. Qiu Xue-qing (Rui En, Unriddle), aka Dr. Snow, a self-assured psychiatrist. What Agnes reveals points to the perpetrator being someone who is acting out the plot of a novel by famous crime writer Di Shen (Christopher Lee, The Oath (not the deceased British actor, lol)).

The catching of the culprit does not the end of the story make, as the conclusion of the first multi-episode story bleeds into the opening of the next. Here we see Qiu attending one of Di Shen’s book reading and author Q&A events, which devolves into chaos when a gas bomb is set off, prompting Zhou to investigate and to interrogate the writer and the shrink… And this is as far as I got in Against the Tide before I was off to surgery! Despite some aspects of the series being kinda hokey, I do enjoy the crime storylines and bits of kung fu sprinkled in them (and I can already sense a love triangle coming into play), so I’ll be picking up where I left off in short order.

All 23 episodes of Against the Tide are currently available for streaming in the US (and likely other territories) on Netflix. Twenty-two of them are available for free on YouTube, courtesy of Mediacorp. (For English subtitles on the YouTube episodes, turn on the closed captions.)

The Ghost Bride (Malaysia)

Don’t let the title fool you. The Ghost Bride is not a single-genre show. Rather, this six-part series is a murder mystery and a romantic comedy-drama wrapped inside a fantasy drama — one filled with spooky and humorous bits, evil and benevolent characters, and red herrings.

Set in the 1890s during the colonial period in Malacca, Malaysia, The Ghost Bride follows Li Lan (Huang Pei Jia, Goodbye Again), the plucky 20-year-old daughter of widower Mr. Pan. His business is in trouble and wealthy Madam Lim knows it, so she offers him a deal: his money worries will be over if Li Lan marries her son, Tian Ching (Kuang Tian, 52Hz, I Love You). The thing is, Tian Ching died a month ago, so Li Lan would be a ghost bride, haunted and unhappy in this life and in death.

Without getting into spoilers, Li Lan finds herself in the Netherworld, where Tian Ching has been (ahem) living it up since his death. Also in the land of the walking dead is Er Lang (Kang Ren Wu, Mom, Don’t Do That), a young man Li Lan had met at the palatial home of Madam Lim during a party, only Er Lang isn’t dead; he isn’t even dying. (He isn’t who he says he is, either.) Meanwhile, in the land of the living, Madam Lim continues to burn offerings for her late son to keep him in comfort, while her nephew, Tian Bai (Ludi Lin, Black Mirror), whom Li Lan has been crushing on since their teen years, races against the clock with Mr. Pan and Li Lan’s amah to try to save Li Lan from an eternity of misery.

The Ghost Bride is currently available for streaming globally on Netflix.

Scarlet Hill (Vietnam)

This eight-episode supernatural mystery-crime drama is one of the slowest-burning shows I’ve watched in recent memory, but it tells an intricate, layered, and intriguing story, so it’s worth sticking with. It opens in medias res, with a fisherman being startled awake by a dead body hitting his boat. A few days earlier, real estate developer Luu (Quoc Huy, Vong Nhi), his fiancée Vy (Tram Anh, The Talent), and her seven-year-old son, Bao (Phan Minh Anh), are driving to Scarlett Hill, where they’re staying in a guest cabin as part of both Luu’s “experimental homestay project” and Vi’s therapy to help her get over her fear of intimacy. Almost as soon as they arrive, Vy starts having visual and auditory hallucinations.

Although the cabin in Scarlet Hill, set amidst fields of ruby-red snapdragons, is modern and nice, the area around it is remote and rundown, owing to years of neglect by the landowner, who, along with her two sons, daughter-in-law, and staff of three, live meager existences. So, too, does the nearby shaman, whose powers are authentic and can be used for good or evil. As the story progresses, episodes open in 1997 to provide the backstory on events in the present, in which Vy finds herself a key suspect in the murder of the victim in the river. Investigating the homicide are a veteran detective and his young sidekick, who soon realize that Vi is just one amongst several people caught up in a web of lies, deceit, lust, and greed.

Scarlet Hill is currently available for streaming in the US (and likely other territories) on Netflix.


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Global TV to Watch: Against the Tide, The Ghost Bride & Scarlet Hill
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