On Call 36 Hours really strikes a chord with me. Perhaps it reminds me of Grey’s Anatomy, the first wonderful season that is. “Hippocratic Crush” is it’s English title, although many have found it silly, I understand the philosophical meaning behind it. The TVB drama series centers around doctors- whether they are interns, residents or specialists- who undergoes Hippocratic oath (and must operate within the confines of Hippocrates medical belief) that they will practice medicine ethically and honestly. They all have a “crush” on such value because they strive to understand what it means to be a good doctor. It is interesting to watch the differences of healthcare professionals in Hong Kong versus the United States, but understanding that there are universal themes and truths behind the profession.
This 25 episode medical drama follows the lives and journeys of interns and residents in Mercy Hospital of Hong Kong, who must prove that they will make the cut as doctors or determine their specialty field by working the 36 hours on call shifts. The writing, acting and directing is really quite something- pointing out that doctors aren’t superheroes; they are human, normal people who make mistakes but that the stakes are so much higher. Amidst the themes developed through the interesting medical cases paralleled with the doctors’ lives, we are also given romantic entanglement, family conflict and healthy doses of friendship. It is indeed a well-rounded story: funny, touching and tear jerking at the same time.
First and foremost, the story draws us into the life of Dr. Cheung Yat Kin, a brilliant Neurosurgery Resident who is a little rough around the edges. He is cut and dry with his interns, expecting them to take their jobs seriously, and so he hardly smiles. His stoic attitude is intriguing, allowing one to peel away the layers of his character. This drama does so well in giving us bits and pieces of each character’s lives and intricately lacing them together like a beautiful, complicated web. Yat Kin has tunneling vision. His priority is to work hard, earn his way into his mentor’s private practice so he could afford to send his handicapped brother abroad to study. Therefore this leaves no room for distractions, especially in his true desire to remain in a public hospital or entangle himself with romance. As a personal development, Yat Kin has to learn the thin line between being a good doctor and adhering to the policies and procedures of the hospital.
Dr. Fan Chi Yu on the other hand, came from a renowned medical family- after all her father is the infamous Dr. Fan Chi Ngok- and she wanted to be a Neurosurgeon since she was born. But growing up under her father’s limelight has its challenges; people won’t see her talents for what they are. So as a first year resident, she wanted to start on a clean slate by hiding the fact that she’s Dr. Fan’s daughter and proving to everyone that can she can be an adept Neurosurgeon on her own. This secret backfired when she bonded with an intern, Hung Mei Suet, an ambitious and competitive woman who has so much in common with her- Yu thinks that Mei Suet believes she only became a doctor due to her father’s merit. Little did Yu know that Mei Suet silently despises her because of a family drama. This sets a competitive precedence from Mei Suet to Yu who happens to be her biological older sister. Talk about drama!
The slow burn romance between Yat Kin and Yu really pulls me in. Their love is built on mutual respect, understanding and friendship. It is one of those romances that you want to root for and hope that nothing and no one, stands in their way. They also challenge each other to be better doctors, better people. But towards the third act of the drama, from episode 22 onwards, my attention is completely and irrevocably tuned into Dr. Ben Lau and Mei Suet. I’m sure many people may hate or find that Mei Suet is annoying for trying to come in between Yat Kin and Yu, but there’s something about Mandy the actress (Mei Suet) who I somehow love (with no idea why), and I empathize with her character. For a long time she never knew she had a sister, yet all of a sudden, this older sister comes into her life and competes with her in every avenue- profession, romance and even character. Mei Suet couldn’t fathom that there was someone she couldn’t beat. But through Ben Lau, she learns to differentiate between love and competition.
Let’s talk about Ben Lau- better yet, Ben Yuen the actor. Whoa there- hotness in Orthopedic unit. There’s something to be said about ortho docs, they are hottt. From the beginning, I enjoy watching the bromance between Yat Kin and Ben, and I liked that Ben- although a player- is always a good friend. But by episode 22, he’s the spotlight in the drama and I fell completely in love with his character. I love his backstory- the contradictions of his character- and ultimately his insightful quotes. He really does get the best lines.
At first Yat Kin and Yu kept me entertained in the romance department, but when Ben Lau happened by, I completely shipped for him. His love story with Mei Suet is developed quickly due to life threatening circumstances, and I’ve always had a thing for male characters that has take-no-prisoner attitude about life, who are strong and who aren’t afraid to admit their feelings. Ben is all that and more. And that kiss? Holey toledo, it got hot in here.
Another character that I adore is “Onion” or Dr. Yeung Pui Chung who had the biggest character arch in this series. He got into medicine with smarts and not compassion. He prefers to play sports and video games than to take his internship seriously. But because he started at such a low point, there’s so much growth to be had. From the beginning I agreed with Yat Kin, that Onion is not cut out for being a doctor. But over time, through his trials and tribulations, I found myself rooting for him too, and he became a worthy character in his own right. He’s a good friend to Yu, whom he admires, and he’s simply one of those stand-alone characters in a drama that keeps everything moving along smoothly.
Lessons could be learned every day between the junction of life and death. As Dr. Ben Lau once said, “No one can guarantee that once you walk out of the house today, you’ll come back safely. That’s why you have to appreciate every moment for your life.” Amen. This drama leaves me with so much food for thought that I will remain satiated for a long time to come. TVB got it so right.
And even better news, they are currently filming On Call 36 Hours Part II!
(*You can spazz for the characters at Asian Fanatic Forum, pic credit to Asianfanatics)