Tian Xia Di Yi: my new guilty pleasure

I have a new guilty pleasure, thanks to my friend Jenny: a kung-fu costume drama comedy soap-opera adventure show called Tian Xia Di Yi (天下第一) — which really means something like “World’s Finest,” but they call it “Hero” in the English program listings.

It is an international production with stars from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s on KTSF channel 26 every weeknight at 9. It’s also available on DVD. The version I’m watching is subtitled in both English and Chinese.

Sadly, as far as I can tell there is no English-language website devoted to the show, but here’s the basic premise: During the Ming Dynasty, the emperor’s uncle runs the titular quasi-official spy agency, which employs some of the country’s best young kung-fu warriors as secret agents. The story focuses on four of those agents as they get tangled up in imperial court intrigue involving a conniving power-hungry eunuch, go out on missions, and get sidetracked by demons from their pasts. Sometimes literally.

I love it for a whole host of reasons:

  • It has something for everyone! Corny romance for the chicks, cheesy wire-fu swordfighting for the dudes, references to Chinese mythology and poetry for the hyper-literate, slapstick physical comedy for the kids, and lots of supernatural gobbeldygook for the geeks.
  • It is a strange adventure in dubbing. Some of the actors are speaking Cantonese on set and some are speaking Mandarin, so depending on which country’s version of the show you’re watching, different actors get dubbed over. It took me a while to figure out why it seemed slightly off: in a single scene, two of the actors’ lips will be in sync with what they’re saying, while a third actor will seem like he flunked the ADR class at acting school.
  • The actress playing Princess Yun Luo is a total cutie.
  • It’s a big complicated story but it seems to have been plotted out from the beginning. I’ve caught foreshadowing that didn’t pay off until 15 episodes later, the sort of thing I dig in a TV show. But it should still be pretty easy to jump into for anyone who’s willing to spend a few episodes working out who everyone is and how they all relate.
  • It makes no apologies about demanding your suspension of disbelief. You either run with it or you don’t. One of the female leads spent most of the beginning of the series wandering around in male clothing and only a handful of people realized she was a woman despite it being rather obvious from her looks. Oh, and the special effects are ultra-cheesy.
  • It’s educational! Gotta test my listening and reading comprehension. (Result: I am going to be learning for a long, long time.)

I can occasionally make sense of an entire line of dialogue, but it takes me so long that two more lines have gone by in the meantime. But even when I’m stuck reading the English subtitles for an entire scene, it’s still a very fun, spirited show. Can’t wait to see where the story goes.

12 Responses to “Tian Xia Di Yi: my new guilty pleasure”

  1. Ruby Says:

    I totally agree with your reasons about how gr8 d show is. But one more thing I have 2 add to that is how HOT Wallace Huo Jian Hua who plays Yi Dao is. Not only is good looking, he’s also a great actor AND singer.

  2. di Says:

    the girls are so pretty! i liked the princess and the tian ya’s wife (she’s gorgeous!). and i agree, wallace is hot!

    do you have any links to pictures from the show?

  3. txdy fanatic Says:

    i love the show!!!!!i think wallace and michelle ye xuan(she plays hai tang)makes a cute couple!!!!can some1 plz tell me where to download the show????

  4. Anne Says:

    I would like you to know where you managed to find the version with English and Chinese subtitles. I’m interested in buying it.. thanks =]

  5. koreth Says:

    It aired with English and Chinese subtitles on KTSF channel 26 in the San Francisco area. Unfortunately, it seems the version they showed is not for sale anywhere. I emailed them to ask about it and they told me they and another station in San Diego paid to have the subtitles done, but that they didn’t have the rights to sell the result. Apparently their distributor doesn’t think there’s a big enough market to go to the expense of printing up and stocking an inventory of DVDs.

    To which I say, “Fine, then, sell the episodes online as downloads and you won’t have to stock any DVDs at all!” But I guess it’ll be another few years before TV people finally figure out that they can make money that way.

    Maybe if enough people write to KTSF (programming@ktsftv.com) and ask how to get their version of the show, they’ll sense the demand and do something about it.

  6. Anne Says:

    Thank you so much for your trouble, such a pity their version is not for sale *sigh*

  7. Mimi Says:

    This Tv series was so funny. But it’s really odd how some of the actors would speak in Canotenese and others would speak in Mandarin. Probably took them a long time to dubb the actors over. I found that Si Fei and Yun Luo were hilarous and they were a cute couple

  8. michelles & wallaces fan Says:

    i think wallace and michelle are soo beautyfull together!!!!
    i love them…
    but i was really sad when hai tang(alias michelle ) died. i want to have a happy end of them..

  9. orion Says:

    I am from Berkeley. I love this series, especially Wallace Huo and Michelle Yip. Michelle said in public that Wallace was extremely talented and sensitive, and that’s why they could have such an amazing chemistry. There were many good things and a few flaws in this series, but above all it is the captivating acting of Wallace that completely grabbed me! This series swept the whole China in storm during February-March and was recently aired in Beijing, and because of its huge success Wallace is now the most sought-after actor of his generation.

  10. Andy Says:

    yo, this series is so good, does anyone have the ending theme
    jacky cheung - Tian Xia Di Yi
    can you send it to me if you do at

  11. brenda Says:

    i think that every1 in tian xia di yi is coooool.
    but mostly,
    the coolest is michelle ye ( hai tang ) and wallace huo ( yi dao)…
    they make the greatest couple.
    cheng shi fei is funny.

    do u guys know that hai tang, su shin, cheng she fei, and gu san tong is cantonese?

    they r.
    want to know more movies that they make ?
    ask me.

  12. cheng meng an Says:

    anyone who know the real name of the actress who play the role the sister of Tian Ya’s wife? i like her

    please mail me tranmanhan@yahoo.com,
    xie xie

Leave a Reply