Zhao Liying has grown into such a versatile actress with a plethora of solid dramas under her belt, but she’ll always have a special place in my heart as the spritely Su Huan’er in The Lovebirds 错点鸳鸯/戏点鸳鸯. With a low-budget and almost no big names at the time, The Lovebirds is like a good web-production before they were a thing. The set is bare and the costumes are cheap, but the cast is adorable and the interactions are cute X 1000.
The two-part drama series is split into the two parts, each very loosely adapted from a separate book by Xi Juan (Wrong Carriage, Right Groom). The first half originally told of a timetraveller who accidentally becomes the newly-wed wife of a warlord of the Shi family while the second tells of a crossdressing inspector who seeks refuge under the Shi family while seeking revenge for her father.
The Lovebirds is available with English subs here.
Zhao Liying as Su Huan’er:
Zhao Liying plays the spritely Su Huan’er, who replaces her step-sister to marry the warlord Shi Wuji (Qi Ji). Shi Wuji is rightfully suspicious of her, and the two get off on a rocky start. Meanwhile, Su Huan’er lightened up every room she was in. The two follow the textbook for that stone-faced vs happy-go-lucky couple to perfection, but gets the extra credit by remaining cute even after they get together and never really need to have added drama for the sake of drama.
I really think this was the drama when acting “clicked” for Zhao Liying. She managed to make even Su Huan’er’s nosy busybody traits cute. In addition to nailing the romance, the character has a great rapport with everyone else in the family, and Su Huan’er spends a large portion of the drama playing matchmaker for the other Shi siblings.
Trailer for part 2, which focuses on the relationship of the second and third brothers and their love interests:
In the second part, the crossdressing inspector Liang Yushi (Zhou Fang) comes down South after her father is murdered. She grudgingly allies herself with the sly second brother Shi Wuhen since he’s the only one who knows of her true gender, but neither really trusts the other. Meanwhile, the youngest and most childish brother (Guo Dongdong) falls for a courtesan (Song Yi) working for one of their enemies.
Zhou Fang, who stars in the second half as Liang Yushi, is one of my favorite actresses. There’s a sparkle in her eyes and a natural aura about her that makes every character lovable, and every ship shippable. Even the dullest of dramas are brightened up by her presence, not to mention one as cute as this. Her chemistry with Han Dong is off the charts, and the two even made up many interactions on the spot.
The second half also has a rare GL-loveline. When Liang Yushi posed as a man, the woman in charge of the clan farm falls in love with her. Even after Liang Yushi comes out as a woman, the woman who falls for her accepts the reality that they’ll never be together but doesn’t ever stop loving her. Before returning home, she asks Liang Yushi if they could be different genders in their next life so they can be together. The actress, Hao Shanshan, nailed being a slightly spoiled but still lovable teen despite being in her thirties at the time. How often do you get a drama where even the third wheel is so much fun and has top-notch chemistry with both leads?
With multiple adorable plotlines and a cast bursting with chemistry, The Lovebirds is one that always brightens my day whenever I need a pick-me-up. If none of the gazillion dramas out recently fill your quarantine needs, The Lovebirds is a great choice to watch (or re-watch)!