Murphy’s Second Law – Video Edition

Once something has gone wrong, it will get worse

A common piece of advice is to avoid any shows where the principal characters include cute kids. Consequently, I was rather surprised to see the strongly positive reviews of the Chinese TV series “The Bad Kids”, a 2020 production adapted from a book. Well, maybe that was because the kids were bad rather than cute. Intrigued, I took the bait and watched. The story focuses on those common twin Chinese obsessions of family and morality, and conveys the morbid fascination of watching a slow-motion car crash – This is going to hurt!

It is set not in modern gleaming China but 20 years ago in a somewhat shabby waterfront town in southern China. A 16-year old boy and about a 9-year old girl have run away from a distant orphanage and come to the boy’s home town to ask the boy’s relatives for help. They are seeking a large sum of money to pay for medical treatment to save the girl’s brother, who is dying from leukemia. When that search fails, in desperation the boy contacts his former best friend from grade school – who has developed into an introverted outstanding academic performer, the only son of a hard-working divorced woman who is as much of a Tiger Mother as her busy schedule allows.

These three kids unwittingly film a double murder while on a day trip to a mountain park. They wrestle with their moral responsibility to report the crime to the police, especially since they identify the murderer as the academic kid’s math teacher. But if they report the crime, the runaways will be sent back to the orphanage, and the little girl’s brother will die. Instead, they make the fateful decision to blackmail the murderer for the money to treat the girl’s brother. From there, the situation spirals downwards … and the body count rises. A cheating wife, callous in-laws, spoiled daughters, a distraught mother, inadequate fathers, teenage thugs, a violent brother, a female loan shark, a policeman on the point of retirement who regrets something from his past – it is all there.

Part of the action centers around the summer school where diligent kids study for the opportunity to compete in the regional Math Olympiad. One has to admire a TV series which finds time to feature the equation which Rene Descartes sent to his royal princess student to express his doomed love for her; but then there is much that is doomed in this story.

Unusually for a Chinese TV series, there are only 12 episodes of about 45 minutes each, rather than the more common 24 or 48 episodes. And even by the slow-moving standards of Chinese TV series, this one manages to develop the story at a seemingly very deliberate pace, aided by a quirky menacing soundtrack. It is not Shakespeare, but it does merit its positive reviews.


Thanks. Sounds interesting. Where did you watch it? iQiYi app? (Is it OK?) Elsewhere? My wife has watched a number of very long Chinese productions and enjoyed them. Also, I have previously reviewed a number of superb Russian productions, which were not so long, but which we both enjoyed (I can’t find links, sorry).


Yes, I watched this on the iQiYi app, installed on my laptop. I have had no problems with that setup. It could probably be watched directly on, without installin the app. This series is freely available there, unlike many other series which require a subscription.


Hmm, do you speak Mandarin - or how does one navigate the website?

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No, I don’t speak Mandarin – although I have been half-heartedly trying to learn enough to embarrass myself; mainly because there are now significant technical papers in Chinese – while automatic translation is available, the experience with Large Language Models makes me want to have some ability to read the material directly.

As for navigating the website for us non-Mandarin speakers, the proper link is My apologies for sending you in the wrong direction.

As an aside, the website name is in Pinyin – the sounds of Chinese characters expressed in a Latin alphabet – pronounced i-Chee-Eeee. Just another piece of useless information. :grinning: