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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004

Time Event
10:37p
Let's All Be There, Lah

Updates on the local television program[me]s:

Last week's season finale of Phua Chu Kang Private Limited , about the wildly dysfunctional family and workers of a private contractors' firm, saw Chu Kang's wife Rosie finally go into labor. Will Chu Kang be off in the middle of nowhere when she needs to be rushed to hospital? Is his car sure to break down in the midst of nowheres so remote the taxi companies think he's joking? Will he get a ride from the slowest bicyclist in the world, only to ditch it for an even slower elderly woman driving? Is Chu Kang's Felix Unger-esque brother Chu Beng's carefully overrehearsed plan to rush her to hospital going to go wrong, including the beheading of the grotesque mannequin worked up to practice hauling her to the car? Will Chu Beng's wife Rosie, videotaping the project, go director-crazy and demand Rosie do a second take of the water-breaking, only this time, with more realistic screaming? Is Chu Beng, Rosie, and Margaret's taxi going to get rear-ended by a truck forcing them to cancel their plans to have the first hospital-delivered baby in sitcom history? And will Chu Kang get home in time for Rosie to slap him silly throughout the delivery? Oh, and is there a chance she'll be carrying twins, one boy and one girl, which we never knew before now?

Pretty fun, really. The best joke is almost hopelessly introverted. They'd been ready to name a son, but an unexpected daughter? Any ideas? Then quick cuts to various local celebrities, most of whom suggest their own names. One, however, suggested ``Phua Sengkang,'' which honestly made me laugh out loud.

Why? Well, ``Phua Chu Kang'' sounds very much like ``Choa Chu Kang,'' a neighborhood, a bus interchange, an MRT (subway system) stop and an interchange where people in western Singapore can board a Light Rail Transit system loop. And Sengkang is, well, another neighbourhood, in north-eastern Singapore, with a bus interchange, an MRT stop and an interchange where people can board another local Light Rail Transit system loop.

Debuting this week in the same timeslot: Police & Thief, about Tok Kong, a former small-time gangster who's gone straight and become a hair stylist; he and his family have moved in next to ... Dollah, a township cop, who gets to ride around on a bicycle and everything, and his family. The wackiness ensues, with scenes like the Tok Kong's (maybe nine-year-old) son calling the Dollah's (also about nine) son -- who was hogging a table at the school cafeteria -- ``uncouth, uncivil, ungracious'' and getting a fist in the face for his vocabulary. (``Speak English!'', the policeman's son demanded.) And a minor squabble about the placing of plants on a shared balcony ended with Tok Kong telling his wife Lily he was not going to move the plants back, ``You can't make me do it, I won't do it, there is nothing you can say that will make me do it...'' and you know where the jump cut is going.

Later, Tok Kong has fair reason to accuse Dollah of killing his pet, lucky rooster. ``I'm going to report you to the police!'' ``I am the police!'' ``Then I'm going to report you to you!'' ``Are you crazy?'' ``Yes!''

(Never fear; the rooster was safe, just taken out to play by the kids. Though with the bad news on bird flu this week this may be a poorly timed bit of characterization.)

So if you want to know what's become of the 1983 television season of sitcoms, apparently they're being held by Singapore broadcast authorities. They seem to be all right.

Also in miscellaneous programming: Channel 5's Food Chain offers today as much information as you might ever want to know about the making of tofu, and then goes on for another ten minutes or so explaining it. It's made pretty much like you might guess. Similarly for soy sauce.

And on clean-room Candid Camera copy Gotcha ... you'd gladly accept the shelter from a stranger who holds his umbrella over your head as you tie your shoes, or cross the street, or wait for a bus, wouldn't you? Even if it's not raining? And he insists on following you? Watch ordinary people who don't know they're on television, some of whom appreciate the courtesy enough to help holding the umbrella.

And would you accept a hand stamp that consists of getting a foot-long paint roller and covering your arms in blue ink? More people than you might think will put up with it, as long as the person with the roller seems to have a responsible-looking uniform. They'll also accept dinner plate-sized belly stamps, although some of them may just have been secretly exhibitionists.

Trivia: The first characters to appear in the Pogo comic strip were an unnamed turtle (not Churchy LaFemme), an unnamed worm, and Pogo. Source: Pogo daily comic, appearing in the October 4, 1948 New York Star, reprinted (among many places) in Ten Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Years With Pogo, Walt Kelly.

Currently Reading: Shakespeare's Kings: The great plays and the history of England in the Middle Ages, 1337-1485, John Julius Norwich.

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