austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

But what's the good of scheming

I thought some might be curious about what's going on in local television around here. Spirit of Service, the last show I remember mentioning, reached its conclusion. Over its season it showed all sorts of value-adding synergy tips from a slightly scary man who claimed to write the book Up Your Service, which still sounds like a threat. Also featured were undercover videos of their agents harassing innocent McDonald's cashiers, and dramatic black-and-white sketches of their hosts giving sub-standard service by ignoring their customers in order to make personal calls or yelling at customers for not making the right choices.

Wrapping up this week is Maggi & Me. This is a sitcom in the classic 1960s/70s definition of ``situation comedy'': He's a low-level con artist whose latest scam is passing himself off as a medium. She's the amnesiac ghost only he can see, although she can see other ghosts. (And when is the last time a US sitcom started out with a situation like that? People in a Nutty Workplace or the Lovable Incompetent Dad, His Beautiful Sensible Wife, and Their Sarcastic Kids are reliable settings, but they're not really high concept.) Over the season they've been dripping information about Maggi's identity, why she's dead at such a young age, why she was wearing a wedding dress, and so on.

For most of the season they went pretty light on the dramatic aspect of this, which is fine by me, since Singaporean drama tends to be built on the assumption that the audience wishes to kill itself, or else it should, and so it starts depressing and gets worse. The comic potential's played up pretty well, with quests ranging from getting the secret rojak recipe for a widow to handling the ghosts of a British and a Japanese soldier who'd been battling -- by minor vandalism, basically, throwing stuff from a warehouse at each other -- since World War II. (They explain the war's long over, the United States won and bosses both countries around, and the two go off to find an American ghost to throw stuff at.) I didn't find the resolution of the mystery satisfying, but it's very hard to balance comedy and mystery aspects like that. One of many things baffling me: in the credits they thanked the AppleCentre on Orchard Road. I imagine they used the building for some stairway shots, although it was a different building used for rooftop shots.

Trivia: Ads for Zenith television sets in 1966 boasted that they were made without plastic printed circuit boards; all connections were hand-wired. Source: Please Stand By, Michael Ritchie.

Currently Reading: Empire Express: Building The First Transcontinental Railroad, David Haward Bain.


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