Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Class is First Class

Just watched the local show "First Class" on Channel 5. I must say that it is actually a great show.

It is not outright funny due to the common plague that is bad acting, but it's humour is actually quite subversive.

Let us save the better part for the latter and see how shows like this can improve.

The opening and closing music is a huge turn-off, it makes awful sound like a classical symphony. Perhaps the songwriter had to write within the constraints of the theme of the show.

The acting of the kids is also bad, perhaps that is due to the low budget. It would have been better if they found youngsters with better comic timing. Perhaps the scouting/HR could have sweated a little more for this.

Okay, enough of the bad. Time for the good, and quite a lot of it.

The script is first class. "Achiever Secondary School" and "Pan Island Secondary School" are such hilarious names on their one, and their abbreviated forms, "ASS" and "PISS" are a cherry topping.

Stereotypes are played out well and glorified to a hilarious extent, and at two levels, one at the students' and the other at the adults'. What makes a show with many characters memorable (in the case of popular sitcom "Friends" with its cast and supporting cast) is the characterisation and character development. You have the nerd, the jealous/possessive admirer (who called another rival "vixen" if I am not wrong), the beefcake, and the sexual minority.

Speaking of sexual minority, one gay foreign student actually told me that he had watched the show last week and told me there was one gay guy on the show, which is probably why I chose to watch it today. As my research focuses on sexual minority media representation, I am intrigued to find out what's so special about this show.

Not only have I caught a glimpse of the effeminate character (perhaps the only way to represent gay men on national prime time television for the moment), I realised there is even a "tom-boy" female character. Never mind the poor acting, the script actually aims to represent more than just the staple token ethnic minorities (Indian teacher and Malay student, who happens to be playful, and not to mention one Eurasian kid too).

Watching "First Class" reminds me of a revival of humour never seen since the days of the "Ra Ra Show", "Gurmit's World", "The Donny Lee Show" and the like. Back then in the 1990s, these shows were not received well and Kumar's "Ra Ra Show" was apparently, to put it most respectfully, way too advanced for the straight-laced and buttoned-up Singaporeans.

It is a minor flourishing of local entertainment we are witnessing, and "First Class" is not alone. "Police and Thief" and "The Noose" deserve some mention. For the first time in a long time, Singaporean viewers are not fed the politically correct clean and pristine entertainment. Perhaps, there have been changes in Channel 5 and its programmes and they finally realise they are no longer competing with other local channels, but with cable channels and the internet.

"Police and Thief" looks at the stereotypical relationship between the Chinese and the Malay, and the show carefully plays that relationship and its respective stereotypes out. The script is also well-written, although the show could do with a little more money (which is perhaps a problem for every production).

"The Noose", although I have only caught 2 episodes, is quite funny, which reminds me of "Gurmit's World" and "The Donny Lee Show", which have done their part in entertaining us with parodies.

Parodies are subversive, no doubt. But they attract an audience, which are once apathetic. Parodies not only make people laugh, but make them think about themselves. And when you think about yourself and your community/environment, you might be inclined to have some sense of ownership. You know where I am heading.

There must have been some shake-up in Channel 5 that have allowed such shows to be aired. I would love to watch Kumar back on Channel 5, either headlining or starring in his own show. This will show that we have gone back to where we once belonged, rather than progress, as we have regressed since the mid-90s, never mind the success of "Under One Roof" which features the archetypal middle class family with upper-middle class aspirations. We are mature now for Siva Choy-ish Kopi humour, just like we had been in the 1990s, but due to some high-handed moral authoritative decision-making, we have imprisoned our creativity with a chastity belt.

The themes dealt with in "First Class" are current and thus relevant to viewers. What makes it a class apart from "Under One Roof" is that it has multi-layered humour, to cater to kids (in body and in mind) using slapstick and simple humour, at the same time catering to adults (in body and in mind too) with suggestiveness, nuances and parody.

Saved for a couple of jokes that are used (the child's phone prank on the eldery teacher mimicking Bart Simpson's prank on Moe the bartender) and dry (perhaps due to the poor delivery of the inexperienced child actors), "First Class" has a first class script. And we can only expect more interesting stuff from Channel 5, unless some some right-wing moral crusader decides we are regressing.

2 comments:

yutaki's said...

what is fine and insight thought on dawn! well, seriously, me, being personal victimized by dawn's silly acts, copy my blog entry and paste it on her STOMP blog entry and claim its hers. well, after that, i have no good impression of her till now, but after reading your post, i think, she should be given a second chance, i mean a let go, really let go from every body.

cheers,
yutaki.
i m not using blogspot anymore, but to comment, i have to sign in, so...
my blog address is yutakis.wordpress.com
i would love link you, hope you don't mind.
=)

Sam Ho said...

ya, no point holding it against her.

on another note, what's on the internet will be open to all, and thus will be reproduced over and over again, so it's very difficult to prevent that.

and moreover, she didn't mean to be malicious or have ill will towards you, even though her copying you may bring her benefit (it has not diminished your person).

thanks for linking. take care