S M Ong: Is ‘Best’ of Phua Chu Kang on Netflix really the best?
A bunch of old local movies and TV shows started streaming on Netflix this month with more coming soon. One that is particularly close to my heart is Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd.
If you watch the first episode, the first credit you see after the opening titles is "Written by Ong Su Mann". That's me.
Do I get any residuals? Of course not. Neither does anyone else who worked on the show, including Gurmit Singh. The only one making any money out of this is Mediacorp.
Still, it was a thrill to see my name on Netflix. More so than finally seeing my cameo in Eric Khoo's Mee Pok Man, also streaming on Netflix now.
Last I checked, "Best Of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd" was ranked sixth most watched in Singapore yesterday, the only local production in the Netflix top 10. Sorry, Mee Pok Man.
But that first PCK episode on Netflix is not the first episode of the TV series. For some reason, the 26 Netflix episodes are from the sitcom's third season and trust me, not all are the best.
For example, in an episode called Yum Seng, someone in a men's room bumps into a wall and the wall moves!
As executive producer, I could've chosen a take where the wall didn't move. Instead, I decided on the one with the best performance even though it revealed our flimsy set.
Thanks, Netflix, for making me relive that mistake two decades later and exposing it to a whole new generation.
But the men's room wall isn't the only thing that hasn't held up after all these years.
My woke 20-year-old zoomer daughter is appalled by an episode co-written by me called Excuse Me, Are You An Aquarius, where "Aquarius" is used as a substitute for a local term that could be considered a homophobic slur. You know what I'm talking about.
I probably couldn't get away with something like that nowadays. Just last month, Mediacorp had to apologise for depicting a gay character as a paedophile in the Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels. At least he wasn't called an "Aquarius", I presume.
My daughter is even more horrified by an episode where Rosie acts like a dog and is put on a leash. But I wasn't involved in that one so not everything is my fault.
So if these episodes aren't the "best", except maybe for the one where Ah Ma gets a pet chicken, why did Netflix start with the third season and not the first?
Could it be because the third season starts with the landmark episode where PCK completed the Best English course after being chastised for speaking Singlish by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his 1999 National Day Rally speech?
Many complained the show wasn't as funny after that.
Yet PCK has endured and this has been a banner year for the character. Besides the Netflix debut, PCK has fronted a couple of Covid-19 videos for the Government and is currently shilling for Shopee.
What's ironic about the hype over PCK and other Mediacorp shows coming to Netflix is that they have been available for free for years on Mediacorp's own streaming platform Toggle before it became MeWatch, but no one seemed to care.
That's the power of Netflix for you. And the lack of power of Mediacorp.
But if Netflix whets your appetite for more PCK, you can watch all eight seasons on MeWatch. I recommend the second and the eighth. They may not be the best in Singapore and JB (and some say Batam), but that's where my name pops up again.
Remember, I don't get a single cent.