A lookback at Chew Chor Meng’s 25 years in showbiz

The 1990 Star Search winner’s most memorable moments on TV

A lookback at Chew Chor Meng’s 25 years in showbiz
A lookback at Chew Chor Meng’s 25 years in showbiz
10 Feb 2016

A lookback at Chew Chor Meng’s 25 years in showbiz

26 years ago we saw the birth of a rising new star in the local TV industry when then 20-year-old Chew Chor Meng was crowned the overall champion at the second Star Search competition in 1990, after Zoe Tay’s win in 1988. He charmed the socks off TV viewers with his boyish good looks and rose to prominence quickly to become one of the first few actors that TV babies from the 90s grew up -- and old -- with.

With the launch of his first autobiography, Stages of Life, we take this opportunity to remember some of Chor Meng’s most unforgettable TV dramas during his 25 years in show business.

Early 90s: Wuxia drama roles
Early 90s: Wuxia drama roles
10 Feb 2016

Early 90s: Wuxia drama roles

L-R: The Last Swordsman, Young Justice Bao and Heavenly Beings

During a time when Bukit Timah Hill and Little Guilin in Bukit Gombak were still prime filming locations for made-in-Singapore wuxia dramas, Chor Meng was cast as the leading man in heroic roles like Yingwu (1991’s The Last Swordsman) and young Justice Bao in 1994. He even underwent a flaming red makeover as the legendary Nezha in Heavenly Beings in 1993. If there was anything indicative of his up-and-coming status in showbiz, it would be when the station paired him up with Ah Jie-to-be Zoe in The Last Swordsman.

Romance in the 7th Month (1994)
Romance in the 7th Month (1994)
10 Feb 2016

Romance in the 7th Month (1994)

The mid-90s saw an abundance of supernatural-esque romance telemovies being produced by the TV station too and one such production, Romance in the 7th Month, featured a 25-year-old Chor Meng and 19-year-old ingénue Cynthia Koh. The former played a ghost who fell in love with a getai performer (Cynthia) when their paths crossed after she picked up his pocket watch. This telemovie remains one of his favourite productions to date because, according to Chor Meng, it featured him in his best-looking years.

Watch Romance in the 7th Month on Toggle.

Don’t Worry Be Happy (1996)
Don’t Worry Be Happy (1996)
10 Feb 2016

Don’t Worry Be Happy (1996)

TV babies from the 90s will best remember Chor Meng for his breakout role as ‘Ah Bee’ in Don’t Worry Be Happy, a Saturday night sitcom series that spanned more than five seasons -- which is considered quite a feat by local TV industry standards. Everyone adored the comedic and happy-go-lucky Ah Bee and his never-ending ‘lobangs’ but the successful characterisation also meant that Chor Meng got typecasted and slighted for subsequent “serious” TV roles.

Watch past episodes of Don’t Worry Be Happy on Toggle.

The Unbeatables II (1996)
The Unbeatables II (1996)
10 Feb 2016

The Unbeatables II (1996)

Three years after the first Unbeatables, Chor Meng joined in the sequel as a new character, Ding Zhaohui, a gambling novice who became best buddies with the “King of Gamblers” Yanfei (Li Nanxing) after a chance encounter at the tables in Las Vegas.

Watch past episodes of The Unbeatables II on Toggle.

Immortal Love (1997)
Immortal Love (1997)
10 Feb 2016

Immortal Love (1997)

Before Twilight popularised the notion of forbidden love between a vampire and human being, there was Channel 8’s Immortal Love. A love story that spanned centuries between a human girl and an “immortal” being, the supernatural-meets-sci-fi-TV series featured Chor Meng as the do-gooder vampire Chen Xiaogui and Florence Tan as his love interest-reincarnate from centuries ago. We don’t think local TV ever had another character as cool as police inspector Xiaogui who had spidey senses and a knack for solving cases too.

Watch past episodes of Immortal Love on Toggle.

Hainan Kopi Tales (1999)
Hainan Kopi Tales (1999)
10 Feb 2016

Hainan Kopi Tales (1999)

After multiple nominations in the acting category, Chor Meng finally brought home his first Best Actor award at the 2000 Star Awards ceremony for his role as a straightforward, brash but filial Long Ah Sing who left home to pursue a different career at sea as his mother’s status at home as the second wife often put him at odds with his other mother (his dad’s first wife). Set in Singapore during the 60s, Hainan Kopi Tales chronicles the coffee boy’s return to help out in the family business (a Hainanese coffee shop) after his dad retires.

Watch past episodes of Hainan Kopi Tales on Toggle.

Wok of Life (1999)
Wok of Life (1999)
10 Feb 2016

Wok of Life (1999)

Local TV has its own moment with the time-travelling plot device in 1999’s Wok of Life when Chor Meng and Evelyn Tan’s characters, Ri-an and Ang Mo Kio (or Zhen Zhen), were mysteriously transported from the 90s back to the 60s. Ri-an gets re-acquainted with his family and old neighbours and has to clean up his dad’s (You Yong-fu) mess after he is mistaken to be the latter due to the uncanny resemblance they share with each other. Apart from its catchy a-go-go opening tune, the rambunctious drama series brings to life the roaring 60s era through its getai song and dance performances.

Mr. Kiasu (2001)
Mr. Kiasu (2001)
10 Feb 2016

Mr. Kiasu (2001)

After playing a “kiasu” Ah Bee in Don’t Worry Be Happy, there was no doubt that Chor Meng was the perfect candidate to play Mr. Kiasu, an adored comic book character that exemplified some of the worst traits seen in Singaporeans (think: kiasu and kiasi). If you ask us, it was like watching him play an extension of his Ch8 character ‘Ah Bee’ but in a Ch5 sitcom setting.

Springs of Life (2002)
Springs of Life (2002)
10 Feb 2016

Springs of Life (2002)

Following Wok of Life came its sister series and another TV hit -- Springs of Life, which was set in Singapore during the 50s and starred Chor Meng as its male lead. The actor played a quick-witted Cai Dapao who works in his father’s medicinal hall and often fantasises about becoming a renowned physician. Thanks to the period drama’s fusion of modern elements and its unique story-telling approach, this 60-episode drama series became the highest-rated 7pm drama during its run.

The Golden Path (2007)
The Golden Path (2007)
10 Feb 2016

The Golden Path (2007)

Best remembered for his funnyman roles on TV, Chor Meng surprised many when he played a smart-aleck doctor-turn-mentally ill patient after he stumbled upon his brother’s secret in the The Golden Path. He was awarded duly for his stellar performance and picked up a Best Supporting Actor award at the 2009 Star Awards ceremony, edging out fierce competition from The Little Nyonya nominees.

Watch past episodes of The Golden Path on Toggle.

It’s A Great, Great World (2011)
It’s A Great, Great World (2011)
10 Feb 2016

It’s A Great, Great World (2011)

After more than 20 years in the TV industry, Chor Meng finally made his silver screen debut in the Kelvin Tong-directed film It’s A Great, Great World as a lok lok seller, Goh Ah Beng (or Ah Meng) whose love story (he got married on the night the Japanese invaded Singapore during World War II) forms one of the four main arcs in the movie. As the sole remaining survivor amongst his former Great, Great World companions in modern day Singapore, he recounts their stories and experiences to the granddaughter of an old friend.

The actor will be making his second foray into movies with Lucky Boy which co-stars Chen Xiuhuan and Ah Boys to Men actor Wang Weiliang; it is slated for a release in the latter half of 2016.

Photos: Golden Village Pictures

Joys of Life (2012)
Joys of Life (2012)
10 Feb 2016

Joys of Life (2012)

After bringing much joy to TV audiences in Wok of Life and Springs of Life, Chor Meng made a return to TV -- after going on a temporary hiatus due to his illness -- and landed a role in the follow-up series, Joys of Life, playing Alien Huang’s onscreen dad Dagou and a billboard artist who paints for a living. Chor Meng’s onscreen TV sweetheart Florence was also reunited with him (albeit fleetingly) in this TV production to play his deceased wife.

PS: Chor Meng is the only actor to have acted in all three period serials - Wok of Life, Springs of Life and Joys of Life.

Watch past episodes of Joys of Life on Toggle.

118 (2014)
118 (2014)
10 Feb 2016

118 (2014)

Chor Meng returns as everyone’s favourite kopi uncle Hong Daming in 118. While this marks yet another drama set in the coffee shop with Chor Meng playing the head of the family - and thus the owner of said kopitiam - its modern day setting sets it apart from the previous “coffee boy” roles he did. The Hong family and the neighbours in the Tiong Bahru estate worked their way into the hearts of TV viewers and this 190-episode series was eventually extended to 255 episodes.

Fans wishing for the 118 family to return will have their wish granted -- due to its popularity and overwhelming demand, a 118 sequel is confirmed to be in the works and we’re sure this piece of news is bound to excite fans of the TV series. For fans who can’t wait for the actor to be back in action, catch him in an upcoming sitcom Happy Goh Family.

Watch past episodes of 118 on Toggle.
Happy Goh Family debuts February 16, 8pm on Channel 8

Related:
Chew Chor Meng opens up about battered childhood in new book

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