TV dramas that celebrate the Singapore story

SG50 TV BINGE: Go back in time with these local classic TV series about Singapore during the National Day holidays

From top left, clockwise direction: Army Series, Samsui Women, Bukit Ho Swee and The Price of Peace
From top left, clockwise direction: Army Series, Samsui Women, Bukit Ho Swee and The Price of Peace
05 Aug 2015

From top left, clockwise direction: Army Series, Samsui Women, Bukit Ho Swee and The Price of Peace

Photos: MediaCorp

There is no better time than now to pay tribute to our roots and humble beginnings with Singapore commemorating her Golden Jubilee on Sunday, August 9. From her early days as a fishing village to her gradual modernisation into a global trading hub, revisit significant historical moments through well-loved dramas such as The Awakening, which introduces our early ancestors from China as the first batch of migrants on this little red dot; The Price of Peace, which covers the days of the Japanese occupation; or the Army Series, which depicts the NS men experience in the early 80s.

In the spirit of all things SG50, we’ve picked out a few favourites for you to binge-watch - at no additional cost - over the long four-day weekend. 

Army Series (1983)
Army Series (1983)
05 Aug 2015

Army Series (1983)

Main cast: Wang Yuqing, Huang Wenyong, Lin Liyun, Ang Puay Heng, He Qitang and Zeng Huifen

Before we had popular recruit life-centric productions such as the Ah Boys to Men series and the Army Daze movie and musical, we had SBC-produced Army Series, an six-episode drama about NS (National Service) life during the ‘80s. It was headlined by then-TV heartthrobs Huang Wenyong and Wang Yuqing, the former played an army officer whereas the latter played a new recruit. This popular series was given a modern facelift with a Channel U spinoff with The Recruit Diaries in 2013, featuring newer younger actors and the original recruit Yuqing, who now plays an army officer with a son (Jeffrey Xu) due to enlist for NS.

Watch The Army Series here.

The Awakening (1984)
The Awakening (1984)
05 Aug 2015

The Awakening (1984)

Main cast: Huang Wenyong, Xiang Yun, Chen Shucheng, Huang Peiru, Qian Zhigang, Li Yongxi, Wang Yuqing

Set in the 1920s, The Awakening is a drama about our forefathers from China carving out a livelihood for themselves in Singapore – then a British colony. This drama paved the way for iconic TV characters and a well-loved coupling between Ah Shui (played by the late Huang Wenyong) and Ah Mei (Xiang Yun). In case you didn’t know, The Awakening was also the first TV drama to feature an onscreen kiss between a reel-life couple, Shucheng and Peiru, who started dating and got married after starring in this drama together.
  
Watch The Awakening here.

Samsui Women (1986)
Samsui Women (1986)
05 Aug 2015

Samsui Women (1986)

Main cast: Zeng Huifen, Hong Huifang, Huang Wenyong, Li Wenhai, Li Yinzhu, Yang Lina

These red headscarf-clad women travelled far and wide from China to Singapore between the 1920s and 1940s to carve a living for themselves through odd and manual labour jobs. This drama tells the story of the hardships and struggles experienced by three Samsui women who eventually settled down and called this place home.

PS: Former child actress Michelle Chia played the younger version of Zeng Huifen in this drama series too.

Watch Samsui Women here.

Tofu Street (1996)
Tofu Street (1996)
05 Aug 2015

Tofu Street (1996)

Main cast: Cynthia Koh, Ix Shen, Jacelyn Tay, Peter Yu, Carole Lin, Zheng Ge Ping, Shirley Ho

Best remembered for its iconic opening theme song ‘Cheng Li De Yue Guang’ by local singer Mavis Hee, this drama revolves around the fictional ‘Tofu Street’ of olden Singapore and its tenants living in the area. Apart from chronicling the lives of the streets’ residents, the drama also tells the poignant story of Liang Si Mei (played by Cynthia Koh) who ends up as the child bride for the young son of the land lady whom she stays with and works for.

Watch Tofu Street here.

Growing Up (1996)
Growing Up (1996)
05 Aug 2015

Growing Up (1996)

Main cast: Lim Kay Tong, Wee Soon Hui, Andrew Seow, Irin Gan, Steven Lim and Jamie Yeo

One of the most popular and widely-watched Channel 5 TV series in the noughties, Growing Up was quintessentially about life in the ‘70s and ‘80s for Singaporeans. Spanning six seasons, the Tay family, namely Ah Pa, Ah Ma, Gary, David, Vicki and Tammy, grew up under the watch of TV viewers who witnessed the family weather through ups and downs in life, starting with Ah Ma’s death, Vicki’s turbulent marriage, miscarriages, affairs and more.

Watch Growing Up here.

The Price of Peace (1997)
The Price of Peace (1997)
05 Aug 2015

The Price of Peace (1997)

Main cast: Christopher Lee, Ivy Lee, James Lye, Lina Ng, Carole Lin, Rayson Tan, Chunyu Shanshan, Chen Shucheng, Xiang Yun and Hong Huifang

The drama retells a part of Singapore’s history that is only available to young ones via stories and recounts found in history textbooks. In The Price of Peace, the lives and struggles of the common folk and war heroes like Lim Bo Seng, Tan Kah Kee and Elizabeth Choy come to life. Local actors Christopher Lee and Carole Lin also bagged Best Actor and Best Actress awards and were lauded for their stirring performances in the drama, one played a country traitor who colluded with the Japanese and the other played a rape victim during the Japanese Occupation.

Watch The Price of Peace here.

The Guest People (1997)
The Guest People (1997)
05 Aug 2015

The Guest People (1997)

Main cast: Christopher Lee, Xie Shao Guang, Chen Hanwei, Jason Oh, Jacelyn Tay, Chen Hui Hui, Qin Wei, Chen Shucheng, Huang Peiru, Mai Hao Wei, Li Yin Zhu, Liang Wei Dong

Apart from being multi-racial and multi-lingual, Singapore’s also a multi-dialect nation with ancestors hailing from different parts of China. In The Guest People, the drama retraces the journey of four young Hakka men who left their hometown in China to seek a better life in Singapore during the early ‘90s.

Watch The Guest People here.

Right Frequency (1998)
Right Frequency (1998)
05 Aug 2015

Right Frequency (1998)

Main cast: Hong Huifang, Ryan Choo, Sharon Au, Lina Ng, Nick Shen, Huang Jia Qiang

Back when half-an-hour Chinese sitcoms were still a thing to look out for on weekend nights, Right Frequency was not just funny - thanks to its larger-than-life characters (remember Yandao, Xiao La Ba, Mee Pok, Li Qing, Bai Fu Ren and Cheng Mei Guang… guang…guang…guang) who are deejays at a local radio station, it also had a certain sentimentality to it for representing an era of retro music in Singapore during the ‘60s.

Ed's note: We just started watching this series again and the jokes are just as relevant and laugh-a-minute funny as they were 17 years ago. Some things just don’t change with time – good scriptwriting, included.

Watch Right Frequency here.

Around People’s Park (1998)
Around People’s Park (1998)
05 Aug 2015

Around People’s Park (1998)

Main cast: Cynthia Koh, Peter Yu, Jason Oh, Huang Wenyong, Xiang Yun, Huang Peiru, Chen Guohua and Constance Song

Before Holland Village, we had Around People’s Park, a drama chronicling the lives of a group of heartlanders living around Chinatown in the 1990s. It tugs at heartstrings for its realistic portrayal of the dwellers in this neighbourhood of which Cynthia Koh plays one of its most memorable characters, Lijuan, a tau sar piah-maker and the drama’s main protagonist (PS: you’d remember her in the drama’s opening scene, riding a bicycle doing her biscuit deliveries before the break of dawn).

Watch Around People’s Park here.

Bukit Ho Swee (2002)
Bukit Ho Swee (2002)
05 Aug 2015

Bukit Ho Swee (2002)

Main cast: Florence Tan, Qi Yuwu, Priscelia Chan, Allan Wu, Vivian Lai, Xiang Yun, Yang Libing, Carole Lin, Chen Tian Wen, Henry Thia, Pei Xiao Ling, Liang Wei Dong, Brandon Wong

In what goes down historically as one of the biggest fires to have happened on Singapore soil, the drama, Bukit Ho Swee, is based on a real-life event which saw thousands of villagers turn homeless overnight when a huge fire struck the area in 1961.

PS: This TV series also marked Allan Wu’s foray into Channel 8 dramas.

Watch Bukit Ho Swee here.

The Little Nyonya (2008)
The Little Nyonya (2008)
05 Aug 2015

The Little Nyonya (2008)

Main cast: Jeanette Aw, Joanne Peh, Pierre Png, Qi Yuwu, Yao Wen Long, Lin Mei Jiao, Xiang Yun, Darren Lim, Apple Hong, Pan Ling Ling, Cynthia Koh, Dai Xiang Yu

In an era where local TV dramas were not as popularly-watched as before, The Little Nyonya made history by breaking viewership records with its stellar ratings. Apart from its woebegone tale about the struggles faced by a pair of mother and daughter (Juxiang and Yueniang, both played by Jeanette Aw), this drama sheds invaluable insights into the lesser-known Peranakan culture, covering all aspects from their food and intricate clothing to their practices and beliefs.

Watch The Little Nyonya here.

The Journey: A Voyage (2013)
The Journey: A Voyage (2013)
05 Aug 2015

The Journey: A Voyage (2013)

Main cast: Li Nanxing, Jeanette Aw, Desmond Tan, Joanne Peh, Elvin Ng, Pierre Png, Priscelia Chan, Terence Cao, Chris Tong

The most recent #throwback drama series done on our forefathers’ journey from Tang Shan (China) to Nanyang (Singapore), The Journey: A Voyage is part of a trilogy series done in commemoration of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. It is headlined by two families – the Zhang brothers and the Hongs, who are immigrants that eventually settle down and carve out a living for themselves in Nanyang.

The Journey: Tumultuous Times (2014)
The Journey: Tumultuous Times (2014)
05 Aug 2015

The Journey: Tumultuous Times (2014)

Main cast: Shaun Chen, Jeanette Aw, Romeo Tan, Andie Chen, Felicia Chin, Carrie Wong, Chen Hanwei

The second part of this trilogy series covers the trials and tribulations experienced by the second generation of kids in the Zhang and Hong family as they live through the Japanese occupation and a turbulent time in Singapore’s pre-independence days.

Watch The Journey: A Voyage here and The Journey: Tumultuous Times here.

Catch the final instalment, The Journey: Our Homeland, on Channel 8, weekday nights at 9pm or watch the series on Toggle.

Watch more classic MediaCorp shows such as The Unbeatables series, Under One Roof and Phua Chu Kang for free at Toggle’s SG50 Selects here.

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