01 Aug 2016
What you didn’t know about the TV buffs-turned-actors during their childhood days
A long, long time ago, most families didn’t have a TV console at home and community TV-watching sessions were the way to go with families heading to a neighbour’s home or the community centre to consume their daily dose of entertainment. Luckily for Pan Ling Ling and Chen Han Wei, both actors were born in the era of “colour television” and grew up with the companionship of the goggle box.
Unlike convenient modern-day content offerings like the Toggle Red Button service, Catch-Up TV and Toggle-It-First, which allowed viewers to watch episodes they missed on TV or to consume content before it is aired, Han Wei said, “Back then, we didn’t really have to do much to watch TV. Technology was not so advanced and if we miss an episode, we missed it completely.”
Added Ling Ling, “TV broadcasting is not 24 hours either and the channel would stop after 12 am and play the national anthem before it signed off for the day; the next day’s broadcast would also begin with the national anthem too.”
Marveling at how far TV-viewing habits have evolved, the two actors got a bit nostalgic when they looked back on their growing up years to talk about their childhood favourite cartoons, the VHS tape era and memorable TV theme songs in an interview with Toggle. Read on for more.
01 Aug 2016
#1 If their TVs had special powers back in the day...
Japanese animated cartoon series like Candy Candy and Doraemon lent a hand in shaping our imaginations as kids: Every boy enjoyed the blue cat robot’s amazing and outrageous inventions and every girl dreamt up prince charming fantasies through the blonde girl with pig tails. “I love Candy Candy,” gushed Ling Ling, 46, “She’s my favourite childhood memory… because she brought me into a fairytale, dreamy world. After watching it, I could not help but fantasise about having my own prince charming too.”
On the other hand, Han Wei credited his “strong imagination” to his hours spent watching Doraemon: “He has everything and anything and I hoped to have the same kind of abilities as it.”
So, what kind of special power did Han Wei wish his TV had when he was a kid?
“I wished I was able to watch my favourite shows the moment I switched on the TV. At that time, our parents would restrict our TV consumption and give us a maximum of 30 minutes TV time and we’d have to return to our rooms to sleep or do our homework at 8 pm.
“But if we had a service like Toggle Red Button back then, we’d have no problems catching up on all our shows and we’d just be playing ‘catch-up TV’ all day long (laughs).”
Photos: Fuji TV, Toei Animation
01 Aug 2016
#2 Ling Ling, the TV buff and OST jukebox
Before she became an actress, the self-declared “TV junkie” wished she had more TV time at home to watch the shows she really wanted. A big fan of ‘wuxia’ shows, she started singing the theme song of 1969 movie Have Sword Will Travel (or ‘Bao Biao’ in Mandarin) with much gusto during the interview.
“Period dramas and movies were in trend back then, the characters would be flying here and there and sparring with swords. It’s not a Singaporean series but we had nothing to do in the kampong back then so we’d gather around to watch that. I also really enjoyed Chiung Yao’s (a famed Chinese novelist) shows back then!”
01 Aug 2016
#3 Han Wei watched actor-turned-director Lin Mingzhe’s shows growing up
Unlike Ling Ling’s staple of romance shows, Han Wei preferred local and Hong Kong shows, including comedies that featured famed Hong Kong stars Stephen Chow and Sandra Ng. “One show that I really enjoyed was The Justice of Life (it stars Stephen and Alex Man)… Before I became an actor, another actor whose shows I particularly enjoyed was director Lin Mingzhe’s old shows like Son of Pulau Tekong (‘Ya Dai Zai’), I thought he was a very amiable person in it.”
01 Aug 2016
#4 The good and bad of the VHS era, according to Ling Ling and Han Wei
As TV buffs and budding actors then, how did Ling Ling and Han Wei watch their own shows in the past? “I’d record those using VHS (Video Home System) tapes,” replied Ling Ling, “My mum really loved enjoying my old shows back then so I’d rely on her to help me with it.”
But the flipside of using VHS tapes is when a family member accidentally overwrites your recorded programme with new content, said Han Wei. “Sometimes your family members may not know that you have not seen the video and they’d record something else with it and you’d lose that copy forever, either that or it’ll start to grow mould [which will result in the loss of content too].”
“I don’t miss the VHS era because the tapes are always stuck in the machine, it’d be so hard to remove it! I need to take the machine apart, unscrew it and then slowly wind it back again. There’s no point in pulling it out, you need to cut and use scotch tape to put to back together again. Times are improving, I don’t think it’s nostalgic, in fact I found it cumbersome (laughs).”
01 Aug 2016
#5 Ling Ling’s husband Huang Shi Nan is still a hoarder who has a VCR machine at home
While most of us, including Han Wei, feel immense relief at the demise of VHS tapes, Ling Ling revealed that she—or rather her husband—still has a machine at home. According to Ling Ling, it is one of Shi Nan’s prized possessions and he even purchased necessary equipment like alcohol solution and cotton swabs to clean their old analogs.
“He’s very strange! He has a whole stack of it at home, just like a karung guni (rag and bone) man and we have already thrown away a fair bit of his collection… He likes recording our old shows that air in the middle of the night… ultimately what matters is he keeps the old shows (he acted in) but not mine – I’d always tell him to overwrite them!”
Explaining Shi Nan’s fondness for VHS tapes, Ling Ling added with a chuckle, “He feels that this is a part of being an actor and it is something he really loves – one of his most treasured memories in life.”
Ed's note: Sentimentality aside, we can all agree to disagree that times have changed and it’s way easier (not to mention, convenient) to deal with a non-physical service that allows one to view a whole catalogue of content with the push of a button.
Learn all about the magic behind the red button found on remote controls for HbbTV-enabled Smart TVs at toggle.sg/toggleredbutton