Friday 1 May 2009

PCK is back, but only in Malaysia - and online

Hey, have you seen the new PCK?

Yes, I'm talking about brand new freshly-squeezed episodes about the self-proclaimed best contractor in Singapore and JB - and some say this nearby Indonesian island where Singapore men like to go for cheap seafood and sex.

And no, not on television - well, at least not Singapore TV anyway. The new Phua Chu Kang series has been showing on Malaysia's ntv7 every Wednesday night since 25 Mar.

But if you don't live in Malaysia, you can watch the complete episodes on ntv7's website at All you need to do is register.

Wait a minute, you say. Didn't the show end back in February 2007 after 10 years and eight seasons with a grand finale episode where Gurmit cried?

Yes, it did and yes, he did. I should know. I was the executive producer of the much-ballyhooed “final season”.

Imagine my surprise when, about a year later, I was told that a Malaysian TV station wanted to commission new episodes of PCK.

For a uniquely Singaporean TV sitcom – mentioned in three National Day rally speeches by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong – to be transposed to another country is pretty historic.

The new PCK is set in KL and only Gurmit Singh and Irene Ang are retained from the original cast, supplemented by Malaysian actors and actresses playing new regular characters. While the show was shot in Malaysia, most of the creative team have earlier worked on the orginal PCK.

In a way, producing a PCK series specifically for the Malaysian market makes perfect sense. The show has always been hugely popular up north, judging by Gurmit’s frequent trips there to make live appearances as the yellow-booted contractor over the years.

Ironically, although PCK has become a genuine Singapore icon, it’s probably easier to find show sponsors in Malaysia than in Singapore, where the original series was considered too low-class to attract sponsorship in its last few seasons.

Or at least, that was what the MediaCorp sales people told me.

To reduce cost, two PCK Sdn Bhd seasons of 13 episodes each were reportedly filmed over two months, which is quite a feat. When I was producing the “final season”, our output was two episodes a week at most.

Another difference is that the spin-off series was shot entirely on location, even PCK’s new KL home. Whereas in Singapore, the interiors of PCK’s home were studio sets on Caldecott Hill.

Also, for the first time, you can watch full episodes of PCK online legally at the ntv7 website – for free – even from Singapore.

This follows the US model where many TV network programmes are made available online after they have been aired – but only to viewers in the US.

Up to now, you can only watch the original PCK online legally at MediaCorp’s Mob TV website after paying a subscription fee.

But this isn’t the first time a local sitcom has returned after its “final season”, of course. Under One Roof was resurrected in 2003 for a “special” one-off season after supposedly ending in 2001.

However, this new PCK is different – for one thing, it’s called Phua Chu Kang Sdn Bhd, not Pte Ltd. And it’s a spin-off, like how Joey was a spin-off from Friends and Frasier was a spin-off from Cheers.

Let’s hope PCK Sdn Bhd is more like Frasier, which lasted 11 seasons and won a record-breaking 37 Emmies, than Joey, which lasted only two seasons and won zero Emmies.

Just be grateful there isn’t another PCK musical.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 May 2009

UPDATE: PCK Sdn Bhd aired in Singapore from October to December 2009. The PCK movie, released in 2010, was set and filmed in Malaysia.

Watch PCK Pte Ltd Season 2 here

Watch PCK Pte Ltd Season 3 here

Watch PCK Pte Ltd Season 8 here