Sunday 16 August 2009

Latest: I was out-Foxed by Cheryl's fake NDP newscast

In the middle of last week’s National Day Parade came a moment right out of The War Of The Worlds.

No, not the 2005 Tom Cruise movie about aliens invading New Jersey, based on the H G Wells novel.

I’m talking about the 1938 Orson Welles radio play that reportedly caused real-life panic because some listeners actually believed that aliens wanted to invade New Jersey.

According to The Straits Times, some viewers of last Sunday's NDP telecast were “startled” when MediaCorp news presenter Cheryl Fox cut into the parade broadcast to report a terrorist attack in Singapore. “Some netizens even posted a news alert on their social networking website accounts like Facebook,” reported The Straits Times. How gullible.

I was one of those “startled” viewers.

I was in The New Paper newsroom at the time. The television was tuned to the parade to ensure that the patriotic TNP staff working that night would not miss the all-important Pledge Moment.

I was busy picking out a wardrobe for my little blue cartoon cat in Pet Society on Facebook at my work computer when I overheard a clipped female voice saying: “We interrupt our broadcast to bring you an important announcement.

“A series of explosions has rocked a neighbourhood estate in Singapore.”

Huh? I quickly left my naked pet and wheeled my swivel chair to see what was happening on TV.

In what looked like a legitimate newscast with a news crawler and the words “Latest: Singapore under terrorist threat” at the bottom of the screen, Ms Fox continued her report: “The source of the blast is still unknown. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest.”

Was this for real? Did it mean we were skipping the Pledge Moment? The atrocity! Damn terrorists!

It seemed my poor kitty was going to have to stay unclothed for just a while longer. Damn, damn, damn terrorists!

If I had paid more attention, I would've asked: If the source of the blast was “unknown”, how do they know it was a “terrorist threat”? Maybe someone just microwaved their leftover sambal chicken a little longer than they should have.

And then I saw Michelle Chong on the screen.

That was when it hit me: “Wait a second. This isn’t the news. It’s The Noose! I’ve been punk’d!”

It was just another NDP Total Defence presentation. Knowing that I was previously involved in various MediaCorp productions, a colleague sneered: “That's about as cheesy as your typical MediaCorp drama.”

On the contrary, this was more authentic than any MediaCorp drama. For one thing, we would not have been allowed to use real news presenters like Cheryl Fox precisely because it might confuse viewers.

In past MediaCorp-produced Total Defence dramas, the Cheryl Fox-y role was played by actress Phyllis Quek and former New Face Angel Teo. Talk about cheesy.

As the rehearsed chaos unfolded on the Marina Bay floating platform on TV, I wondered: What if terrorists actually attacked Singapore during this simulated terrorist attack at NDP? Imagine the confusion then.

What if aliens invaded at the same time? Even Tom Cruise wouldn’t have been able to help us.

Hey, my cat looks really cute in a retro green polo shirt and hanbok pants. Ooh, a ten-gallon Stetson hat!

- Published in The New Paper, 16 August 2009