Thursday 17 March 2011

Shiver me timbers! It's back from the dead!

For the past few days, I have noticed a number of people stumbling onto this blog because they had googled "Shiver" and reached an old post about me writing for the show.

I was at first puzzled by the sudden interest in this old local drama series from the '90s. Then I found out Channel 5 is currently rerunning the show on weekdays in the early afternoon.

So for those of you who are curious about the show, this is some of what I can recall about it.

The series was first telecast in 1997 and ran for one (at the time record-breaking) 30-episode season.

Like most local English-language TV programmes, it was lambasted for all the usual things - lack of originality, crappy scripts, crappy acting, crappy everything.

I don't think the show was as bad as it was made out to be, but then I'm biased.

I believe the show was hampered by promos that led people to expect it to be scary, which it was never intended to be. The name "Shiver" didn't help.

It was an anthology series modelled after Twilight Zone, which people seem to forget wasn't that scary as well.

So it was very frustrating for us working on the show to hear constant complaints that the show wasn't scary. (Years later, MediaCorp did produce a show, Incredible Tales, that was meant to be scary and it was a big hit.)

Another problem that became apparent as the series progressed was the casting. Unlike in America where Twilight Zone was produced, here in Singapore, the pool of actors is much smaller.

So you would see Hossan Leong and Andrew Seow repeatedly star in more Shiver episodes than you would care for. Viewers got tired of seeing the same old faces.

Even I had small roles in a few episodes.

Yesterday, I chanced upon the second half of an episode called Animal, starring Andrew Seow, who played a guy bitten by a mysterious creature on Pulau Ubin and started to change.

I was shocked when I saw myself oncreen playing a doctor. I had forgotten I was in that episode. My wife couldn't stop laughing.

I had to deliver the ridiculous line (which I wrote) that Andrew Seow had rabies. It was my own take on the werewolf mythos.

Still, from what I saw, the episode held up better than I expected, but then again, I'm biased.

Today, there was another episode that I wrote and appeared in called The Lift. It's one of those typical Twilight Zone-esque stories where people disappear and no one seem to remember they even existed except the protagonists.

I played a guy running a comic book shop who asked Hossan Leong, "Are you on drugs?"

These were two of my favorite Shiver episodes. I had written a total of eight episodes, not including a script that was rejected because it had cannibalism in it.

Another episode I wrote was the series opener called The Hour, also starring Hossan Leong. The premise was similar to the movie Groundhog Day except it was more like Groundhog Hour.

I thought it was a bad idea for it to be the first episode because I knew people would accuse us of ripping off the movie - which they did.

Believe it or not, the excutive producer of Shiver had never heard of Groundhog Day which was why he made that decision. I had many arguments with that executive producer and one day I actually made him cry.

Despite this, I still have fond memories of Shiver because it was my first gig as a scriptwriter and The Hour was the first script I had ever written.

My other episodes were:

Brother's Keeper, starring Zachary Mosalle as a mentally retarded man (or is he?). He was nominated a Asian Television Award in 1998 for the role, which was based on my sister.

Miss Singapore, starring Jamie Lee, who isn't too convincing as an unattractive, overweight woman, later transformed into a beauty queen.

Inside, starring Tan Kheng Hua as an agoraphobe (or is she?) and Darryl David.

Conscience, starring Najib Ali as a woman's conscience. An interesting concept ruined by inept direction.

Year Of The Tiger, a Chinese New Year episode starring Robin Leong that turned out really silly because of garish direction by the aforementioned executive producer.

This episode was my attempt to write a modern fantasy-kungfu action story based on the Chinese Zodiac fable. What I envisioned was something with a cool attitude like Men In Black, but it ended up a camp cartoon like VR Man. I remember being told the radio DJs made fun of the episode the morning after it first aired.

I still think it would make an interesting premise for a big budget action movie though.

2018 UPDATE: When your old TV shows come back to haunt you