Sunday 30 September 2012

How Cecilia Sue buried Code Of Law

Dear producers of Code Of Law,

My condolences on your new Channel 5 drama series. As a former TV producer for Channel 5 myself, I sympathise.

At least you had a good run for ...what was it? One episode?

Then along came Ms Cecilia Sue Siew Nang – and it’s game over.

The only way the “star witness” can get more attention is if she suddenly starts dancing Gangnam Style outside the courthouse.

After all, Ms Sue and her back-up dancers... I mean “bodyguards” already have the sunglasses for it. Heyyyyyy, sexy lady!

The good will you get for Code Of Law being a spin-off of the overrated lawyer show The Pupil can get you only so far. Even The Pupil’s ratings tanked in the second season.

In terms of entertainment value, whatever fictional court cases you can concoct for your rip-off ...I mean Singapore version of the US series Law & Order can’t compete with the real-life abbreviation-filled court testimony by Ms Sue which started last week.

But it’s not from lack of trying on your part.

You hired the pretty Joanne Peh and the even prettier Keagan Kang as your Code Of Law leads – but they’re no Cecilia Sue.

(As an aside, didn’t Kang use to date former weather girl and Triple Nine actress Chong Chia Suan? She’s a teacher in UK now and speaks with a seriously hardcore angmoh accent. I always thought he was too petite for her.)

Besides hewing to Law & Order’s rigid cops-and-lawyers split format, you’re also emulating the cancelled US show’s reliance on “ripped from the headlines” storylines.

Your first episode was based on an actual case ripped from local headlines. Unfortunately, those local headlines are about six years old.

Not exactly timely, are you?

In the opening scene of the series which premiered two weeks ago, a woman’s severed head was found in Orchard Road.

The woman turned out to be a Filipino maid who was killed by another Filipino maid because the dead maid owed the killer maid money. The killer maid was caught, put on trial and was sentenced to 10 years’ jail by the end of the episode.

Back in 2006, Filipino maid Guen Garlejo Aguilar was sentenced to 10 years’ jail for manslaughter after strangling and dismembering fellow Filipino maid Jane Parangan La Puebla.

So by re-enacting this case six years later, Code Of Law is also like Crimewatch except much tardier and with better acting but the same cheesy music.

Of course, the names and some of the circumstances of the case were changed in Code Of Law as I don’t think Aguilar’s lawyers were as gorgeous as Joanne Peh and Keagan Kang because, come on, no one can be.

But that was just the first episode. Even though it was only less than a fortnight ago, it was a different time back then.

Those were simpler days when a severed woman’s head was more shocking than a woman’s head being forced into a man’s crotch.

It was a time when DIY still meant home improvement and SP still meant the place where I got my diploma in electronics engineering.

By the second episode of Code Of Law on Thursday, the nation’s collective innocence had been shattered by Ms Sue’s testimony – and the honeymoon was over for your show.

Code Of Law was upstaged by another programme on Channel 5.

That programme was News 5 Tonight.

In that second episode of Code Of Law, the case involved two gang members accused of killing a rival gang member in a gang fight.

On News 5 Tonight that same night after the episode, oral sex was mentioned three times in a two-minute report on Ms Sue’s court testimony in the sex-for-contracts case against former Central Narcotics Bureau head Ng Boon Gay.

Make-believe gang violence versus oral sex – what do you think viewers would be talking about the next day?

No fight, man.

As consolation, maybe six years from now, you could re-enact Ms Sue’s testimony for an episode of Code Of Law (although by then, the bigger shock would be that Code Of Law is still on the air).

I just hope Crimewatch won’t beat you to it.

- Published in The New Paper, 30 September 2012

2018 UPDATE: I’m shocked that six years later, Code Of Law was back on the air for a fourth season

2015 UPDATE: What happened to Joanne Peh in Code Of Law 3?

SEQUEL: Darinne Ko is no Cecilia Sue