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Tue, Oct 28, 2008
The Sunday Times
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Dare to bare
by Jasmine Teo

If you have got it, flaunt it - regardless of age. So the latest flesh parade trend at Caldecott goes.

Actress Pan Ling Ling, 38, did it in the drama Beach. Ball. Babes. this year when she showed off her buxomy figure in a bikini.

In the beach volleyball-themed show, she plays a flight stewardess who is only 19 years older than her daughter, played by Dawn Yeoh, 21.

Even the queen bee of Caldecott Hill, Zoe Tay, 40, is planning to bare it all, except for essential bits of masking tape, in the upcoming drama series By My Side.

The 20-part social drama, which debuts on Channel 8 on Tuesday, is about people with Aids and sees her teaming up with long-time buddy Chen Hanwei to play a married couple, Lin Xinya and Chen Bufan.

In one scene, she had to bare it all as Xinya strips in front of her husband to salvage their crumbling marriage.

Is the disrobing just a hook to lure eyeballs?

Mr Paul Chan, vice-president of branding and promotions at MediaCorp Channel 8, says no. 'Such scenes in our drama series are never gimmicky but are pivotal to the story development and integrity of the series.'

Viewers, however, are sceptical.

'It's Zoe Tay's comeback role after some time away from the screen, so it could be one of the ways to generate publicity and some sensation,' says Channel 8 viewer Grace Lau, a 25-year-old financial analyst.

Others think stripping is just one way for these actresses to keep their careers going.

Says Madam Leong Lai Yoong, 54, an administrative assistant: 'Maybe they do it so that they can get more business and endorsement deals. But as long as they have a good figure, I'm okay with them doing it.'

Even veteran actress and mother-of-two Xiang Yun, 46, has recently made a leap from playing a thrifty auntie in advertisements for supermarkets to flaunting her trim figure in an admittedly modest one-piece swimsuit for an endorsement ad for a slimming centre.

The actress, who opted for the one-piece rather than a belly-baring two-piece bikini, says: 'It takes a lot of courage and is very difficult for an actress to strip like that.'

Retiree Wong Weng Fatt, 61, expressed concern about the trend: 'If young kids see their mothers on television wearing so little, it might give them the wrong idea and values.'

But some actresses are willing to buck the trend and stay modestly clothed.

Take Kym Ng. The actress, who is in her 40s, tells Lifestyle laughingly: 'I don't have a good body, so I can't do it lah. I'm not young anymore so it'll be more disgusting rather than pleasing to the eye.'

But she adds: 'Even though we're Asians, we shouldn't be too conservative. It's a television show for entertainment after all, and people should be more light-hearted about it.'

  • By My Side is on Channel 8, Mondays to Fridays, from 9pm, starting on Tuesday.


Skin-baring milestones
Local television has got more liberal over the years. LifeStyle tracks the controversial milestones in MediaCorp's productions.

1983: The Flying Fish
What: The swimming drama series that saw ratings soar.
Talking point: A big payoff for male actors like Wang Yuqing, who became one of Channel 8's hottest heart-throbs after this series for going topless. The women were togged out in one-piece swimwear.

1984: The Awakening
What: Huang Wenyong and Xiang Yun were Caldecott's first golden screen couple in this drama about Chinese immigrants in Singapore from the 1920s onwards.
Talking point: The first screen kiss in a then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation drama serial between Chen Shucheng and Huang Peiru.

1991: Pretty Faces
What: Zoe Tay plays Bobo, the character that is about as famous as Tay herself.
Talking point: The materialistic Bobo was raped by her drunken lover (played by former actor Desmond Shen). Tay's portrayal of Bobo kickstarted her career.

1997: Price Of Peace
What: Post-Japanese Occupation drama on war survivors in Singapore.
Talking point: Ex-Television Corporation of Singapore (as it was known then) actress Carole Lin bagged the Best Actress honour at the Star Awards that year and the gossip was that it was for a stripping scene, not for her acting prowess. In the show, she played a long-suffering woman humiliated by her husband after she was stripped on a busy street.

2000: As You Like It
What: Drama series about six yuppies-cum-beach volleyball enthusiasts in a tangled web of open relationships.
Talking point: Speedos on the hunky guys - Ix Shen and Tay Ping Hui - were the centre of attraction, instead of Lynn Poh and Shanghainese presenter Cheng Di in conservative one-piece swimwear.

2004: The Champion
What: New generation swim team, modelled after Channel 8's successful 1983 hit, The Flying Fish.
Talking point: Actress Fiona Xie's assets on display in a double-bikini as she made her infamous run down Orchard Road.

2006: CID
What: Cop drama starring Ivy Lee and Constance Song as crimebusters.
Talking point: Song played a transsexual and Lee gyrated in a pole-dancing scene.

2008: Beach. Ball. Babes.
What: Three nubile beach volleyball players get their hearts trampled on by a Casanova bar owner, played by Christopher Lee.
Talking point: Not Jade Seah, Joanne Peh and Jesseca Liu in bikinis in Tiong Bahru market, but Pan Ling Ling when she flaunted her boxomy figure in a bikini for the first time in her 20-year career.

2008: Perfect Cut
What: The series on cosmetic surgery, starring Thomas Ong and Michelle Chia.
Talking point: Constance Song in the limelight again when she stripped for her role - without tape to cover the essential bits - as a woman who goes for a boob job.

2008: Little Nyonya
What: Upcoming mega-series about a Peranakan woman, played by Jeanette Aw.
Talking point: A rape scene in the epic drama finds Joanne Peh baring some skin for the intense scene.

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on Oct 26, 2008.

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