Catching up with four classic Singapore TV icons

Catching up with four classic Singapore TV icons

Bobo, a character everyone identified with

Who: Bobo, a vindictive model with big curly hair in Pretty Faces (1991)

Real McCoy: Zoe Tay

The most watched scene of Pretty Faces in 1991 - where materialistic vixen Bobo Wu was raped - attracted more than one million viewers that night.

Bobo catapulted veteran actress Zoe Tay, then 23, to instant stardom.

Viewers followed Bobo's path as she went from a naive schoolgirl to a materialistic air stewardess, a vengeful model and, finally, a jailbird.

"There is a Bobo in all of us," says Tay, now 47, adding: "She isn't really bad. She is naive and doesn't think twice about anything. What she needed was proper guidance."

The TV character remains one of her most unforgettable roles to date.

"I was surprised and overwhelmed then by the response to Bobo but she was a character with lots of attitude," Tay recalls.


Bobo also defied the stereotype of conservative roles that were handed to actresses at that time: She was outspoken, raunchy and showed a lot more skin.

Tay even learnt to smoke so she could breathe life into Bobo's salacious, loud, and mercenary character.

She recounts: "I started wearing spaghetti-strapped tops. Back then, we didn't have that many sponsored outfits in the wardrobe department, so I picked up scraps left behind by the dancers - clothes, shoes, earrings.

"I also went to David (Gan, the hair stylist) and asked him for a wild hairdo that was manageable."

Tay says she also drew inspiration from attending a workshop which was organised by Japanese actors.

"They were so dedicated to their art that they immersed themselves in the roles they were given. So when I was assigned the role of Bobo, I did the same. I gave 200 per cent of myself."

Hoo... hoo... hoo she is

Who: Liang Po Po, a spunky granny in Comedy Night (1993)

Real McCoy: Jack Neo

The 85-year-old granny first appeared in a TV scene in 1993 when "Comedy Nite hit a bottleneck", says home-grown film-maker and comedian Jack Neo.

Comedy Nite was the longest-running comedy variety programme on TV. Aired on Monday nights from 1993 to 2005, it was seen as an antidote to Monday blues.

Liang Po Po, played by Neo, is best remembered for her trademark "hoo hoo hoo" laugh.

Neo drew inspiration from Taiwanese and Japanese variety shows. He says: "They were interactive and each had a rather raunchy elderly woman character to keep the audience coming back for more."

But he admits he was reluctant at first.

"I thought her slapstick antics would detract from the serious cross-talk segment I had with (screen partner) Moses Lim..."

Taking on the role was not easy either, says Neo, who had to be in a half-stooping, half-standing position throughout the skits.

"It was very tiring. After every show, my wife had to give me a massage," he recalls.

Liang Po Po also had her share of detractors.

"The young kids in kindergartens and primary schools were imitating Liang Po Po and the teachers at some of the schools were not pleased. The schools even sent in letters to the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation..." he says.

Still, the character's enduring popularity, both here and in Malaysia, culminated in a movie in 1999. "And if she were real and still around, she would be 107 today," Neo sums up, with a laugh.

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