Two of Mediacorp Channel 8's heavily promoted 8 Dukes, or hot young male stars, have been out-duked by a comic actor from The Noose - and this is no joke.
Ian Fang, 26, and Desmond Tan, 29, did not make the shortlist of nominees for the upcoming Star Awards' Top 10 Most Popular Artistes award category.
In a surprising turn of events, Chua Enlai, one of the stars of Channel 5 comedy sketch show The Noose, made the shortlist for the first time. The Star Awards is primarily for the stars of Channel 8, not those who appear in its sister English-language channel's shows.
But Chua, who is more of a Channel 5 mainstay, is eligible for nomination as one of the Most Popular Male Artistes as he has made several guest appearances on Channel 8 and Channel U variety shows over the past year. The 36-year-old is "just as surprised as anybody else" at his nomination.
Between chortles, he told The Straits Times: "Honestly, I find it so amusing. I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm honoured to be nominated.
"When I was first told of my nomination, my first thought was, 'Excuse me, is this some kind of joke?'"
Chua - who appeared in Channel 8's Say It!, where English-speaking celebrities had to speak in Mandarin and vice versa, and in Channel U's Wah Singapore, where he acted in mini sketches about life in Singapore - adds: "I noticed that in the past year, aunties at the market have started to recognise me and they'll start speaking to me in Mandarin.
"Because of how bad my Chinese is, my life has suddenly become a lot more complicated."
Tan's failure to make the shortlist this year is all the more shocking to fans because he was deemed to have narrowly missed out on one of the Top 10 popular awards last year after getting on the shortlist.
He says he is "disappointed", but admits he is not too surprised as much of his work last year had been on Channel 5 shows such as police drama Mata Mata and sitcom Spouse For House 2.
"The last time I was on Channel 8 was more than 1 1/2 years ago. Even Enlai has contributed to Channel 8 more than I have, so I'm not too surprised. It wouldn't have been fair for me to be on the list actually," he says.
"I guess I should try to see if I can find a better balance between working on Channel 5 and Channel 8. I should maintain my exposure on Channel 8, otherwise people may forget about me completely."
Fang's omission from the shortlist is no less jaw-dropping for fans than Tan's, since Fang won his first Top 10 award last year and in the past year had starred in many Channel 8 programmes, including blockbuster dramas The Dream Makers II and The Journey: Our Homeland.
But he says he is choosing to "remain positive" about the result.
"Rather than complain about something like this, which is out of my control, I will just keep working harder as an actor.
"Popularity and performance are two different things. I'm not afraid of being unpopular, but I hope people will see that I'm a hardworking and good actor," says the star, who is up for the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Tiger Mum.
According to an information sheet about the award, the shortlist for the Top 10 Most Popular Male and Female Artistes is derived from a survey conducted by a market research company with a sample size of 1,000 respondents that is "representative of the Singaporean population".
These respondents had each received a voting list with photos of all the Mediacorp artistes with a valid contract until April 24, which is the day the Star Awards will be held. The research company then collated the scores for each artiste by phone to generate the shortlist.
The shortlist of 40 names - 20 male and 20 female - is open for public voting online and via telephone, where fans can vote for the stars they believe deserve to be among Channel 8 and Channel U's Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes and Female Artistes.
Tan's and Fang's omission from the shortlist has generated wild speculation on social media.
A Facebook user by the name of Sorensen Lkh mused: "Why are Rebecca Lim's both BFF - Desmond Tan and Ian Fang OUT?"
Tan and Fang are known to be best friends with actress Rebecca Lim, who had riled the public last month when she said that she was "retiring" as part of a publicity stunt. Still, that has not stopped Lim, 29, from making the female artistes' shortlist.
This article was first published on March 5, 2016.
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