Social media’s abuzz with OMFG-that-episode-was-crazy exclamations every Monday morning of late. I have a few reasons why I don’t watch it[1], but it has been a while since I watched telly. I think the last time that I properly followed a series on telly somewhat religiously was Buffy The Vampire Slayer. So much so, I had once asked my supervising consultant (I was a wee trainee then) that if TV was a good enough reason for me to be let off early from work. If I remember correctly, I had to watch a re-run of the Buffy episode from that day. Hey, I tried.

Recently my interest in what is labelled as TV these days was slightly rekindled after subscribing to Netflix. Streaming services like this would have entire seasons of past dramas should one wish to binge watch, and to my amazement, some are released as the whole series in one shot. I remembered ayah actually watching Iron Fist on his iPad to pass the time only to complain 6 hours later as to when will the story will ever end. Binge-watching isn’t a new thing for me as I do that with anime (either downloaded *koff* or streamed), and you can just end a weekend just. Like. That. Not recommended on warm sunny Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, I say.

Last Sunday, however, saw me hurriedly rustling through some disorganised paperwork to sort out my tax return. And in my wisdom, whilst filling in the rows and columns of .xls files needed by the accountant, I decided to binge-watch… a Malaysian drama.

Oh yes.

You wanna shoot me? Whatever lah. Anyways, I just wanna see what these current Malay dramas are like, especially the ones with a mixture of Bahasa and English in its title. Also, this one has Elizabeth Tan. *koff*

When I was much younger[2], I remembered slots on RTM’s Rangkaian Pertama (that’s channel one for you folks born after 1980) like Potret Pekerti and Drama Minggu Ini. In those days, drama actors were pretty much the same bunch of peo… waitasec, I guess it’s about the same today. There were a few arty dramas[3] like Tonel Badut and Anjang Aki. There was also one with Khalid Salleh (if I remembered correctly) as a poet reciting his work which had the lines, “Suaraaa… suaraaa…“. I’d be grateful if anyone can tell me what drama this was as I have given up on Google. The rest of them were typically run-of-the-mill, the kinds where you’d have the “Bagaimana dengan bisnes Tan Sri/Datuk (take your pick)? Baik?” line fitted in the script every other episode. And not forgetting, “Fresh oren dua?“.

So, Elizabeth Tan notwithstanding, I thought I’d give this Inspektor Daniel drama series a go. With the recent spate of really decent Malay(sian) cinema of late, I wondered if this may well be all right. The lead was the ubiquitous Aaron Aziz as said police inspector, supported by Siti Elizad whom I remembered from Mamat Khalid’s Rock playing Daniel’s colleague, and Erra Fazira playing their boss, an ASP in a big station in KL. Unlike many other dramas of its ilk, this one wasn’t based on a book. To my pleasant surprise, Aziz M Osman was the director. I liked his XX-Ray stuff from the early 90s, so this raised my expectations a tad. The production was Skop’s, so this is a Yusof Haslam & son’s venture. I saw in an interview somewhere that despite Skop’s association with the likes of faster paced cop movies like Gerak Khas, the premise of this drama series is more focused on the daily lives of the characters outside work, and any kind of police action is toned down. So, I gritted my teeth a bit, as a kisah cinta tiga/empat/lima segi is very likely to unfold[4].

The episodes were pretty interesting at first. I can only remember Aaron in that Pisau Cukur film which was pretty enjoyable, but his Daniel character in this drama series is the antithesis of the ‘hero Malaya’ persona people always see onscreen, where he appears to be somewhat ‘blur’ when it comes to reading women (he is a good cop, otherwise). His colleague, Hannah (Elizad), fancies him but tries hard not to show it. Maya (Tan), the bimbo-ish model living next door fancies him too. And just to add to the mix, Daniel’s kid brother who lives with him, secretly fancies Maya, and… Hannah’s motorbike mechanic/good friend, Zarul, quietly fancies Hann… how many segi did I say this kisah cinta was? In between the antics of the three main characters (Daniel, Hannah and Maya), are a few obligatory kes polis scenes, some of which done with the aid of real cops. I find it interesting that the script avoids usage of names and precise locations when it comes to discussion of a case, or just anything said between the characters, eg “Suspek sekarang berada di Damansara. Kita akan bergerak sekarang.” or “Jom makan dekat restoran baru tu? Yang dekat dengan studio kita shooting minggu lepas.” It’s interesting to see what Googling ‘using names of real places in fiction‘ tells you.

To my dismay, things got to get a bit tiring by episode 7 thereabouts (the series has 16 episodes in total). By this time it was a cycle of Daniel and Hannah get on well together –> Hannah sees Daniel going out with Maya –> Hannah gets jealous and ignores Daniel –> Maya cheeses Daniel off –> Daniel calls Hannah to complain about Maya ad nauseam. And it feels like every single meal they had was at Tapak. Reminds me of the reason why I kinda get turned off by Korean dramas. The story in a Korean drama could have ended by episode 12, but no, it goes on to episode 26. That’s why J-drama is for the wi… never mind. And to add to the dwindling of my slightly raised expectations for the drama series, the story also has a Tengku and a Tan Sri. And all the characters appear well off. I’m not disparaging people in the police force, but I wonder how much a police inspector gets paid these days to live in a relatively swanky central KL apartment block and ride a Ducati. Oh, I forgot. This is fiction.

Nevertheless, I thought, from an acting perspective, the actors, including some of the supporting cast, were quite good. Great, even. Good acting from the likes Aaron and Erra is a given anyways, but I thought Elizabeth Tan was right convincing as a bimbo. Convincing enough to make me not want to watch that Maya character in another scene ever again. I read somewhere that she rather act than sing, so we may get to see more of Elizabeth in the future then. Dazrin Kamarudin, the chap playing Danish (Daniel’s photog brother) was pretty natural in his acting as well. So, credit where credit is due.

So much for binge-watching, it was only twelve episodes that I got to watch and I have four more episodes left (not been aired on Astro yet). Might as well watch it till the end. I still wish for our local dramas to be less rigid in their storytelling, though. Studios/TV stations have to cater for the masses to see some financial gain, and until the masses (and the powers that be) have a change in their mindset, it’ll be a while yet before you see a story that has corrupt cops/high ranking politicians, bad guys that do not receive their comeuppances, etc.

[1]Which award-winning HBO series am I talking about, you wonder?
[2]In the days when Malaysia only had two channels in B&W.
[3]They were just plain weird to an 8 year-old.
[4]Looking at the cast, this was inevitable.