Millennium Bug Critique
By Lin Ziyuan
Started 3/12/1999 3am
30/12/1999: This week's finishing episodes have eclipsed the first week's one in quality - they're even worse. For this week, I've decided to comment by specific areas instead of by episodes. Plus at the end of the supposed last episode on Thursday, TCS decided to give us a gimmicky last-but-not-least episode which will be shown on Saturday. Another sign that the producers wrote the script week-by-week on an ad-hoc basis.
I'll put up a general conclusion soon.
23/12/1999: Some brief entries for Monday's, Tuesday's & Wednesday's episodes. Not much to comment on these days; I wonder if that's a good or bad sign :-)
17/12/1999: Whoa, sorry for the long pause. I've finally gotten down to commenting on episodes 11 and 12. Things are heating up for the show, kind of.
14/12/1999: Episode 10 is up.
13/12/1999: Episode 9's brief commentary.
9/12/1999: Episodes 7 and 8 are up. A little conclusion for the week's stuff too.
8/12/1999: Episode 6 is up, together with some side comments on viewer feedback in Wanbao.
6/12/1999: Moved the comments for episodes 1-4 to another page. As always, added/changed stuff here and there, like being Y2K-compliant here <g>. Also wrote about episode 5, screened today.
5/12/1999: Finished the comments on the first four episodes at last!
4/12/1999: Patched up some of the lacking parts. Next episode's on the 6th, plenty of time!
3/12/1999: The beginning, with some incomplete passages and parts here and there.
This page is an exposť of how the latest TCS (Television Corporation of Singapore) production, "Millennium Bug," is, behind all the glitz and pomp that it has been promoted, nothing but a melodramatic, overimaginative, unrealistic and laughable work of rubbish.
OK, maybe that was a little harsh. I've often been criticised as overly-critical :-), so this might be one of the occasions. Nevertheless, I can ensure every statement I make on this page is justified, and said because the show, and the people behind it, deserve it. The show, characteristic of recent TCS productions to date, are generally poorly researched, dramatise when uncalled for, show little plot innovations, and generally is not reflective of the Chinese saying "ren sheng ru xi, xi ru ren sheng," or life is like a show & vice versa.
Nevertheless, the show does have some of its good points, and being a fair person, I will point these out whenever appropriate. I understand that mere point-by-point criticism is useless if it is not accompanied with suggestions for improvement, just like when PM Goh says that if the media has a political agenda, then it should be in the arena and take responsibility for what it says. Comparing TCS productions with overseas productions, or even real life, I can try, and hopefully TCS will gradually improve. Let's cross our fingers for that to happen. & maybe subscribe to cable in the meantime :-)
You may say that TV viewers are asking to be entertained, and portraying too much reality will cause them to be turned off, but I feel that by giving the viewers such shows, with melodrama and unreality, in other words, nothing but sounds, flashes and 3D animations, is like computer shops demo-ing Windows' bells and whistles, but conveniently neglect the system crashes and the personal effort & dedication needed to get a system up-and-running well. The general idea these days, like in "1984", is IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH and this show is precisely a manifestation of this, well, crap.
Why I took the time to write all of this, if the show is as lousy as I claim
Yes, I agree that if the show is indeed so lousy, then I should not have to waste my time responding to it, and certainly not point-by-point. The main reason I am doing this is because the SCALE and RANGE of errors in this show is, in my opinion, unprecedented, more so because I happen to know more about computers and the computer industry compared to other themes that have been explored by previous shows to the same degree of detail. For example, doctors might have a lot to say about hospital dramas, and lawyers about law dramas. To them, these prior productions might just stink as much as "Millennium Bug" does. Who knows?
The second reason? I'm just bored. It's the holidays and this is an excuse not to do any real work, OK?
Lastly, I reserve a tiny amount of hope in my compassionate heart that TCS can improve, and eventually will be up to producing higher-quality stuff, like those from USA or (to a certain extent) Hong Kong. Now, although what I say here doesn't stand a very high chance of getting to the actual people in charge of making this happen, which reduces its usefulness for this purpose, then maybe I can look at this in the future and reflect about whether TCS has really improved or not.
TXJF: "Ti Xiao Jie Fei", Chinese idiom, meaning to "not know whether to laugh or cry." There are plenty of such examples.
- So these events are supposed to take place in some Ke Hui Dao, roughly translating to something like the "intelligent island", precisely the phrase the press has much ballyhoed for Singapore. The reason for this, since it has been done before, is to pretend that no, this is not Singapore, and nothing so bad like the chaos discussed above will happen to us. Just like kids constructing "houses" in their bedrooms and pretending that it is their own little world.
Besides being childish, this is also a weak attempt to protect the country's image. But which impressionable kid influenced by all the gambling and wheeling-and-dealing in Shuang Tian Zhi Zun I & II, also set in another island, believed in that? Similarly, no one is going to believe this one. TCS did this probably to be politically-correct and avoid trouble with government censors.
- Another tactic TCS has used to try & avoid rants about the lack of realism, like mine here, is the general idea that this is taking place in an advanced society, halfway into the 21st century even though it is still 1998, and DEFINITELY not Singapore. Well, to put it simply, it flops.
- Chen Hanwei's hair sucks. Enough said.
- ADDENDUM (14/12): The beginning sequence has a satellite colliding with another and exploding in space. Only thing that, sounds DON'T travel in the vacuum of space! This is a common mistake seen in shows like Star Trek too. Kind of difficult to notice too, because the sounds of explosion are pretty much integral of what we recognise as explosions.
The following points are mostly flaws in episodes of the show as it progresses. As you can see, I do not think very highly of the show, or at least what I've seen. So read on, & if you have been playing reasonably close attention to the show as I have, enjoy...
- Week 1: Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4
- Week 2: Episodes 5, 6, 7, 8
- Week 3: Episodes 9, 10, 11, 12
- Week 4: Episodes 13, 14, 15
- Week 5
The only thing we can tell from the scriptwriter's efforts in the show is that he has been paying a reasonable amount of attention to technology news, especially those pertaining to Y2K. Still, he does not seem to have much experience in the world of computing. Some doomsday predictions were included so far, like
- the power of hacking (although this was massively overstated and exaggerated),
- banking crises (when banks run out of cash to reimburse their customers if they demand their money back)
- technology theft (Episodes 1 & 2),
- internal security testing a.k.a. that of Chen Hanwei (although there was no need to get the police involved, and I think the police can at least give the company a warning for wasting their time and manpower, right?)
- threat from viruses (although the fixing part was very bad, see Episode 3.)
- the hacker image: smart, irreverent, even a bit arrogant. This was played reasonably well by Chen Hanwei, although he (the actor) must have had a good laugh with the ridiculous parts he was cast in.
- the 'slightly-behind-the-times' image, by Zoe Tay.
In addition, there were doomsday predictions which were whipped up until they got out of hand, as well as unnecessary bells-and-whistles that only irritated people, computer-literate and -illiterate alike:
- airplanes crashing from Y2K. & in the show it was not Y2K, it was sabotage of, what, flight plans! See Episode 4.
- companies' interests are placed above customer interests. This applied in both the bank and airline incidents, when even the police did not stop the companies from keeping the bad news under tabs, at the risk of customers' rights. I mean, how could this happen?
And lastly, this is something which I couldn't really put my finger on but my friend pointed out very well: Why do computer systems in TCS make SO MUCH NOISE? E.g. (in chronological order as we see them) The banking system, I.C. database, biotech company system, virus scanner, and airline system have repeated beeps for every function conceivable. It's like some Shockwave/Flash designer was allowed a free hand & no computing power limits for designing this stuff. Well, not only does incessant beeps, rollover or not, irritate viewers, it also makes the systems look less professional, because they serve no function. I don't mind having avant-garde and 'cool' GUIs, but please, cut out the sounds!
My friend suggests that Millennium Bug might be detrimental to all the efforts government agencies and private companies have put in in combating Y2K, by spreading erroneous beliefs that everything can be hacked (& very easily) and everything is Y2K-at risk. Well, initially I thought of that too, but when I saw the first 4 episodes in the first week, I realised that this should not happen. Singaporean viewers just have to be more intelligent than to believe even half of the events the show portrays, especially the unrealistic and untrue ones.
So, I think we will have very good Y2K celebrations. No rioting, planes crashing or anything :-).
Side Note: Public Comments in Wanbao
The evening newspaper Lianhe Wanbao recently covered, in their characteristic big-print way, that people had many complaints about the show. However, their complaints are, well, very different from mine (and not so detailed). Their main gripes, and my reaction:
- Zoe Tay's marriage after 3 days is unbelievable: Well, if you consider this unbelievable, what about the countless other unbelievable things that was all-so common in the first 4 episodes?
- Zoe Tay's divorce after 3 weeks is also unbelievable: If she finds that she's totally incompatible with James Lye (but begins to have second thoughts soon after), then what's wrong with a divorce? Especially when she doesn't like him interfering with her life so much.
- Zoe Tay, despite being a decisive and analytical person, doesn't tell her father about her marriage at first: At least TCS tries to give her character some depth, where she is not so adept at handling matters of the heart, and viewers cannot accept this depth. Sigh. If she was decisive in everything, then that would be a bit one-dimensional and unrealistic, wouldn't it?
- General complaints about the 8-year-old kid incident: This only slightly corresponds with mine, which says that it is almost impossible that he should be capable of hacking into government networks. BUT the readers' ostensible complaint: why is nothing else being said after the kid was arrested and barred from access to computers until 21? Why does he disappear?
DUH! Even if TCS only used the incident for historical feedback, then there would have been no need for further explanation (though this would be a bad touch). Obviously the arranged task for viewers here is to GUESS where the boy is now, and what actually happened to him (even though it is very obvious by Episode 2 or 3 that it's James Lye).
It is also obvious that this viewer is simply not acquainted with delayed plot lines, and wants everything to be crystal clear and unambiguous. Well, to be frank, there may be a lot of flaws in the show, as I've meticulously pointed out, but the pace and style are certainly not part of these. So if this anonymous viewer(s) can't handle it, then he/she should recognise that this show was not made for people who wanted simple dramas and the conventional. Try watching the X-Files or E.R., for example, and you'll see that this show is nothing in terms of pace and style compared to them. So Millennium Bug is on the right track, IMHO. Just with a lot of bugs to boot :-)
Side Note: Another TCS show "Coup de Scorpion"
Brain scan can cause your passwords to be revealed, as what happened to Nanshun. ~ From a friend
Side Note: Another TCS show "Immortal Love"
To depict DNA scanning, an edit window (as in DOS' edit.com) rapidly scrolling down some ASCII file, probably an .exe. Although it was on the screen for barely a few seconds, who knows, it could have sparked off a few viewers inclined towards biology... to renounce TCS forever :-)
Comments? Suggestions? Counterarguments?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.