In the little flat that I share with Saffy and Amanda, we watch a lot of TV. Some of you out there are probably saying, “Eh, doh-ne bluff!” But I swear on a pile of 8DAYS that we do. There probably isn’t a show out there that we’ve not watched. We’ll watch shows even though we’ve decided from the pilot episode that it’s stupid. We’ll even watch pilot episodes even though we know it never got picked up by the studios. That’s how dedicated we are.
As Saffy once pointed out as we diligently slogged through five seasons of Fringe, “Seriously, if we had jobs that required us to watch TV, I’d be the CEO by now.”
From the other corner of the couch, Amanda muttered, “I can’t believe we’re still watching this. This show is such crap!”
“It’s a really bad blend of X-Files and Alcatraz,” I said through a mouthful of popcorn.
“At least Alcatraz had hot bad guys,” said Saffy with the authority of someone who’s seen her fair share of shows with ugly bad guys.
“And Sam Neill,” Amanda added.
“And Sam Neill.”
But every so often, we come across a real gem and when we do, we become devoted to it the way some people are obsessed with their Singapore Airlines PPS membership. One of these shows is Downton Abbey.
It is, hands down, the best thing on TV right now. (Well, apart from Elementary, Scandal, Modern Family, Dallas redux and Revenge.)
“It’s a show about maids, right?” Sharyn said once, looking very doubtful.
“Oh my dear!” Saffy said, channeling Cousin Violet with uncanny precision. “What is a weekend?”
Sharyn looked confused. “What?”
Saffy said it’s just such a shame that we live in a tiny flat and not a big-assed mansion on Nassim Hill.
“I don’t think those houses have a basement section for the servants,” said Amanda, real estate agent specializing in Districts 9 and 10.
“You can’t call them servants,” Saffy said. “Or maids.”
Amanda said, “Well, what…”
Saffy steamed on. “All my Australian friends call their maids ‘domestic helpers’. It’s the PC thing to say.”
“Well, that doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it? ‘Just leave the luggage, my Lady. I’ll have the domestic helper bring it up to your room.’ See? It doesn’t sound right!”
“It’s so sad that we can only afford Ah Chuan,” Saffy went on, completely oblivious to the fact that she was taking part in a conversation involving another person. “But can you imagine if there was an Ah Chuan in Downton Abbey? It would be like Tekka Market every second of the day!”
Sharyn finally succumbed to curiosity and said that she was going to watch an episode that evening. The next day, she met us for lunch, hollow eyed and twitching uncontrollably.
“Aiyoh!” she moaned as she sat down. “I haven’t slept since 9pm! You, lah! Talk talk talk about Down Town Ah-bee, I watch one episode and doh-ne stop watching till one hour ago. I finish two season!”
Even Saffy, no stranger herself to instantaneous obsessions, was impressed. “Isn’t it a great show?” she said.
“Aiyoh! So good! Very cheem, hor, but so good! I love Cousin Matt-thew! Wah, so han-some! And the driver also!” Sharyn’s bloodshot eyes blinked rapidly. “My maid, hor, she also stay up to watch with me. I told her I must get her a black and white uniform also. She say, ‘Yes, mum’, I say, ‘No, you must call me mee-ladee!’ We laugh laugh laugh, my husband think we both seow!”
Which is how the other night, Sharyn and her maid came over for a marathon session of season 3.
“There’s a bonus Christmas episode!” Amanda announced.
Saffy shuffled out of the kitchen, burdened with popcorn, corn chips, salsa dip and several cans of Red Bull. “Oh my God. I am beyond excited! It’s so sad that watching a TV show is the highlight of my year so far, but I really don't care! OK, I’m ready, start!”
We finished the ten episodes at six in the morning, utterly exhausted and a little stunned. Outside the window, it was still dark, though the birds were already singing their hearts out and the traffic was picking up.
After a while, Sharyn sniffed. “Ay, how like that?” she demanded.
Her maid was still holding onto Saffy’s arm and sobbing. Saffy patted her head awkwardly. “It’s OK, Maria. It’s only a show!”
Amanda looked defeated. “My God, I did not see that coming!”
“It’s like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!” I said, adding, “But with better clothes and interior decor!”
“I can’t wait for season four,” Saffy piped up. “Listen, seriously, can you stop crying?”