You may have heard of Singapore Social, Netflix’s 2019 reality TV programme that follows the lives of a bunch of good-looking, young socialites “as they defy expectations” in Singapore. While that’s received a lot of criticism for its portrayal of an ‘unreal’ Singapore – we’re looking at you, Crazy Rich Asians – there’s been plenty of other programmes that feature Singapore in a more realistic light.
Somebody Feed Phil | S4, Ep 3
Opimistic host Phil Rosenthal, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, eats his way through Singapore as he checks out sites like MBS, Jewel, and Raffles Hotel in Episode 3. In this episode, he meets with some of Singapore’s food stalwarts like Bjorn Shen and KF Seetoh who introduce him to their favourite dishes at hawker centres like Tiong Bahru, Maxwell Market, and Changi Village. In addition to chicken rice, nasi lemak, and chwee kueh, he also samples high end food at restaurants like Burnt Ends and Candlenut.
Street Food: Asia | Ep 8
Street Food features four dishes that are supposed to represent the country, and the Singapore episode showcased some classics like KEK Seafood’s Chilli Crab, Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice, Haig Road’s Putu Piring, and the late Master Tang’s Wanton Noodles whose store was closed after his passing in Feb 2019. Rather than focusing on the food, the series follows the lives of the hardworking hawkers instead.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown | S10 Ep 1
The late, great Anthony Bourdain has hosted a ton of reality food shows, and in S10 of Parts Unknown, he returns to Singapore’s hawker stalls for their signature mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisine. He discusses about life in Singapore with famous locals at places like Sabar Menanti II and Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant, and tucks into some Geylang Lor 29 Fried Hokkien Mee and 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles. He also shares tipples at SuperTree by IndoChine and B28.
Pedal the World (film)
In this documentary, Felix Starck chronicles his journey around the world (22 countries, to be precise) on his bicycle, and Singapore was his final Asian leg before flying to New Zealand. During the short 9-minute segment, he got towed upon entering the country (for riding on a highway) and managed to explore Chinatown before meeting a Singaporean known as SK, who generously helped him pack his bike for the NZ flight, treated him to lunch, and drove him to the airport.
Night on Earth | Ep 5 & 6
Night On Earth is all about capturing the activities of nocturnal animals using advanced low-light- and thermal cameras. Singapore may not be known for wildlife, but it appears twice in the series. Episode 5 (Sleepless Cities) features our city’s beloved swimmers: the Marina Bay otters. These adorable vocal critters are definitely the most famous stars of our garden city, but Episode 6 (Dusk Till Dawn) showcased a native mammal that most Singaporeans don’t get to see (or even know about). The colugo, or “flying lemur”, looks like a flying fox with its huge, stretchy wing. This small, furry tree-dwellers can glide incredible distances between trees, and are more closely related to us genetically than you think.
BBC Earth’s Planet Earth II (film)
Some cities are making a real effort to invite wildlife back into their city, and Singapore has one of the highest biodiversity of any city in the world. In addition to featuring bird species that are both endemic and migratory, the documentary, narrated by none other than Sir David Attenborough, also lauds the return of the smooth-coated otters who are shown chomping on fish heads. The Singapore showcased here – with the obligatory Gardens by the Bay – is an example of a “new urban world”.
Cities: Nature’s New Wild | Ep 1
This is BBC’s nature series that takes place in cities across the world, featuring wildlife that are thriving in concrete jungles. Once again, our famous Marina Bay smooth-coated otters make an appearance here, right in Episode 1. This time, the episode focuses on a family with 10-week old pups as they navigate the city state’s busy streets and unnatural obstacles. But with clean waterways filled with abundant fish and a lack of natural predators, otter family sizes in the city are three times the size of wild groups!