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Asia Minute: Who Knows Singapore? Not American Television…

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

  When movies and television shows are shot on location, they don’t always get the details right. That’s been the case with more than one project shot in Hawai‘i. But most recently this has come up with an American television show and Singapore. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


The crime drama “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” set an episode in Singapore complete with FBI investigators and missing American flight attendants.

When it aired recently, reaction across the region was not good.

A columnist for the South China Morning Post asked “Why can’t Hollywood ever get Asia right?” The Singapore Tourism Board put out a gently mocking reaction on social media with a few corrections. 

The funniest reaction came from Singaporean comedian Kim Huat, who posted two videos on YouTube listing just a few of his issues with the show. Combined, those videos have already reached nearly a quarter of a million views.

As he points out, police officers would not speak to each other in Chinese in real life, because as he says, “we speak English, we are not China.”

There’s also a reference to chewing gum being illegal. That’s wrong. You can’t sell it or import it by bulk to Singapore, but chewing gum is not a crime.

One scene features a suggestion for sushi—of course that’s Japanese.

It also shows a colossal failure of imagination in a place that has a rich foodie heritage from Laksa noodles to chicken rice.

Criminals wear suits in the drama. In reality, that’s a stretch. It’s way too humid—shirts, ties and cufflinks in air conditioning, absolutely.

But suits for criminals in Singapore?

Only on American television.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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