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Symphony 924's Andrew Lim On The Legacy Of 'Under One Roof': "It Was A Tension-Free Affair"

What's the secret behind 'Under One Roof''s success?

The Symphony 924 presenter, 50, on his new talk show, growing old, and why he doesn’t mind being asked about that sitcom he was on.

8 DAYS: Tell us about On the Couch, your new segment on Symphony 924.
ANDREW LIM: I have eight guests over where I talk to them mainly about themselves, their [line of work], and how they perceive life in general. I want to give my listeners an idea of what they do and what makes them tick. For example, I recently invited aesthetician Dr Georgia Lee over because I wanted to find out what beauty means to her. Because of the nature of her job, she looks at a person's outward appearance a lot. So I was afraid that she would be analysing my appearance. In fact, when she was [making her way to our studio], she was observing all the people’s complexions in the lift (laughs). She said something very true. If you look the best that you can look, people would be more likely to approach you and get to know the person behind the facade. So it’s that kind of insight that I want to gather from them.

Why is it called On the Couch?
Because I was inspired by this couch [in studio], given to me by a dear colleague. This old black leather couch. But for practical purposes they don't actually sit on this couch. The concept is that I want them to feel comfortable.

You also have restaurateurs like Willin Low and Violet Oon on the show. Is there anyone you wanted to invite but they couldn't make it?
Joseph Schooling. He’s young and he’s got it all together. I mean, he won an Olympic gold medal. I contacted his manager but he was too busy. I definitely would like to have him over one day. I’d also like to talk to eccentric people, or people who have an unusual job or hobby. But they have to be well-known to at least a certain sector of the society.

We last interviewed you two years ago. How much has your life changed since then?
One of the things at the top of my head is the move from Caldecott to the new campus at Stars Avenue. I spent 26 years in Caldecott. Psychologically, I hate big changes like that. My three children also got a little bigger; one of them is at the end of his teenage years. The older my children grow, the more I change. I get more introspective and less anal about things. There are things you need to let go. I’m more relaxed now and I think my kids taught me that. Professionally, I had to evolve. When I do my shows every morning, I treat it as a performance. I have to be at the top of my game because nobody likes to hear a sleepy voice when you're playing classical music. Now I try to inject a more contemporary feel by talking about current cultural events.

There hasn’t been a Ch 5 sitcom as iconic as Under One Roof for a while. What do you think was the key to its success?
Many factors. From the viewers’ point of view, the most powerful thing about the show is its reliability. All the characters on Under One Roof are stock characters and stereotypes. You have Paul, my character, a hypochondriac who happens to be an accountant. Then there’s Ronnie, played by Nicholas Lee, a skirt-chaser. So everyone has met these characters in real life and they can relate. But from the back end, the actors didn’t expect it to be such a success but we tried our best. We gelled very well. The chemistry just got better and better as the seasons went on. The whole show was a tension-free affair.

Bringing down the house: Andrew Lim with his Under One Roof family (from left), Moses Lim, Koh Chieng Mun, Nicholas Lee and Vernetta Lopez.

Do you ever get sick of being asked about Under One Roof? What kind of questions do people normally ask you?
I’m not sick of being asked about Under One Roof. When I’m in public, people who are of a certain generation still recognise me and they'll come up to me and ask, “Eh Paul, not acting anymore?” They also said they used to rush home after work to watch the show. I feel very touched and warmed by all these comments. But times have changed. It's been over two decades and TV has evolved. I just tell them to look out for the new generation of shows and actors.

By the way, what do you think makes for a comfortable couch?
I don't like leather couches. There’s always this ambition — I think amongst men — to have big leather couches in brown or black. I like couches that are upholstered in fabric. It has to have considerable length so that I can lie on it. I read and entertain people on the couch. And I love cushions.

Main photo by Aik Chen.

On the Couch airs Fridays, Symphony 924, 9am (encore Sun, 4pm).

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