Before C.L.I.F. and When Duty Calls came along, Honour and Passion was one of the few local TV series that accurately depicted the life of soldiers in the army and the trials and tribulations of one’s NS (National Service) journey.
The story revolves around a military man who he is tasked to raise his four kids (three son and one daughter) on his own after his wife passed away years ago and provides an up close look at the life and love in the military via his three sons who are in varying stages of their NS journey: an officer who signed on, an operationally ready NSmen and a soon-to-be enlistee.
Another reason why this series was so hyped about back then? Then ‘Seven Princess’ Felicia Chin played an army officer and received notable attention for having to wear the green uniform. Just saying.
“Courageous” and “inspiring” are understatements when it comes to describing combat medic Desmond Doss, who was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honour after saving a reported 75 men during the bloody Battle of Okinawa – and he did so while famously refusing to carry a firearm.
Played by Andrew Garfield in the critically-acclaimed war drama, Desmond had an entirely different weapon in his arsenal: his unwavering faith. It’s particularly satisfying at the end when Desmond finally gains the respect of his fellow soldiers, who went from being sceptical – or even hostile – about his beliefs at first, to specifically asking him to pray for them before going into battle again. Spoiler alert: they win!
Oh, and did you know that Felicia Chin watched this film to prepare for her role as a combat medic in When Duty Calls? A fine choice, if you ask us.
The Recruit Diaries
The Recruit Diaries is loosely based on the 1983 drama Army Series headlined by then-TV heartthrobs Wang Yuqing and Huang Wenyong. The former returns to the 2013 series as an army officer and father whose son (Jeffrey Xu) must now go through the same rite of passage experienced by all Singaporean sons. Hilarity ensues when his son – together with his motley crew of platoon mates (Xu Bin, Shane Pow and Jeremy Chan), struggle to cope with the rigours and demands of NS life.
If you’re looking for something fun and light-hearted, this is it.
Then again, let’s be real here – nobody is watching DOTS for the action. Instead, we want to ooh and ahh not just at the lead actors’ good looks and sizzling chemistry (that eventually spurned a reel-to-real relationship), but also at how their romance blossoms in the unlikeliest of places: a literal warzone.
And there’s a nice lesson that comes in addition to all the eye candy, and that is no matter how tough things get, something beautiful can come out of it. Now, unfortunately, we are not saying you will ORD with a Hallyu goddess on your arm, but we’ve heard plenty of stories from NS men about the valuable brotherhoods and bonds that formed while they were suffering together.
What happens when a female army officer is dating an NSF (full-time National Serviceman) who happens to be a recruit in her platoon? Cue a power struggle at camp and plenty of awkwardness between the lovebirds.
The couple face a rocky road ahead: they have to fight an uphill battle to keep their relationship a secret from the people in camp, get their family and friends’ approval while fending off pesky potential suitors. Unlike most other shows on this list, Yes Mdm changes the status quo and offers a rarer female perspective on NS life. It is also directed by Michelle Chong and features a female protagonist (Oon Shu An). Girl power!
Like Singapore’s sons, South Korean men also have to serve a mandatory two-year military service. Variety programme Real Men features a group of celebrities experiencing this life in the army, with some extra entertainment factors thrown in, of course (there are cameras following them around, after all).
The show also launched a popular Female Soldiers Special, where female idols like f(x)’s Amber, TWICE’s Dahyun and Girl’s Day’s Hyeri (remember her viral aegyo scene?) have participated. This spinoff gave viewers a fascinating insight into how these women – usually perceived as ultra-feminine and delicate –survive what’s considered a “man’s world”.
In addition to giving us a glimpse at a totally different side of the starlets, it was also inspiring to see them giving their best in the various training sessions, even though things sometimes get so intense or stressful that they broke down in tears. If they can do it, so can the rest of us.
Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a policeman would be like? Wonder no more.
C.L.I.F. is a four-part TV series (one of the longest running TV shows in Singapore) that focuses on the lives these men and women in blue – with an added romance element for dramatic story-telling, of course. Delve into the different jobs and responsibilities of officers working across various units in the Singapore Police Force, from the Traffic Police and Police Coast Guard Units to the Criminal Investigation Department and Special Investigation Section.
If you only had time for one season, we highly recommend C.L.I.F. 2, which serves up a good balance of action and drama. This series features an ensemble cast formed by the likes of Li Nanxing, Rui En, Qi Yu Wu, Joanne Peh, Pierre Png and Elvin Ng, some of whom return as recurring characters across the four seasons.
As with most – if not all – war movies, this Taiwanese period film isn’t exactly a cinematic ball of sunshine (despite what its title might imply). However, the striking visuals, impressive performances and touching storylines garnered modest reviews and numerous award nominations and wins.
The Doze Niu-directed picture follows the adventures of a young soldier named Lo Pao Tai (played by Ethan Juan) who is assigned to guard a military brothel on Kinmen island, on which Taiwan’s defence line against China is located. There, he forms various relationships – both friendly and romantic – but can they blossom in such a place where everyone is prepared for a war to erupt at any moment?
There are a lot of messages and lessons to be taken away from this movie, but above all, we were left feeling grateful for not having to endure the hardships and conditions the characters have to go through.