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Under One Roof’s Funny Family That Everyone Loved To Love In The 90s

Did you know that Under One Roof was not just a Singapore first, but it’s Asia’s first English-language sitcom as well? (A version of this story first appeared in Issue 228 on Feb 18, 1995.)

If you were at the photo shoot, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Tans were a true-blue family who’d come to the studio for an obligatory clan portrait.

Tan Ah Teck is the roly-poly, 55-year-old dad who insists on the best value for money: more portraits for less. Meanwhile, he regales his three children with wry, obscure fables with hidden morals. 

Dolly, the housewife mother, is extremely excitable. Clearly, the 48-year-old is a friendly gossip as well as a doting mama to all — husband, friends, neighbours and children alike; alas, even strangers.

And the three children — they’re so uncannily like other children you know, you’d think they were all playing themselves in cameo roles.

“We are like a family,” says Andrew Lim, who plays Paul. “We bully each other, laugh together, and go to the gym, have fist fights… things like that.”

Overherad, when the shoot is over, is this line from dad to Denise… um, we mean Moses to Vernetta: “Go, go… Finish already. Go for the interview. You go for the interview first.”


Moses Lim as Tan Ah Teck

"[I accepted the role because] I’d like to experience what being in a sitcom is all about. On the Chinese side, the audience will laugh with just one or two little gestures; on the English side, the acceptance and the way they take jokes is quite different. Maybe it’s because of education: We produce our Ch 8 programmes ourselves from scratch and we are educated in our own style. Whereas we have a lot of opportunities to see a lot of imported English programmes — The Carol Burnett Show, The Cosby Show — so that is why the way the English-educated viewers accept the jokes is different."

Koh Chieng Mun as Dolly Tan

"I think [the role of Dolly] was written for me." (Production coordinator Jaki Fisher clarifies, “We definitely had Chieng Mun in mind. I don’t know if we actually wrote it for her, but we certainly visualised her in it.”)

Andrew Lim as Paul Tan

“I didn’t expect to get the role in the first place because there were a lot of odds against me: I had a full-time job and this thing would keep me so busy… I had to think a lot about it before accepting it. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me.”

Nicholas Lee as Ronnie Tan

“It’s a chance of a lifetime. As an English-educated Chinese person in Singapore, you’d never imagine that you’d have local English television in your lifetime and suddenly it happens! You want to be part of it, so you jump at the chance.”

Vernetta Lopez as Denise Tan

“They put a knife to my throat and they said, ‘You’d better play the role…’ I’ve always wanted to be in a sitcom and it was a new experience and I thought, hey, why not go with the flow. And I’m very glad I made the decision.”

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