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TELEVISION networks don’t always offer a series that you must catch each week to find out the development in the story. One-offs are also offered which can be a relief to someone who doesn’t know if “homework” should take priority.
So, the Locked Up Abroad programme on National Geographic Channel (Astro channel 553) is a welcome diversion from say, Smash! on Diva Universal (Astro channel 702).
Locked Up Abroad is like reading true crime accounts by renowned crime writer Ann Rule, as each episode — like a novel — stands alone.
Each tale is a cautionary one. You may think you’d never get caught in such a network of crime, but neither did these people in each episode. To them, it was a holiday abroad, and then...
In Locked Up Abroad: Bangkok Underworld, a guy called Tim left Australia to work as an English teacher in Thailand’s capital. He loved teaching and the nightlife but was struggling financially, so he agreed to smuggle between four and eight kilos of heroin for US$10,000 (RM31,628).
He knew it was wrong. You could see him struggling with his conscience. But it seemed easy. What he didn’t know was that his dealer, “Bradley from the syndicate” was working undercover for the authorities. It was a set-up.
Tim was caught by Thai customs officers. With more than 100 times the amount of heroin needed to secure a death sentence in Thailand, he landed in the notorious Bang Kwang Prison and soon became a heroin addict himself.
But he got a Royal pardon on medical grounds and returned to Australia. The story, told in flashbacks, shows Tim in Australia recalling his ordeal in Thailand and how his mother tried to get him out. The sequences are acted out so believably. Kudos to the producer and team.
The killer ending, where he said he was saved “by a mother’s love for her son” was bittersweet.
Locked Up Abroad is now in its sixth season. It offers “inside firsthand accounts of capture, imprisonment and terror far from home”, so the NGC website states.
Other episodes seem mainly about people being used as drug mules as in the case of two young American women who were promised a luxury holiday in Peru in exchange for bringing back cocaine (Locked Up Abroad: Peru).
From such real drama (the episodes are acted out, I know), I watch the manufactured variety,Scouted on E! (Astro channel 712).
This too offers one-off episodes. I found it fascinating how these scouts for the fashion world, in particular the One Management company, pick ordinary girls and get them to New York to test to be professional models. Some are just 15, while a few are older, like early 20s.
Scouting is one way for girls to get on the catwalk. Famous model Naomi Campbell was scouted at 15 while she was window-shopping in London’s Covent Garden. Another way, I guess, is to take part in reality shows like Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model.
I caught the episode about Lindsay, a religious girl from Fresno, California. She had some dos and don’ts and so did her church. She had a morality contract. You knew these rules would not gel with the life of a model, but she handsomely stuck to her course.
The team who sees these scouted girls have strong personalities. From model mentor Beri Smither, and casting director Julia Samersovato to creative director Michael Flutie, they all have solid reasons why they want a particular wannabe model.
Sometimes, it’s hilarious to see how these girls, who’ve never been in front a professional fashion photographer before, pose or rather not pose.
But what amazes me is how these young girls so bravely leave their homes and families to try their luck at being a model, putting college on hold. I am sure Asian parents may not be so understanding, even if their daughters are set on the idea.
When these girls don’t get chosen by One Management, they are shattered. At least the drama in Scouted is not over the top as seen on other similar reality shows,
I found that Locked Up Abroad and Scouted told me the lengths that ordinary folk will go to make some money. I watch to hopefully learn from their mistakes.
Catch a new episodes of Locked Up Abroad on NGC (Astro channel 553) every Tuesday at 11.03pm.
Scouted is on E! on Wednesdays (midnight and 2pm) and Sundays (11am and 5.50pm).