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While Oh My English! is reminiscent of a UK sitcom, it is wholesome, all-Malaysian edu-tainment. Dennis Chua is tickled
DO you remember the 1980s British sitcom, Mind Your Language (MYL), produced by London Weekend Television? Set in London, it revolves around an adult English class taught by the mild-mannered Jeremy Brown, and a group of wild and wacky students from 11 countries.
The sitcom, which ran in the United Kingdom from 1977 to 1986, tickled Malaysians but raised the ire of viewers who hated its racial stereotyping.
Astro has come up with a sitcom in a similar vein but it’s about students, not adults. It also dispenses with stereotyping and promotes a 1Malaysia way to master English.
The 20-episode Oh My English!, a joint effort with Red Communications, began on May 20 and is supported by the Education Ministry. The aim is make viewers laugh and learn conversational English at the same time. It airs every Sunday at 10am on Astro TVIQ (Channel 610).
Oh My English! takes viewers into Kelas 3 Merah of the fictional Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Ayer Dalam and follows the hilarious adventures of its mischievous underachievers whose least favourite subject is English.
A dashing new English teacher, Henry Middleton, whose mother is Malaysian and father British, is given the task of teaching this crazy bunch.
The colourful cast brings together household names and fresh faces. It includes Zain Saidin as Henry, popular actress and singer Adibah Noor as principal Hajar, comedian Harun Salim Bachik as deputy principal Mohamad Salleh and comedian Yusof ‘Mr Os’ Hamid as maintenance man Sham.
The students are Izara Aishah (Keranamu Laila) as popular girl Azlin, Addy Ashraf (Tentang Bulan) as class jock Shafiq, siblings Ezzrin Loy and Ezlisa Loy as music-loving Faiz and his studious twin Faiza respectively, Zhafir Muzani as pretty boy Mazlee, Kaameshaa Ravindran as caring Anusha, Amer Sharrif as alpha male Farouk, Roax Tan (I Have A Date With Spring) as smarty See Yew Soon and Akhmal Nazri as class clown Jamal or Jibam.
There are also cameos from top stars Lisa Surihani, Rozita Che Wan and Nabil Ahmad who add spice and surprises in different episodes.
There are also short viral videos, featuring international superstars Greyson Chance and Maher Zain giving their thumbs up to the series.
Astro vice president of GenNext business Yasmin Megat says the sitcom is part of the company’s commitment to offer customers entertainment “that educates, informs and enriches their lives”.
Since 2009, Astro has worked with the Education Ministry to bring world-class learning content to schools nationwide under its initiative Kampus Astro.
As part of the project, Astro has equipped 10,000 schools with flat screen TV sets and Astro services with access to 17 local and international learning channels such as History, Discover, National Geographic, Astro Tutor TV and Astro TVIQ.
Yasmin says: “Oh My English! is in line with the government’s objective to cultivate excellence among Malaysians in both Bahasa Malaysia and the English language.”
The sitcom, says producer Lina Tan of Red Communications, has close to 50,000 Facebook fans and over 900,000 YouTube views. These figures are expected to grow.
Each half-hour episode centres around a conversational theme that can be applied to daily life, such as sports, music and food.
“Every episode contains three short English capsules and each will deliver bite-sized English lessons that explain the correct use of English in terms of grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure or pronunciation.”
Zain says it is his first teacher role and he loves it because Henry is wholesome, idealistic and wonderfully named — a combination of Henry (the most common name for England’s kings), and Middleton, the surname of Princess Catherine (formerly Kate).
Izara says it is great to be a student again, and to get to know three first-timers in acting, namely Akhmal, Zhafir and Amer.
The sitcom has a catchy theme complete with a music video written and composed by Altimet and Yuri Wong and performed by Altimet and Liyana Jasmay.
The song is about Malaysians’ determination to master an international language.
Yasmin says Astro collaborated with the British Council to develop the English learning content, including comprehensive materials and worksheets, which viewers can access via www.ohmyenglish.com.my, its official website.
This is complemented by a multimedia learning experience online, in social media and through the official Oh My English! workshops in schools.