Stupid Man, Smart Phone, a show created by BBC which pits man (armed with the internet) against nature, now has a Singaporean version hosted by comedian-influencer Hirzi Zulkiflie.
In each episode, Hirzi and a celebrity guest are put in a rural/wild setting in different parts of Southeast Asia, where they have to complete various survival challenges by relying only on information from the internet, social media, and their own wits.
Basically, Hirzi and partner can watch Youtube tutorials to learn tasks such as how to cook and eat scorpions, or get advice from their followers on Instagram on how to safely camp overnight in a cave filled with bats.
For this review, I watched the first three episodes – the first two episodes feature Hirzi pairing up with DJ Mike Kasem as they trek and spelunk through Perak, Malaysia. The third episode sees the host joined by former DJ Rozz, or Rosalyn Lee, in attempting to catch kampung chickens and handle a farm oxen in Merapi, Indonesia.
The episode with Rozz starts off with her EATING A BOWL OF WRIGGLING MEALWORMS and nonchalantly offering Hirzi the live bugs dying in a pool of oil as if that were what she had for breakfast every day. And this wasn’t even a challenge for the episode – she was genuinely enjoying it. We need a show where Rozz eats weird s*t every episode (oh wait, there already is such a show.)
Kasem purportedly has claustrophobia and plays up his fear of small spaces, but he never seems to get as scared as I expected him to be. From the way he threatened to quit the challenge if they actually had to enter a cave, I expected him to get a panic attack inside. But no, the two slept in a cave, cooked scorpions for food in a cave, and crawled through a long dark narrow cave tunnel, all with no incident.
But the real problem with the show is that Hirzi is a strangely vanilla version of himself. The YouTuber is known for his wacky, irreverent, random style of humour, but he has restrained himself very much for this mainstream TV show. Hirzi’s comedy is also very queer – his trademark persona is a drag queen called Syasya – but he has basically transformed into a typical straight guy for Stupid Man, Smart Phone. It’s almost as if the producers told him to dial back the gayness for Channel 5.
That’s probably indicative of the divide between online media and traditional TV. But if producers were banking on Hirzi’s influencer star power to appeal to viewers, they didn’t tap on it very well. The show attempts to elicit comedy by putting Hirzi in “funny” situations – oh, he sucks at harvesting palm oil seed; his leg is stuck in a plough! – but his personality doesn’t ring true – at least, not for viewers who are already familiar with Hirzi.
Stupid Man, Smart Phone is currently airing on Channel 5 and can be streamed on Toggle.