2+1 = A winning formula for a TV series

How popular were (from left) Louisa Chong, Zeila Jalil, Susan Lankester and Imuda when 2+1 was on air? The stars needed bodyguards during roadshows! Photo: The Star/Raymond Ooi (Photoshoot coordinated by Aisya Yusri)

Imuda is running late for Star2.com’s photoshoot and interview. But this doesn’t surprise Susan Lankester at all.

“Imuda was always late back when we were rehearsing for the show,” Lankester, 53, remembers.

The show she is referring to is 2+1, the local sitcom which became an instant hit when it started airing on TV3 in 1989.

We have gathered the original cast members for a photoshoot for Star2.com’s reunion special. Imuda, Lankester, Zeila Jalil and Louisa Chong have not seen each other for years (they quickly exchanged phone numbers at the shoot) but immediately fell into rhythm, finishing each others’ sentences and laughing at inside jokes.


This was a tight knit cast. The five of them (fifth cast member Ahmad Busu passed away in 2013) spent a lot of time together in the three years the show was on air. “We spent two weeks a month holed up in a room, rehearsing for our show,” Lankester says.

“Yes, we had to rehearse so much as we shot four episodes at one go,” Ziela, 44, continues.

2+1 is a half an hour sitcom which revolves around three female housemates – Maggie (Chong), Sarah (Lankester) and Nani (Ziela) – who live in Kuala Lumpur. However, it’s their nosy neighbour Sam (Imuda), the effeminate fashion designer, that was the star of the show. With his flirtatious mannerism and trademark catchphrase, “Hi, my name is Sam, this is my card”, Imuda became a household name.

“Do you know how popular 2+1 was?” asks the 55-year-old Imuda. “I was told of a family who went to purchase a new TV set as their existing one was faulty, all because they wanted to watch 2+1 on Friday nights. Dulu mana ada Internet?”

“Remember how people used to rush home to watch shows like The X-Files? People would rush home to watch 2+1 ... it was definitely appointment TV,” adds Lankester.

The series was ratings gold for TV3, garnering five million viewers per episode at its peak.

And when the cast members went on road shows, the scene was simply chaotic.

Chong, 58, recalls: “We had to have bodyguards with us all the time as fans were clamouring for us. They would rip off our clothes, they didn’t mean to of course, just to touch us.”

The cast of 21 (from left) Ahmad, Susan Lankester, Ziela Jalil, Imuda, and Sabri Yunus.
The cast of 2+1 (from left) Ahmad Busu, Susan Lankester, Ziela Jalil, Imuda, and Sabri Yunus.

Created by Othman Hafsham, the show followed the style of American sitcom where it was recorded in front of a live studio audience. 2+1 was filmed in an auditorium in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi, Selangor.

The auditorium was always packed and the cast was naturally nervous performing live, but once the camera started to roll, the nervousness would dissipate.

“We fed off the amazing energy from the audience,” explains Lankester. “They laughed at almost everything we did, even at lines we didn’t think were funny.”

Imuda lets us in on a secret – the aforementioned catchphrase was actually his idea, as the actors ad libbed a lot during the recording. He acted his part so well that the catchphrase, well, caught on.

“Let me tell you, even students in school at that time made name cards so they could say, ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so, this is my name card,’” shares Imuda, who based Sam on people he knows in the industry like make-up artists and fashion designers.

But with all the attention came the brickbats as well. The character Sam was heavily criticised for being a negative influence, especially on young and impressionable viewers.

With so much glare and negative critique, after three successful seasons, Hafsham and the cast of 2+1 decided to call it a day and end the show on a high note.

Lankester believes 2+1 not only opened doors for all actors involved but showcased a series that was truly Malaysian, featuring lead actors from various races.

“I think 2+1 was the Malaysian sitcom. The legacy we left behind was if you want to make something good, you need to make an effort, and we did it with 2+1. With Hafsham as our director and our leader, 2+1 became a hit with all walks of life, and he led us to become better actors.”

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