October 13, 2011

Philippine TV

Usually, the TV shows from the US are the ones we wait for, the ones we fawn over, and the ones we remember fondly. At least most of us with access to the internet (like the ones currently reading this right now. Hi, you!) would be aware of those shows. Heck, if the local syndicated channels here in the Philippines don’t show them, those episodes would be available through download – torrent or otherwise. That’s how dedicated the viewers are for a show that airs weekly.

Compare that to what we have in the Philippines. We have nightly dramas or teleseryes and the occasional Korean drama dubbed in Filipino. See a common trait there?

When was the last time you heard someone say “Hey, let’s download that episode of Mara Clara” or “That new episode of 100 Days To Heaven is up on a torrent website”? Of course not as much as you’d hear “Hey, let’s download the new episode of How I Met Your Mother” and if someone does say they should download Filipino shows, the people surrounding that person would laugh.

Now why don’t we Filipinos like our local TV shows? There’s no “colonial mentality” or any term that we throw around as if it’s wrong to say anything negative about Philippine media. Hasn’t anyone considered that the shows just, without a better work, suck? Or at least, from years of experience of the constant inferiority of the shows, the viewers have developed some sort of pessimism regarding these TV shows and anything advertised “exciting” is basically a lie.

One reason could be that these shows (Yes, the soap operas) are broadcast from Monday to Friday with no replay whatsoever. These are always the most advertised shows for some reason (Is the demographic “lovelorn people between ages 18-45”?). The daily showing of these TV shows diminishes why people should be excited about them. That’s why people expect the episodes from the American shows more because of its weekly format. If one US show leaves a cliffhanger, people have to wait until next week for the conclusion, but in the Philippines, people just have to wait 24 hours. Now that doesn’t sound like a bad thing for diehard fans but leave a cliffhanger every episode and people are going to get tired of it. And since these programs are shown everyday, they lose the effect of genuine suspense because the viewers don’t have to wait for anything. If they miss one show, they’d just wait 24 hours and there would it be again. And since each show lasts 3 to 6 months at least, the viewers wouldn’t care at all if they miss an episode and eventually, they’d stop caring altogether.

Another thing to consider is the writing. Not all of them are bad but somehow they are nothing out of the ordinary. And when they do try to go out of the ordinary, it’s usually based on an idea of a something popular in the west (Imortal = Twilight, which is too obvious an example). Simplicity is fine but if you have seven shows having the same simplicity in their scripts, the point of being simple is lost. Simple is good but only if every other show is filled with distinguishing traits like how one show is about a group of loud people in a bar while another show is about a guy going back to community college. But no, in the Philippines, you see a love story between two lower-middle class people again and again for months and then it simply ends with the lovers going together (Usually. Sometimes writers add a twist to that but still unforgettable). Then you forget the title of the program because another show is taking its place with the same basic premise. It’s a never ending cycle of redundancy.

Again, the constant soap operas get tiring for most people. It’s like a buffet: if it serves one kind of dish all the time, would you go for another round? The shows should have variety. Drama and comedy should have a constant run in the timeslots. Too much drama and the people would just stop expecting anything different, no matter what kind of plot twists and celebrity guests these shows would have. And the comedy shows are either viewable past 11pm (where people are usually asleep) or at 9am (where people are usually at work/school/both if you’re a teacher). If a comedy show airs but no one is around to watch it, does it cause laughter?

Usually, a show with something different gets watched the most (enough to be trending on Twitter for a day or two) – such as Agua Bendita (in its first run before it started to suck when they got rid of the kid. Poor kid), May Bukas Pa (the one with Jesus Christ), 100 Days to Heaven (old rich bitch has 100 days to do good things while in a kid’s body or else she goes to Hell), and Budoy (Guy with mental problem. I actually like that show because I sympathize with the character). Why? Because they’re different! It’s not the angst-filled guy whining and pining for a cute girl! We’ve seen that! We’ve been desensitized from that for many years now! It’s something new, something fresh! Something to actually get excited about! (And now I’m textually shouting! Come on!)

Now so far, there is no cure for this pessimism. Most of us Filipinos would look down on these shows or at least not watch them as religiously as we would with shows like Community or Vampire Diaries because we’ve been desensitized from what the networks offer despite how hard working the production crew are on the show. A bad show here and a bad show there. Unless the writers could convince us otherwise, that’s how we see it and that’s how it’ll remain.