TV Soaps: Entertainment in Loopholes

If there is one thing I am starting to pick up again now that I have more predictable lifestyle it is being able to watch more tv programs aside from the news and public affairs shows — and really establish a regular TV viewing habit.

I was a tv junkie before I started working in the media.  I knew the plot of each soap — whether they were called teleserye, sineserye, soap opera, fantaserye or telefantasya.  I saw the rise and fall of different program formats.  The entertainment aside, I critiqued and analyzed the writing and production values of each show that I watch — especially when I was a broadcast student.

My favorite memories of watching many years back would be seeing getting killed in their respective soaps — only to see them reincarnated into another role on another soap!

Recently, I started watching Iisa Pa Lamang, starred by Claudine Barretto et al.  I was intrigued with the spicy kind of writing the production uses — the kind that would make good sound bites in any story.  I was also intrigued by the different commentaries Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan would post on Facebook.

I have been able to get an idea of the plot of Iisa Pa Lamang, even if I have missed 80% of the episodes.  The teleserye is ending next week, and I wonder if a DVD of the series will be released.

In any case, I could not overlook a number of the production’s loop holes:

1) Laurice Guillen getting shot. The veteran actress-director, who plays Gabby Concepcion’s mother is shot by Isadora, played by Cherry Pie Picache.  Isadora escapes, and poor Catherine (Claudine) enters the scene to find her.  Scarlet (Angelica Panganiban) enters the room and blames Catherine.   Anyway, the police come in — complete with reporters —  to arrest Catherine.

BUT TAKE NOTE! They leave the poor Laurice Guillen, bathing in her blood, on the floor.  It takes a while before an ambulance arrives.  And there were no efforts from the police to revive the poor Laurice Guillen.

2) Isadora dies. Cherry Pie Picache, the main antagonist in the series finally dies by drowning in a small pond (was it a swamp or something like quick sand?).  Catherine, unable to help her, temporarily leaves Isadora to ask for help.  But it would be too late.  Isadora is gone, and it is presumed that she had in fact drowned.  Isadora’s children cry a bucket of tears, and express their grief at the site of their mother’s death.

Having been a crime reporter for two years, I found it strange — and quite unforgivable — that NO ONE made any effort to recover the remains of Isadora and really say, “oh yes, she is dead”.  They all just presumed that she had drowned.

But true enough, the series was still two weeks before its real conclusion.  So true enough, it turns out that Isadora gets to live another day — or another two weeks.

3) People getting kidnapped. I find it quite strange that people keep on getting kidnapped and abducted in the series — and they never learn their lesson.  They’re supposed to be rich and powerful.  But why is it that they don’t make any effort to get even a single bodyguard?  Hindi na natuto si Catherine. What gives???

Of course,  when it comes to soaps, I’d recall my graduate thesis on the portrayal of urban poverty on soap operas.  My thesis partner and I produced a 30-minute documentary, and was even voiced by one of the country’s best theater-television actresses, Malou de Guzman.  Our interviewees, included writer Ricky Lee, director Jose Javier Reyes (a professor of ours), and anthropologist Michael Tan (who is also a Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist).  The three gave insights and critique on Philippine soaps.  I might just post the documentary one of these days, if my thesis partner would permit.

It was Direk Joey who pointed out the use of miracles and Deus ex Machina — manna from heaven — that would change the direction of the plot.  So this is why we do notice characters suddenly inheriting a large inheritance or hacienda — and then taking their revenge.  Unfortunately, it is said that such kind of writing — even if it is used as an “extender” — provides audiences false hopes.  Ika nga, kapag ang isang tao pala ay mabait, he or she may suddenly find fortune matapos api-apihin ng tadhana!  Some soaps have also given the impression that it’s all right to be poor as long as you have a good heart.

Apart from the miracles, I find it funny that no one seems to know their real identity.  It is commonplace to find characters who discover that their parents are some long lost freak, who resurfaces after so many years due to either a) amnesia; b) a crime that they did and needed to hide for, c) not knowing that they had begotten a child.  What a relief to know that we Filipinos know better in real life!

Let’s not forget the not-so-good performance of some actors.  I remember one character starting her revenge on the rest of the cast:

Protagonist: Panahon na para maghiganti ako sa iyo (she slowly brings out a plastic bottle filled with liquid.  NOTE: it takes her FOREVER to take it out)

The antagonist just watches in her ignorance or absent-mindedness.  She asks: “Ano yan?”

So finally, the protagonist opens the bottle and splashes it on the antagonists face. The antagonist shouts for a good ten seconds.

Turns out it wasn’t acid.  Antagonist says, “Gaga, tubig lang yan!”

Wow! It takes ten seconds for a person to realize water on one’s face!  Amazing!

Well, in any case, the funniest thing I heard on TV soaps is a character’s face being slammed into sizzling sisig.  Too bad I wasn’t able to watch that.

All things considered, some soaps are still good to watch.  If you are discerning enough, there are bits and pieces of true wisdom learned in them. I can certainly say I’ve learned a few good principles and lessons myself.

I suppose that is reason why some people would say that it is best to temporarily leave your brain outside the room when you watch some of these programs (hmmm… does this now include some of the news programs?).

Either way, what I know for sure from my personal experience: there is entertainment in catching loopholes.

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