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It’s quite fair to say that Filipinos are some of the most melodramatic audiences in TV soap opera history. We’ve been in the teleserye industry for more than 50 years now (the first ever Philippine TV soap opera was “Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato,” which aired in 1963).

Being in the game for so long, one would think Pinoy teleseryes should be in the expert level by now, that we should be setting the standard for our Asian counterparts who’ve only recently joined the soap opera bandwagon.

Plot twist: that didn’t happen.

We are way behind in terms of quality compared to Korean, Thai, or Chinese soap operas, let alone compared to US shows. So it’s no surprise that some of today’s younger generations are idolizing Lee Min Ho and Benedict Cumberbatch instead of our homegrown stars (not that they should all be fans of Daniel Padilla but hey, Pinoy pride, right?)

We definitely have the production potential – and the acting chops, if they play it serious enough – to be at par with Hollywood, but tradition and familiarity are holding us back in cursed shackles. Anyare?

Here are 8 possible reasons:

[Later, click on over to another article to consider 8 Reasons Why Hollywood-Made TV Dramas Aren’t All That Perfect.]

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In Pinoy teleseryes, “ugly” always equates to someone who has unattractive teeth, kulot hair and has lots of pimples. Rich people are always having a meeting inside an elegant conference room. The lead character’s best friend is always the most supportive, caring person in the world who has no life of his/her own. Goons always wear leather jackets, while barrio lasses always wear long, plain-colored skirts. Of course, the antagonist can always laugh devilishly after loudly announcing his/her evil plan at a place where anyone could hear it. Also, it’s against the law to wipe your tears; you’re supposed to let it crawl the length of your face for dramatic effect. Oh man, I’m not sure which is older, these clichés or Eddie Garcia.

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Nobody says “nais” or “ibig” anymore. People say “gusto”. You don’t say “Sumasakit ang aking damdamin”; rather, you say “Sumasakit ang damdamin ko”. Not “maaari”, but “pwede”. Not “sapagkat”, but “dahil”. Not “ngunit”, but “pero”. You don’t even hear these people say “okay”, and yet Sam Milby utters phrases that would make Balagtas cringe.

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Do they actually think rich people spend their regular evenings hanging around in their living room wearing red carpet gowns and dazzling jewelry? Why is Christopher de Leon always wearing a tux? Is Susan Roces always going to a cocktail party?

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Why, when watching a Pinoy teleserye, do we get the feeling that we’re watching a play? Everybody seems to be shouting and enunciating every syllable. They never speak at a reasonable volume, even when they’re talking to someone just inches away. In Hollywood dramas, we hear a lot of murmurs and whispers, and characters speak just like normal people do. If Filipino actors would do that here – you know, speak naturally without sounding like a thespian – their acting skills would be questioned and would probably end up doing indie films.

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In the US, they only show one fresh episode per week, two at the most. Here, the story continues every night. Every. Frigging. Night. Before you know it, the series is over in 3-4 months. When writers and directors are obligated to constantly produce episodes within a short timeline, audiences are bound to be served with crappy material and a lot of unnecessary buffers just to keep the show running. The reason why US shows are good is that they allocate enough time to invest in quality, not quantity.

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It’s almost impossible to assemble a Pinoy teleserye cast without rounding up the usual suspects: Cherry Pie Picache, Mark Gil, Tirso Cruz III, Joel Torre, Eula Valdez, Tonton Guiterrez (the list goes on). As a matter of fact, the more stars you cram in one show, the better the publicity. Why does every single character have to be played by a popular actor? When “House” started out, none of the cast members were established stars. So did “Mad Men”, “ER”, or “Law & Order”. Don’t you think – for novelty’s sake – it’s time we stop putting up these crazy celebrity ensembles and give the unknowns their break?

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We used to be good at this. At least in the 90s, Judy Ann Santos did really look impoverished when playing a typical farm girl and everyone else in the cast didn’t look like they were celebrities. But that’s probably because Belo hasn’t risen to fame yet. Also, 20 years ago, nobody really cared about oily skin or facial flaws – even celebrities.

Today? Not so much for characterization. Even when Kim Chiu is playing a bottom-class girl, she’d still have rebonded hair, killer brows and rosy cheeks. Coco Martin’s hair would always look salon-fresh, even after a vicious swordfight. And of course, Anne Curtis.

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Let’s play a game: Think of a Pinoy teleserye, past or present, with a storyline that doesn’t revolve around a romantic relationship (a love triangle, most likely). I know you’re thinking about superhero-themed dramas like “Darna” or fantasy shows like “Mulawin”. Still, I’d bet my bottom dollar that the plot, at the end of the day, is still a love story.

Now think of foreign soap operas which are not romance-themed. I’d bet you came up with a lot.

This is the greatest curse in the Pinoy teleserye landscape. The plot will always involve forbidden love (rich vs. poor, extra-marital affairs), family conflict (fighting over business matters, inheritances), and even social disorder (a corrupt, murderous, authority figure abusing the rights of a minority). There’s always a grand scale. There’s always revenge or redemption. There’s always switching of babies in the hospital nursery (ugh that’s so old).

Why not create a show that dwells on simple office politics? Or a genius misanthropic doctor? A glee club? A serial killer? A modern take on a popular fictional character? Or a group of friends entering adulthood?

There has got be more stories out there for producers and writers to play with. Until they decide to level up, we’re all gonna be stuck in radio-type drama – though with no complaints from anyone – for the rest of the decade, and perhaps beyond.

In the mean time, keep belting those theme songs, Angeline.

What do you think of these reasons? Agree or disagree? Share in the Comments Section below.

Consider 8 Reasons Why Hollywood-Made TV Dramas Aren’t All That Perfect.

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187 comments

  1. Art mirrors life. The mediocrity and lack of creativity in our tv shows and art in general, is merely a reflection of the mediocrity and lack of creativity in our public education and public planning. No need to elaborate on our public school system. With regards to our crappy urban planning, where are the parks, museums, gardens, and libraries that promote creativity? All these and more, are found on the 400 hectares of New York’s Central Park or the 1,200 hectares of Versailles Gardens in France. Most of our cities and towns have only about one hectare of public plaza with unimaginative landscaping dominated by the unimaginative busts and murals of our equally unimaginative politicians who did not have the imagination to build inspiring public spaces for us because most of them were too busy building projects where the prospect for kickbacks are better.

  2. Could you do a similar list of 8 reasons for Pinoy TV and radio commercials? INDUSTRY PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAS TO CHANGE.

    BIG BIG THANK YOU.

  3. Wrong perspective. There is a flourishing local and international market for Filipino TV teleseryes- exactly to countries still lingering in the stigma of shame caused by our lack of a sense of invincibility and fierceness- instead languishing in being invisible and full of fear. Why is it that we keep churning out one TV series after another? There is just one big difference. Instead of output with stories that embody a sense of fearlessness, daring and imagination, we dwell constantly on the stigma of SHAME.

    This is the colonial baggage we need to alter, undo and dispel. Although these kind of themes centered on shame and the baggage and poison of colonialism is the direction most of our masterpieces ended up in the international market. Films created by Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, including Brilliante Mendoza all fall within this radar of shame. We have mastered that language and where our output reach a sense of the out of control and active status that crosses over to becoming universal. But such voice can only survive a short life since it will result in our self-destruction and dehumanization- killing our dreams and capacity to love.

    Only after we dispel all the poison of colonial baggage can we ever arrive a place where our output in all the arts reflect a sense of invincibility, a level and standard of excellence that embodies an out of control quality embodied in all great art, because they reflect dreamers who believe that we are bound in solidarity with our ancestors and culture who belong to a nation of worth and a people of fortitude, and will never give up.

    That time we stop dreaming is the day we stop loving. And always, the imagination is more superior than knowledge, because in dreaming can we be driven to love, and without love, we can never attain a sense of invincibility and fierceness, only becoming more invisible and filled with fear.

    1. (Wrong perspective )perspectove is a point of view for a specific person so its not right and its not wrong….. I dont really understand what your pointing to I cant see your point…. filipino teleseryes today in the modern world is not really super good its all full of cliches ive never heard of its grand international success all I see is its on the pits welll…… for most filipino teleseryes and movies only most of them

      1. Look up AMAYA (GMA 7) starring Marian Rivera. This TV series became a big hit and was syndicated in South Korea, Cambodia and Malaysia.

        Pangako Sa ’Yo (known internationally as The Promise) was a successful hit in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Singapore. Outside Asia, it was also shown in Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Uganda, making African audiences instant fans of Hermosa and Rosales.

        Its highest rating in Indonesia was 50.8%, beating the highest rating of Full House which was 50.5%. It was the opening and hit TV series on Bukedde TV 1 in Kampala, Uganda and people would leave their work with one word on their lips “Yna”, the lead character of the show.

        It became a hit in China’s national television and rated second over all local and foreign programs airing. The series even hit the Top 30 list in China’s national weekly rankings, covering over 2,000 channels and capturing 1.3 billion viewers. In Zambia, a newspaper article said that: “The series has become a topic of discussion among families, friends and even neighbors who daily ponder on how the show would end.” While a TV commentator in Africa said: “‘When is Pangako Sa ’Yo coming back?’ I wish I could get a dollar each time I get that question. From teenager to grandma, from household organizers to tax consultant—it gripped people across all genders.” Journalism professor and entertainment editor Nestor G. Cuartero said Pangako Sa ’Yo paved the way for more Filipino programs to make it in international markets.

        It was a hit in over 20 countries and was even adopted for Cambodian Television with their own local counterparts of the Philippine cast.

        1. That was one or two shows compared to how many we have imported from them. This article is spot on,haven’t you felt that everything feels so rushed and nothing in the soap opera is complicated! Like the show “on the wings of love” the moment nadine luster visited her mother’s supposed grave and did not find her,i knew her mother was alive and guess what she actually is. I guessed that 3 episodes in.
          it’s so predictable. Every soap produced feels like a variation from one another and nothing original is being created. The closest to an original concept is “my husbands lover” even that ended with a cliche “does every soap need a villian with a sinister plot and an intention to hurt or kill and when the damage is done he/she will suddenly feel remorse in the end”

        2. No offense but I’m from one of the countries you mentioned, and I don’t know “The Promise” at all. Not just me. You can ask any people in my country if they know them and I can guarantee you that not even 1 percent know that movie.

        3. I’m sorry. As of January 2016 most Filipino shows I’ve seen aired on US have been, not of great quality. I don’t understand how people like the acting of these shows. They appear to take precedence beauty over acting. I don’t even understand why they’re hooked on these. Pride? Supporting this kind of quality isn’t helping at all. This actually hurts the Filipino pride. If you have seen shows such as House and Sherlock (the British series), you will understand what I’m talking about.

  4. Wrong perspective. There is a flourishing market for local and international Filipino TV teleseryes- exactly to countries still lingering in the stigma of shame caused by our lack of a sense of invincibility and fierceness- instead languising in being invisible and full of fear. Why is it that we keep churning out one TV series after another? There is just one big difference. Instead of output with stories that embody a sense of fearlessness, daring and imagination, we dwell constantly on the stigma of SHAME.

    This is the colonial baggage we need to alter, undo and dispel. Although these kind of themes centered on shame and the baggage and poison of colonialism is the direction most of our masterpieces ended up in the international market. Films created by Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, including Brillante Mendoza all fall within this radar of shame. We have mastered that language and where our output reach a sense of the out of control and active status that crosses over to becoming universal. But such voice can only survive a short live since it will result in our self-destruction and dehumanization- killing our dreams and capacity to love.

    Only after we dispel all the poison of colonial baggage can we ever arrive a place where our output in all the arts reflect a sense of invincibility, a level and standard of excellence that embodies an out of control quailty embodied in all great art, because they reflect dreamers who believe that we are bound in solidarity with our ancestors and culture who belong to a nation of worth and a people of fortitude, and will never give up.

    That time we stop dreaming is the day we stop loving. And always, the imagination is more superior than knowledge, because in dreaming can we be driven to love, and without love, we can never attain a sense of invincibility and fierceness, only becoming more invisible and filled with fear.

  5. Pardon my French, but people who watch local shows are people who lack good internet connection nor the basic knowledge of downloading torrents.

    Poor souls who suffer these abominable teledramas hahaha

  6. Thank you Mr Paolo Bayabos. What you wrote is an opener for the social media viewers. For those who are educated, for those who are in business, and for those who are busy with other endeavors, they will never ever buy this crap, as this is completely a waste of time for them. For the cultured people, ABS-CBN and GMA has become a garbage bin on the premise that they flood their networks with these teletrash shows. it’s a good thing there are alternative programs on cable TV such as Discovery Channel, History, National Geographic, and Animal Planet to mention a few. Look at Japan, the Scandinavian countries, on why life has been good on them. It’s because they don’t have such kind of soap programs that we have here.

  7. You can never compare those teleseryes which air daily with those american tv series. Two very different things. Americans have their own soap operas. ever heard of “Bold and the Beautiful”or “Days of Our Lives” or “Dallas” ?

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