SURVIVOR PHILIPPINES: Gripping but sadomasochistic

Students’ Choice of Reality TV Program criterion

*Despite its name, reality television is really a construction. It is a “construction” on the lives of ostensibly real people in a highly controlled setting, purportedly on a round-the-clock or 24/7 coverage. By the nature of reality TV, there is a tendency toward voyeurism which the Christian viewer must deal with critically. In some instances, characters in a reality TV show by virtue of their isolation as a result of the controlled setting they’re in are made to “naturally” gravitate toward one another, resulting in illicit or near-illicit liaisons. The Christian viewer must view these “forced” or “artificial” narratives of distorted relationships with care. If reality TV is, like any TV program, a construction, then there’s no reason it cannot be made to construct what is positive, moral, and uplifting.

Survivor Philippines on GMA is the local version of the highly acclaimed Survivor series, which is arguably the most popular reality program in the world and is responsible for mainstreaming the controversial but highly successful TV genre. Hosted by Paolo Bediones, Survivor Philippines started airing last Sept. 15 although it was filmed sometime in July and August in Thailand’s Ko Tarutao Island. The prize money of P3 million is the largest in the history of Philippine reality TV.

Like most franchises, Survivor Philippines is tweaked to suit local tastes. Unlike its parent which runs weekly, Survivor Philippines is aired daily. The show also started with 18 castaways instead of the usual 16. The original theme music has been rearranged with the addition of ethnic Filipino instruments. Survivor elements remain, such as the rivalry between two tribes and the holding of the tribal council. The challenges are well-thought out, allowing for several unexpected twists.

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'Pilosopo' syndrome

What makes the show interesting is its believability because the castaways, as the participants are called, come from different walks of life. Whether they are being themselves or merely playing to the cameras, they seem credible in portraying the castaway life.

But the program, like most Survivor versions, tends toward sadomasochism. Aside from taking part in grueling tests and combats, the castaways have to endure a lot of deprivations aside from making petty alliances for personal convenience that draw out their Machiavellian – or Gollum – dimensions. The castaways are like Pavlovian dogs in a mad doctor’s experiment on human behavior. To watch them outsmart and manipulate one another every night on prime time tells much about us as well as the program’s producers.

KAHIT ISANG SAGLIT: Entertaining interracial romance, but may be melodramatic

Students’ Choice of Drama Anthology/ Drama Mini-Series/ Foreign Soap Opera criterion

*A good dramatic show blends all the technical elements of television in order to depict realistically and critically the human condition, its struggles, its highs and lows. Christian dimensions are intrinsic in such a meaningful depiction. Therefore, between technical excellence and significant content, the latter should carry more weight.

ABS-CBN’s Kahit Isang Saglit, is a daily soap opera (“telenovela” is the Filipino term) which revolves around the problematic romance between Pinoy everyman Rocky (Jericho Rosales) and rich Malaysian Garie (Malaysian actress Carmen Soo). The big project, co-produced with Double Vision of Malaysia, is artfully rendered. Its cinematography is utterly breathtaking.

Soon to air in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian countries, Kahit Isang Saglit is an impressive soap opera with a global outlook. Its sequences swing from Quiapo to Banaue, then to Kuala Lumpur and back. Viewers get to experience the best of both worlds, making the program a cultural fare as much as it is a romantic drama.

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'Finest breed of Filipinos'

The only downside could be the language, which combines Filipino and un-dubbed English and Malay, which may take a lot of getting used to for the Filipino audience. Moreover, its genre of melodrama sometimes makes the characters face their all too real problems in a simplistic fashion.

BANANA SPLIT: Sexist?

ABC-CBN’s new gag show, Banana Split, is directed by Edgar Mortiz and his son, Frasco. It is the first all-female gag show on Philippine TV and takes its spirit from Goin’ Bananas, which was a hit all-male gag show in the 1980’s featuring Mortiz, Christopher De Leon, Johnny Delgado and the late Jay Ilagan .

“Split” features a bevy of sex bombshells — Angelica Panganiban, Roxanne Guinoo, Cristine Reyes, Valerie Concepcion, Princess Ryan, Dianne Medina and RR Enriquez – who perform skits laced with bedroom humor and sexual innuendoes, often with a male celebrity guest who’s the featured male performer every week.

Considering that many of the mainstays are drama actresses, their comedic qualities – lack – could make or break the show. In the initial shows, the girls seemed to deliver.

But what’s really problematic is the sexism or chauvinism so evident in these types of show. Sex sells, and sexism may be as commercial and crass. J.A.A. De la Rosa

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