Monday, September 20

Why I Don’t Watch Filipino Teleseryes

by JOHN PATRICK A. MAGNO RANARA

photo courtesy of John Patrick A. Magno Ranara

THE COVID-19 pandemic is still showing no signs of waning. With the new Delta variant, where the virus is more transmissible, it’s as if we had gone back from scratch. Like the early days of the pandemic, many of us are again filled with fear of stepping out of our homes.

Fortunately, we have the technology to keep us company. Western shows and Korean dramas have become more popular than ever as streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube Premium, and iFlix have become a go-to entertainment for many of us.

Teleseryes, as you all may know, are a staple element in Pinoy entertainment, characterized as melodramatic shows that portray social realities experienced by Filipinos. They have existed since the 1960s and continue to dominate the world of our local television.

In my case, although the pandemic has given me a chance to watch television whenever I can, I never took the time to watch teleseryes. I only ever immersed myself in international shows because they are, quite frankly, more superior when it comes to writing well-constructed plots and characters.

Predictable and recycled plot

Art by JEANNE PAULINE G. TECSON/ THE FLAME

Today, most teleseryes are bursting with formulaic plots and tired clichés that I can predict how the show will progress in the first few episodes.

My fingers are not enough to count how many times I have seen shows that revolve around the husband having an affair, the poor, provincial girl falling in love with her wealthy boss, twins separated at birth who are vying for the same man, and more.

You can’t call it a teleserye if it doesn’t have exaggerated drama, including a scene where the heroine and the villain are pulling each other’s hair, slapping each other’s face, and tackling each other on the ground.

An advice column by BBC Writersroom underscored the importance of incorporating originality in crafting television dramas. Writers should always try to make the work unique, and to do this, they must write what they are passionate about. Otherwise, it will just be another replication of current and previous shows.

But ingenuity is nonexistent in teleseryes, it seems. Many of the plotlines have been repeated countless times now, with the writers merely adding little twists and variations to diverge it from its kind, which they ultimately fail to do.

According to psychiatrist Milan Ratunil in an article published on SunStar Cebu, Filipinos commonly watch teleseryes as they can relate to the hardships and sufferings of the protagonist in the show.

It appears that television networks would rather capture the attention of their viewers by exploiting the sentimental nature of Filipinos, and their inclination towards drama and suffering rather than actually attempt to conceive a groundbreaking story.

Long and dragging storylines

Art by JEANNE PAULINE G. TECSON/ THE FLAME

Teleseryes usually air on a weekly basis, and their duration is dependent on whether the show’s ratings exceed expectations or not. This means that a teleserye can either run for several weeks with at least fifty episodes, or a few years with more than a thousand episodes.

My life doesn’t revolve around watching teleseryes, and I don’t have the patience to immerse myself in hundreds of episodes of exaggerated drama.

Moreover, since these shows air for a lengthy period, the stories progress slowly, with the main conflict being broken down into several twists and turns that drag on forever. This consequently plagues the show with many unnecessary scenes that only serve to milk the audience for viewership.

Unlike before, teleseryes are now made available in various streaming services such as iWant and iFlix. This means that you can binge-watch them without having to suffer from tedious commercials.

However, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 98 percent of people who binge-watch are more likely to experience poorer sleep quality, more fatigue, and insomnia because of excessive viewing duration.

As teleseryes often contain a dizzying number of episodes, binge-watching them turns from an enjoyable experience to an exhausting one.

Same old actors playing the same old characters

Art by JEANNE PAULINE G. TECSON/ THE FLAME

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen Gabby Concepcion play the role of the handsome, charming love interest who will fall for a woman younger than him. Or Barbie Forteza portraying the sweet, kindhearted heroine who never seems to have any flaws.

Talented as they are, most of our actors are wasted in teleseryes because they always seem to play the same role in the same predictable plot, as if they are trapped in an endless reincarnation. This makes them victims of type-casting.

While typecasting has several benefits, it also has drawbacks that can damage an actor’s career. According to Amanda Charney from TheaterMania, a website that publishes news on Broadway shows, typecasting may result in viewers losing interest in the show or limiting the actor’s opportunities in the industry.

This also limits them from further developing their acting prowess as they are always stuck in a narrow range of characters.

There are other aspiring Filipino actors whose talents have yet to be discovered, yet television networks prefer to stick with the same renowned faces over and over again.

Don’t get me wrong though, not all teleseryes are bad. There have been some beloved shows and a few hidden gems in the past that have truly unique storylines.

But the bottom line is, having a few good shows is not enough for me to be proud of the quality of our teleseryes. They need to do more than just focus on commercial value.

This article is part of The Flame’s Culture subsection ‘The Culturist’, which are opinion pieces written by Culture staffers. It serves as an eye-opener for Artlets with themes focusing on the Artlet lifestyle, student concerns, the arts, and culture.F

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