More and more of the same

Melissa Ricks is the lead star of "Nasaan Ka, Elisa?" (Ibarra Siapno, NPPA Images)

I was just cracking up when I read the following post from a certain Jonathan Anthony Lapuz aka "Sweet" on a Facebook page dedicated to television workers and practitioners.  Sweet posted this on Think TV:

Oo nga. Pare-pareho. Si Gardo hinahanap yung anak nya. Si Zsazsa hinahanap yung anak nya. Si Coney hinahanap yung anak nya. Si Claudine hinahanap yung anak nya. Si Ogie hinahanap yung anak nya. Yung Chinese hinahanap yung anak nya. And to top it all, si Agot hinahanap si Elisa. Hahaha. Makahanap sana ng ibang hahanapin.

And not that this was any surprise at all since anyone who watches early or late afternoon as well as prime time telenovelas know that each and every plot has become one and the same.  What is shocking (more so amusing) is that not only are the story lines similar --- but they have practically popped out of the same cookie cutter.

Now every show is looking for a lost child.  There was a time that almost every other telenovela had one character suffering from amnesia.  (Teka nga, maitanong ko lang, ano?  Bakit ba sa tinagal-tagal ng panahon, lagi na lang amenesia nang amnesia ang nagiging sakit ng bida?  I mean, nadapa lang ---pag bangon, may amnesia na. Mauntog lang, aray ko --- nawala na ang memory. )

I remember one afternoon when a network executive practically fell off her ergonomically correct chair as she sat with utmost complacent bliss while she monitored the prime time soap operas.  She suddenly screamed, "Why does every show have a character suffering amnesia???" (She should have also realized that all the shows were mouthing the same dialogue over and over again but said by different actors portraying allegedly different characters but in similar situations.)

That was a bleak afternoon for all the Unit Managers/Business Unit Heads as well as the platoon of worker ants called the Creative Pool.  Hindi ba kaya nga may creative pool so that shows will be exciting! heart-tugging! tear duct exhausting! In other words, pang-rating na pang-rating? Then how come everything looked like they came out from the same outdated mimeographing machine?

So heads got together, brains were picked, countless hours were spent brainstorming on how each show can deviate from echoing the plot of the other.  That was what creative managers, head writers and creative pools are for, right? To give life and energy and a semblance of innovation to the stories threaded in telenovelas. That was what they were being paid for.

True enough --- by the following week,  scripts were revised, characters were re-aligned and there was a sincere effort to make one show different from the narrative arc and the personal journey of the lead characters (Note: these are two buzzwords very popular in brainstorming sessions of network writers.)

And just when you thought that this whole epidemic of amnesia would come to an end, the distraught executive was confronted by another mind-boggling dilemma.  As she finished monitoring all the shows, she screamed, "Bakit lahat ng shows … may kinidnap???"

Need we bang our heads to explain why this has happened?  If you have worked for a production of a telenovela, you agree to certain terms of creativity.  There are norms and formulas to be followed … and, well, innovation is more a welcome phenomenon than a practice.  A telenovela is meant to cater to public taste and temperament --- and this is measured not by greatness in creativity --- but what is most tasty, palatable or assumed accessible to the intelligence of the audience.  Kaya ganyan.

Well, we are still thankful that once in a while we get shows like "Amaya" or "100 Days to Heaven" or "May Bukas Pa."  We should be happy that telenovelas can give room for seasoned actresses like Cherry Pie Picache, Tirso Cruz III, Dante Rivero, Coney Reyes or the comeback girl Janice de Belen to grace our evenings with their gifts in acting.  We should be happy that Nora Aunor is back … and that the likes of Lorna Tolentino can share her talents with up and coming performers to show them what the chops are made of.  And, yes … if it were not for the telenovelas, how would the acting caliber of young stars be honed and refined to produce topnotch stars like Judy Ann Santos or Claudine Barretto or John Lloyd Cruz?

OK, enough said.  That is probably why after all these years we are still enthralled by telenovelas even if the stories tend to be repackaged stories that we have seen over and over and over again.


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