The Box That Is Philippine TV

Philippine TV is like a box of chocolates—only it’s not hazelnut truffles.

I am no couch potato. In fact, during the rare occasions that I would find myself sitting idly in front of the television with my mind up in the air, you won’t see me watching Filipino drama shows or movies. Growing up, we were not allowed to watch too much Pinoy sitcoms. Our parents spoiled us in English movies—Harriet the Spy, Cinderella, The Mighty Ducks, Hercules, Betty Boop, Felix the Cat, and more. I used to hate my parents for that but then I learned that it was for the better. Not that I’m here to poke fun at all the things TV networks come up just to increase their ratings because some are actually worthwhile, but then, why do they always have to copy whatever is a hit in the United States?

Philippine TV has gone to the extremes—literally. TV networks heighten the Peeping Toms within us with their numerous reality program offerings that “let us in on the real drama” of life. We are bombarded with moving pictures of beautiful women cracking up jokes that aren’t even supposed to be funny. The issue is the same when it comes to the big screen. Concepts are second-rate replicas of what have already been done abroad. One could argue that everything that comes out these days are mere recycled ideas, mere runner-ups to the best. It’s like restoring a beat-up old car—you take away the bad parts, throw in the latest car seating, the topnotch paint job in the metro and voila, you have a well-conditioned car. Well, at least that’s what you think.

What most Filipinos in this industry don’t understand is that we are well-capable of coming up with concepts that are even better than what they come up with Hollywood. Sure, we don’t have the CGI capabilities that could rival Star Wars and our conservatism as Filipinos keeps us from venturing into sex-driven yet politically and socially true films. But we’ve got a number of realities existing within the society that could birth glorious movies or television documentaries. You can say that networks do take the time to produce relevant programs that actually do help in terms of informing the masses of the ills of society. And I agree. But they’re aired late at night—when no one’s awake but the folks who have just gotten home from a drinking spree.

The television and movie industry is all about pushing creativity to its limit until it’s uncontrollable, until the product of that creativity is too big, too large to undermine. But clearly, that is wishful thinking. Like the car mentioned before, changing what is visible to the eye alone won’t undo the fact that it was manufactured by General Motors or Honda.

We do have adventurous media moguls, filmmakers, writers, and directors willing to break open the box of conformity, but they’re restricted by bodies that preserve the “morals” of this country. How do you nurture creativity when there are individuals shooting it as soon as it takes off? This argument could go on for decades: conformity and innovation, that is.

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