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:

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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.

Paulo Bayabos

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