Considering how dull and predictable local free television has become, one has to find a personal sense of excitement if not a very good reason not to be completely addicted to cable.
I mean, after watching True Blood or Game of Thrones --- add Modern Family or 30 Rock and maybe throw in Falling Skies or even watching the umpteenth rerun of Lost, then you must exercise maximum tolerance and patience to live through a local telenovela where:
a) Someone is suffering from amnesia.
b) A parent is looking for a child lost a birth either by kidnap
or very strange circumstances including alien abduction from
creatures from a distant planet near the constellation Andromeda.
c) The rich are such inhuman assholes who find great delight on
insulting, demeaning and generally torturing the poor.
d) Filipino actors are impersonating Mexican ... or, God forbid,
Korean performers ... in the winter.
But that is not the whole point of why I am pounding the keyboards. That only serves as an overwrought premise. The whole point is that sometimes the television commercials --- those thirty-second wonders --- or even the station seasonal promotions --- are far better than the shows themselves.
Yes, I have grown a fixation for commercials more than I have fondness for the shows I get to see.
Well, let's face it. ABS-CBN is quite infamous for coming up with highly creative, expensive and well thought out seasonal promotions.
Whether they herald the big, beautiful summer in the country ... or the romance of the rainy season ... or, ho-ho-ho --- 'tis the season to be jolly, the Lopez network has finesse, technical know-how and such class to turn these roll call of their contract stars and talents into a world class visual delight. These seasonal announcement is like a roll call or a call to arms where the entire posse of major talents and upstarts are primped up in multi-million peso set-ups and brought to all the imaginable locations as a show of unity and force.
It is your traditional pataasan ng ihi sort of thing that tends to fuel excitement to the network wars. More like, show me yours and I will show you mind.
Then of course there are all these wonderful TVCs (television commercials for those out of the loop of such exclusive lexicon)that challenge the geniuses of advertising to pin an idea, celebrate an emotion and sell a product all in a span of thirty seconds. Whether we like it or not, these flashes of endorsements and pronouncements affect the way we think --- and certainly the way we buy.
Inasmuch as there is an entire craft in making tv shows then there must also be an entire mindset in the making of thirty or fifteen seconders to convince us that this brand of feminine hygiene product can definitely make someone more of a woman than the competitive brand. Worse, this kind of skin whitener does not only facilitate that beautiful adventure into being a full-fledged albino but repackage a homo sapien into a entire different species.
But who says TVCs do not have their own flak. Of late, very very few commercials have become memorable in the sense that they are talked about and valued beyond the intended recall of the product being promoted and endorsed. Like really good tv shows, gone are the days of Jollibee's catchy I Love You, Sabado or the Close-Up commercials that launched a zillion careers including the I Love You, Piolo! that eventually gave the country a Toni Gonzaga.
Once in a while you come across a touching commercial like the Dad left behind by his OFW wife to take care of his little daughter serving fried chicken. Or the Mom who is berating her whimpering bunso while serving the same product. Or the son who is taking extra care and caution in preparing the perfect coffee mix for his mother. Yes, such touching glimpses into human situations reflecting that tender side of being Filipinos: they never fail to catch our attention. Definitely these commercials leave a more lasting impression than those over-produced over-the-top thirty second visual assaults with celebrity endorsers.
Then there is the crop of duds that seemed to generate a completely different sense of recall. Well, if the rule of the game is that what is important then I guess upsetting, irritating or even disgusting the audience is a ploy that could also work. More unforgivable than cheesiness is ...uh, stupidity. There is greater room for forgiveness for something mundane and mediocre (and haven't we had enough of that with tv shows) but for something to be downright and outright stupid warrants a completely different response: that is one of revulsion.
I posted a question on my Twitter account asking what my followers considered as the worst television commercial --- and the decision seemed to be unanimous. Although the three-in-one coffee commercial succeeded in giving a vicious Last Song Syndrome (LSS) especially to kids (thereby certifying that oh-so-precious recall), apparently there is a sentiment shared by a great number of TV viewers. They hated the commercial.
This contempt is somewhat understandable: haven't we just had enough of Glee rip-offs where people suddenly burst out in song employing really tacky Sunday noontime show choreography? Haven't we seen the whole principle of the musical pushed to the unimaginable limits with the hope of riding on to a trend?
Indeed there is nothing wrong with people suddenly bursting out in song and dance for this is a tradition that has been honored and time-tested throughout the history of Eastern and Western civilizations but ... Yes, there is a pre-requisite that the singing and dancing are palatable and not even merely tolerable. With the case of this commercial greeting the gruesome downer of a morning then hopefully bringing sunshine and better disposition, the material succeeded in being such a celebration of dullness, bad choreography and being absolutely charmless.
No, I stand corrected: this commercial has all the appeal of a dental appointment for a root canal ... without the help of anesthesia. This could have been a dream sequence from the tv series Walking Dead.
Then there is still series of shampoo commercials that I, together with some other media practitioners as well as the madlang people, find so fake. To begin with, the writing is so particularly bad that it succeeds in asking one of the most stupid questions ever posed in twenty-first century mass media: What is the best age to be a woman?
I mean ... really? I repeat ... really? Try answering that question.
Or maybe the question was not so properly phrased that it has to require translation. So for the sake of greater comprehensibility, should we deliver this in the national language to sound like: "Ano ang tamang edad para maging ganap na babae?" Still it sounds so vague. Or should this be rephrased as, "Ano ba ang wastong edad para maglandi ang isang babae?" Hmmmm.
When I posted this same query on my Facebook page, I elicited variety of reactions ranging from the sociological to the scientific to the downright whimsical and comical to even the stupid which is quite deserving of the question anyway.
The "right age to be a woman" could refer to:
(a) according to Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon as that exact time when a female experiences her first menstruation.
(b) the precise moment when a mother finally tells her pubescent daughter that she has to start wearing training brassieres.
(c) when the little girl finally does not find the little boy all that disgusting and begins to wonder (at greater detail) the machinations of the birds and the bees.
or, worse, when the question is actually asked by a male:
(d) the proper psychological frame of mind for a transvestite to graduate from estrogen shots to booking a flight to Bangkok for a transgender operation.
As you can see, any which way you try to answer the question ... the answer will still come out as lame or unequivocally stupid. Ah, why bother?
Yes, yes, yes: it is still a delight to see John Lloyd Cruz sell everything from paracetamol to shampoos and now adult powdered milk. And regardless of what you think of her brother, the First Sister with the Second Nephew will still be on billboards, print ads and tv in various forms and reincarnations ("What's siksik, Mommy?"). That is the stuff celebrities ... and capitalism are made of so we have to accept this as part of the system.
But we still want to be challenged. We still want to be impressed. And perhaps all we are asking is that if they should try to convince us to buy products even to the extent of ramming these down our throats, maybe they should also put effort in at least trying to amuse us and avoid insulting our intelligence.
That is not asking for too much, is it? Even for thirty seconds.