Television: Encantadia

"Encantadia"

Eleven years ago, when I was still in college, local network GMA-7 embarked on an ambitious journey to create a fantastical world where magic and monsters exist. And although my initial intention in watching the first episode were less than honorable, I was instantly hooked.

Encantadia was nothing like anything else on television–in the Philippines or abroad. Sure, we had the Lord of the Rings, but that was a cinematic event. On television, Game of Thrones was still six years away, the Shannara Chronicles had ten years more to go. One of the earliest completely fantastical television shows, Legends of the Seeker, began in 2008. And all of those are television programs that aired once a week with a lot of time to prep and produce each episode. Encantadia was a soap opera that aired five days a week.

I’m not saying that to build up an apology for what the program was–mostly, because if you’ve seen the original series, there really isn’t anything to apologize about. Encantadia rolled with the punches and dealt with limitations and restrictions through twists that made the show all the more interesting to watch.

A new generation of viewers were born in the era of Encantadia then. Smart viewers. Viewers who liked to be challenged. Viewers who then dreamed of seeing more programs like Encantadia.

I was one of those viewers. Fast forward to ten years later, and I’m now part of the team that’s shaping the “requel” of the series that got me interested in Philippine television again.

Now, before you ask– “Requel” was a term coined to distance the new Encantadia from the string of remakes being done by the local television networks. From MariMar, to Panday, to Pangako Sa ‘Yo, the series of old soap operas being remade for new viewers was leaving a sour taste in the mouth of their target markets. It’s either the remakes were too similar to the original, or they were too different.

That’s what Encantadia 2016 is striving to avoid.

By re-telling the original story with new twists and new information, new viewers will be able to follow what happened before without boring the viewers who have seen the original run (or has since streamed the original series on iFlix). We’re reshaping the narrative so things that happened originally are told in new and surprising ways. That way, we get to keep the old fans on their toes–while tipping our hat to the fact that they know where things are going.

But all of these retelling serves only one purpose: it’s to get all viewers (old and new) abreast to the ending of the original series. It’s to familiarize everyone again with the characters that were loved before. It’s to set up a new chapter alongside the old ones.

Because a “requel” isn’t just a retelling. It’s a sequel too. And I am telling you: the fan in me? The one that dreamed to write his own fantasy series because of the original Encantadia? He’s very giddy at the plans that are being set up and planted in the first part of Encantadia 2016.

I am promising you: this is going to be one heck of a ride.

Encantadia airs weeknights after 24 Oras, on GMA Network in the Philippines.

Advertisements

Television: Healing Hearts and The Rich Man’s Daughter

Full disclaimer: This post is an advertisement, but I’m not getting paid for this. That’s mostly because I’m writing about two local television programs whose creative teams I am a part of. Both of which will start airing today, May 11, starting with–

"Healing Hearts"

Healing Hearts tells the story of a young woman, Liza (Joyce Ching), who has only one wish in her life: to find true happiness, by finding “something to do, someone to love…and something to live for.” The only words left behind by her late mother, who she never got to know.

In her journey to find this happiness, she meets Jay (Kristoffer Martin), an acerbic young man who wants nothing more than to get back with his old flame: Chloe (Krystal Reyes). Lucky for Jay, Liza already knows Chloe. And he proceeds to set him up, so he could win her back. Unfortunately for Liza, she falls in love with Jay in the process.

And even more unfortunate for Liza? Jay has a stepmother with a complicated past with her own mother. Her mother who was just released from prison for committing a crime of passion. The mother she did know. The mother who is now looking for her.

There’s a belief that you meet people, strangers in your life, for a reason. In Healing Hearts, Liza will meet the people who will lead her back to what she once lost. And to what she is looking for.

Healing Hearts also stars Angelika dela Cruz, Dominic Roco, Ken Chan, Tina Paner, Maureen Larrazabal, Elle Ramirez, and Ms. Mickey Ferriols. It will air weekdays, after Yagit, in GMA-7’s Afternoon Prime block.

"The Rich Man's Daughter"

In The Rich Man’s Daughter, we have the story of a very conservative Chinese family whose world gets rocked by the secrets that they’ve all been keeping. Secrets that begin to spill out when Jade (Rhian Ramos), the youngest and most favorite Tanchingco, realizes she’s in love with someone other than the man she was supposed to marry. And much to her family’s chagrin, that someone else is of the same sex.

And so begins what is being touted as the most provocative drama on Philippine television.

The Rich Man’s Daughter also stars Glaiza de Castro, Luis Alandy, Mike Tan, TJ Trinidad, Katrina Halili, Chynna Ortaleza, and Ms. Gloria Romero. The cast also includes Pauleen Luna, Sheena Halili, Paolo Contis, Charee Pineda, Tony Mabesa, Al Tantay, Glydel Mercado, Bing Davao, Mosang, and Bryan Benedict. It will air weeknights, after Let the Love Begin, as part of GMA Telebabad.

Television: Ang Dalawang Mrs Real

"Ang Dalawang Mrs Real"

Are films and television programs about a philandering husband and the drama it entails about to reach its saturation point? We’ve gone from No Other Woman to My Neighbor’s Wife, from The Temptation of Wife to The Legal Wife. Are there any more ways to tell the same story?

There is. Actually.

My Husband’s Lover changed the landscape of how a soap opera can be told, with its quiet confrontations instead of screaming matches. And GMA Network is hoping to do the same with its newest offering: Ang Dalawang Mrs Real (trans: The Two Mrs Real). But it’s also hoping to do more.

In Ang Dalawang Mrs Real, the man in question isn’t a philanderer. Anthony Real (Dingdong Dantes) is a good man. A little too proud, a little too hard-headed, but he has a heart that bleeds for the oppressed. So how does a ‘good’ man get into bed with two women? How does a ‘good’ man end up married to two women who know nothing about the existence of the other?

That is not the story of Ang Dalawang Mrs Real–but the answers to those questions will set up the changes that will affect all the characters in the show. No one will be left unscathed.

In other programs, the confrontation of the problem usually happens in the middle of the story, with the momentum from the revelations propelling to show to a happy ending. But what if there’s no possible happy ending for any of the characters?

Ang Dalawang Mrs Real aims to share a story that’s realistic of today’s struggles and values. The revelations isn’t a far-off idea that viewers will be forced to wait for. They will, instead, serve as catalysts for the real stories to begin. Stories that are usually avoided. Stories that are now going to be told. On GMA Telebabad.

Ang Dalawang Mrs Real also stars Ms. Maricel Soriano, Lovi Poe, Alessandra de Rossi, Rodjun Cruz, Marc Abaya, Dominic Roco, Jaime Fabregas, Robert Arevalo, theater actress and folk singer Celeste Legaspi, Tommy Abuel, Susan Africa, Diva Montelaba, Robert Sena, Marco Alcaraz, and returning after two decades to the Kapuso Network: Ms. Coney Reyes. The soap opera will be directed by Andoy Ranay (One True Love, Mundo Mo’y Akin), with the creative team of Suzette Doctolero (Encantadia, Amaya, My Husband’s Lover) and Geng delos Reyes-Delgado.

Television: Sherlock and His Last Vow

"His Last Vow"

A case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates. But how do you tackle a foe who knows the personal weakness of every person of importance in the Western world?

And so ends another series of BBC’s Sherlock. And at the end of it all, a character posits the question, “did you miss me?” A tease, if there ever was one. A tease to the fans who have to endure another long hiatus to get the next fix, the next series.

So, to respond to the question: Yes, you bastard. Yes, we missed you. And now, we’re going to miss you again.

His Last Vow caps off another great series of Sherlock. Although, if we’re going to be perfectly honest with each other, this has to be my least favorite batch of three. Which is a compliment to the series to be perfectly honest. Their least good batch of episodes are still four and a half hours (or is it six hours?) of quality television.

But why do I say that this is the least good batch?

If you remember, I was very much a fan of the premiere. I loved how Sherlock was made more accessible to the viewers. And I think I’m starting to understand why: it’s because he’s more likable now. Not that he wasn’t before. But he’s actually making an effort to be liked now.

In The Empty Hearse, it was a breath of fresh air. In The Sign of Three, it felt weird. Now, in His Last Vow, the discord in Sherlock’s character is made more pronounced because he’s back to being who he was in the first two of series of the program. He’s back to not caring.

And it feels wrong.

I mean, it’s not wrong. This is actually the Sherlock we’ve waiting for since he took that jump in Reichenbach Fall. But after being teased with the more human Sherlock… Well, it’s classic Steven Moffat, isn’t it? He gives you what you think you want, and then he takes it away.

Thing is, I think it’s good that he actually takes away the human Sherlock this time ’round. One of the reasons why I like BBC’s Sherlock is because of his inability to process the basic need of human beings to be loved, to be understood. He has his own bubble world where what other people think don’t matter.

And then it started to.

I liked Series 3. Let me be clear about that. I liked it. It’s more visual, it’s more ambitious, it has more heart. But I don’t think it lives up to what the first two series were. Genius. They were genius. Series 3, having seen all the episodes now, was just below genius.

Again, not a bad thing. It’s just that we’ve gotten used to getting the best. Settling for second best isn’t as good.

And we are settling, aren’t we? After two years of no Sherlock, we lapped up the three episodes like the world was ending this month. We didn’t care that most of what we watched seemed to have come from the need to service the fans more than the story.

I get that the fans are important. Without the fervent clamor for new Sherlock episodes, there wouldn’t be more Sherlock episodes. But didn’t we come for the stories? Didn’t we come for the smarts? The last minute unraveling of a mystery?

I like that they tried to bring Sherlock a notch down. But a stumped Sherlock is not a fun Sherlock. I want his glee. I want his superiority. Because we watch Sherlock not because we want realism. We watch Sherlock because we want to see this fictional character be brilliant.

So Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Steve Thompson? Make Sherlock brilliant again. Make him shine.

Please.

Television: Sherlock and the Sign of Three

"The Sign of Three"

Sherlock faces his biggest challenge of all – delivering a Best Man’s speech on John’s wedding day! But all isn’t quite as it seems. Mortal danger stalks the reception – and someone might not make it to the happy couple’s first dance. Sherlock must thank the bridesmaids, solve the case and stop a killer!

As is always the case with Sherlock, the second episode doesn’t match the intensity of the premiere. But that’s not to say that The Sign of Three was bad. It wasn’t. It was brilliant, funny, and poignant. It just wasn’t as good as the first off the series. Not for me. And I can attribute this to two things:

Number one is the storytelling. Whilst I completely enjoyed Sherlock’s discomfort at having to give a best man speech, the digression towards The Bloody Guardsman and the MayFly cases were what really hooked me in this episode. So much so that whenever we would go back to the wedding, I would feel a tinge of disappointment. The entire episode was brilliant, some parts were just more brilliant than the others. Which isn’t, I’m guessing, how you want viewers to remember the episode. The sum should be equal the parts.

But, spoiler alert, what really made this episode less enjoyable for me, was how neatly the puzzle pieces fit together in the end. How convenient was it for Sherlock to remember the two cases that would lead to the mystery in the wedding? I mean, really. Out of all the cases he can use to highlight John, he uses the two unsolved ones that would pinpoint a murderer in their midst? And the murderer was there. He was listening to the anecdotes. He should’ve realized that he had to start making an escape plan, and not just a hasty exit after the reception. I understand the need to keep cover, but his escape could’ve been smarter. After all, in the two unsolved cases Sherlock presented, he was ingenious with his means. Why suddenly be an ordinary-thinking criminal with something to hide?

And then there’s number two: Sherlock Holmes. Two people living together as long as Sherlock and Watson have are bound to become more acclimatized to one another. They show each other sides that they normally hide from the public. But there was something off about how Sherlock was written in this episode. I mean, for the most part it’s the Sherlock we know and love, but there would be lines of dialogue that were funny but doesn’t feel right coming from him.

Sherlock is socially awkward, we get it. But he is a high-functioning sociopath, as he likes to remind us. Getting a crowd to listen to him be smart should’ve have silenced him in the beginning. Wouldn’t getting a captive audience invigorated him? And then his admittance at not solving a case? Two cases? Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes might do that. Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes might do that. But the BBC version hasn’t shown us that he is capable of being humble, even for just the span of a second, that it feels off when he does do it.

But these are just nit-pickings. The Sign of Three is a solid episode. It… It’s just not for me.

Television: Sherlock and the Empty Hearse

"The Empty Hearse"

Two years after the devastating effects of The Reichenbach Fall, Dr John Watson has got on with his life. New horizons, romance and a comforting domestic future beckon. But, with London under threat of a huge terrorist attack, Sherlock Holmes is about to rise from the grave with all the theatricality that comes so naturally to him. It’s what his best friend wanted more than anything, but for John Watson it might well be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’! If Sherlock thinks everything will be just as he left it though, he’s in for a very big surprise…

It looks like Steven Moffat saved all his smarts for Sherlock and left none for Doctor Who. But this isn’t about Doctor Who. This is about Sherlock Holmes, and BBC’s brilliant adaptation that takes the detective to the present time. And currently, the only show under Steven Moffat that has any semblance of brilliance.

Last time on Sherlock, we saw our titular detective fall to his death–only to attend his own funeral. In the first episode off the new series, we quickly find out how Sherlock survived the fall. Or do we? The way Sherlock tells the story is open to interpretation. He really might be telling the truth, but he could also be trying to pull a fast one. It wouldn’t be out of character for him. I don’t plan on dwelling on the mystery. I’m just happy to have three new episodes of Sherlock.

The first order of business is to bring Sherlock back to everyone’s lives. It takes a third of the episode to integrate him back into people’s lives, but I’m not complaining. Benedict Cumberbatch, the bastard, is perfect in every aspect. The ways he breaks the news to the people he cares about are Standard Sherlock, but he gives them each a personal touch depending on the relationship his character shares with whoever he’s talking to in the scene.

Amanda Abbington is a glorious addition to the cast. I was afraid that I wouldn’t like whoever they cast as Mary Morstan, since I’m already content with the existing cast from the first two series. I feared that introducing Watson’s wife might change the chemistry of the show. But I was wrong. Abbington’s first series of scenes doesn’t actually make much of an impact. I won’t share why. But once we do get to meet Mary and see how her relationship with Watson works, she immediately wins us over.

Well, she won me over at least.

Louise Brealey, our dear Molly Hooper, also steps up as she gets more screen time. Brealey gives life to Molly with such enthusiasm and seriousness, that I would actually like to see her help out more in Sherlock’s cases. She gives a new dynamic to the Holmes-Watson tandem, and I think the team behind BBC’s Sherlock would do well to explore it. If not in this new batch of episodes, then maybe the ones for Series 4.

But the best part of The Empty Hearse is this: it’s fun to watch. Series 2 of Sherlock reached too much into intellect. The writers sought to one up us every step of the way. The Empty Hearse brings something back that hasn’t been seen since the first series: fun. It’s not tiring to watch The Empty Hearse. Our minds do not get taxed. We get sharp wit and smart entertainment, without the show becoming overbearing… or too smug about its brilliance.

Television: Doctor Who and the Time of the Doctor

"The Time of the Doctor"

The Doctor dies on Trenzalore. It’s a fact. He’s seen it. His own tomb, somewhere out there in his future. The Great Intelligence knew it to be true: “One day, it was just too much for the old man.” The Doctor’s death is inevitable – and the time has come for him to return to Trenzalore to fight his final battle. But first, there’s Christmas dinner to prepare…

I’m having a hard time writing this because I want to say I liked the Christmas special, but I would be lying.

It’s not that I hate it, because I don’t. I just don’t like it. And I feel terrible because this is Matt Smith’s last episode. He is my Doctor. He is the one who introduced me to this weird and wonderful universe. And for a swan song, he gets an episode crammed full of things that I don’t really understand the need for. The Silence are back, and so are the Weeping Angels–but why? We finally find out where the crack of the universe begins, and why the TARDIS was made to explode–but there’s no satisfaction in learning these things.

They were just information being given.

Instead of building up to a big finish, like what Russel T. Davies had done for David Tennant in End of Time, we get a disjointed and disappointing swan song for Matt Smith. We get an episode that spends more time in zipping around and not learning things to actually feel the emotions that the characters are sharing. We don’t feel the Doctor’s pain, his despair, his longing. We see him send Clara away,  much like he did with Rose in the finale of the first series. We see Clara not allow herself to be left behind. And then, instead of seeing how this decision has affected the Doctor, we instead cut to a montage of The Doctor fighting different monsters. Couldn’t we have had a scene with the Doctor allowing himself a moment as he says goodbye to Clara? A moment of realization, when the TARDIS doesn’t immediately return, that he will be stuck in the town of Christmas?

There are so many ways to make the episode much more emotionally powerful, and I feel cheated that it wasn’t already so. Because the episode worked so hard to be smart, it forgot the most important part of Doctor Who: it’s heart.

Although, admittedly, a smart episode could work too. If it weren’t a Christmas special. And if it hadn’t dropped a bombshell like Clara’s family on us.

Since when has Clara had family? I mean, I know she had a dad. But hadn’t her mum died already? There was a scene and everything!

But that’s just one small thing compared to the big wrong that was The Time of the Doctor. Maybe it is time for Steven Moffat to take a leave off Doctor Who. He can always return later on. I just think he needs time to rest for now. Rest so he can go back to the way he used to write; when he wrote about Star Whales, about big bangs, about raggedy men dragging along children to an adventure in all of time and space. Rest, Steven Moffat. Rest, so you may give us our Doctor back.