THAT was the first word that came to mind as I watched a six-year-old boy nicknamed Jan-Jan sexually gyrating like a macho dancer in Willie Revillame’s show on TV5, much to the delight of the host and the audience.
I couldn’t even watch the entire video clip, which has been making the rounds of the social-networking sites via YouTube because it was just so sick and tasteless.
Most of my friends know I’m virtually unshockable, and hardly disturbed at the ordinarily offensive items; being a journalist often makes one jaded about these matters. But seeing Jan-Jan perform in such a manner in exchange for P10,000, to help his family, just crossed the line for me.
What was worse was after Jan-Jan completed the deed, Revillame, in his trademark maniacal evil laugh, egged the little boy to do it again. “Umiiyak pa ’yan!” he shouted into his mic, so entertained by the little boy’s conduct on the air.
Then His Majesty’s Crassness added, in all the wisdom he could muster: “Ganyan na ho ang hirap ng buhay ng tao...siyempre nagsasayaw siya bilang macho dancer sa edad n’yang ’yan para sa mahal niyang pamilya.” He was hysterically amused, and the audience, too, lapped it all up wildly clapping their hands and loudly cheering.
What a sick, sick world we live in.
But I can’t lay the entire blame on TV5 alone. In its quest for more advertisers and profit, it has tapped into the Filipino masses’ penchant for banal mediocre entertainment. It’s not alone. All the other TV networks do the same.
Aside from Willing Willie, you have Eat Bulaga and its vapid hosts and half-naked dancing girls on GMA. While I haven’t watched Happy Yipee Yehey—ABS-CBN’s new noon-time variety show—I’ve read that it’s basically a reincarnation of Wowowee, the old show which was headlined by Revillame.
What has happened to network TV programming?
When I was a young kid growing up in the ’70s, our variety shows were smart, funny and really showcased the best in Filipino talent.
At noontime, I watched Student Canteen with hosts Eddie Ilarde, Pepe Pimentel, Helen Vela, Coney Reyes and Bobby Ledesma. I remember its hugely successful talent contest—“Search for the Student Canteener”—which attracted quite a number of amateur singers who could really wow the audience on sheer voice quality. (If I’m not mistaken, Marco Sison was one of the contest’s winners.)
In the evening, there were dancing shows like Discorama or Penthouse 7, where the latest dance crazes were featured. After each dance, all youngsters like myself would get up, and follow Mike Monserrat or RayAn Fuentes as they showed us how to do the dance steps.
Then there were also game shows like Spin-a-Win, a takeoff from the US game show Wheel of Fortune, where contestants had to spin a wheel, guess a letter, and guess the word or phrase on the huge standing board, in exchange for money and prizes.
We also had IQ 7, where Bong Barrameda (remember him?) was king. It was a quiz show whose contestants had to be challenged in general knowledge (history, math, civics, geography, etc.) and also trivia. I remember racking my brain, as well, trying to answer each difficult question before the buzzer sounded.
All these shows were fun and entertaining, and even educational. The hosts were all decent, well-educated and well-mannered. They treated contestants and guests like the respected/respectable human beings they were.
Their hosting skills were considered topnotch. They were articulate (it didn’t matter whether they spoke in English or Filipino) and asked intelligent questions of their guests. They certainly didn’t need any scantily clad girls prancing in the background to attract more followers to their shows. It was just sheer talent and excellent hosting that reigned supreme on national TV.
When the ’80s rolled in, suddenly there was an explosion of off-color jokes and men gyrating like macho dancers on TV. (Thank you, Eat Bulaga, for showing the way.)
Idiotic games in exchange for money became the norm. Any remaining iota of decency was tossed out the window as ill-mannered hosts who poked cruel fun at guests or contestants were everywhere.
I have friends in the TV industry who justify shows like Willing Willie. They tell me, that’s the kind of entertainment the masses want these days.
The audience, they say, want to identify with TV hosts who are as ill-mannered and uneducated as they are, but who give them hope for a better future. They are poor and don’t know any better.
So the parents allow their kid to perform like a macho dancer trying to attract a homosexual client, and they, the TV network, and the audience doesn’t see anything wrong with it. They don’t feel the child has been abused, and wonder what all the fuss is about. All the parents know is that the kid won a huge amount of cash—P10,000—in exchange for that performance which, to them, was cute.
So it’s not only that Philippine TV has changed but also we the audience have changed. Our once erudite taste for classy TV programming has shifted to base mediocrity. And since that is what the audience demands, that is what the TV networks will continue to feed us.
Yes, I would agree that it’s probably due to the worsening state of education in the country, and the growing poverty in our midst. And for TV networks, the bottomline IS their bottomline. They need advertisers to survive.
It’s all about the big bucks, really. After all, TV networks aren’t in the business of changing the viewing habits of televiewers, or educating them in the finer things in life. They just want to follow an easy, tried-and-tested formula for their shows so they can get the advertisers.
I can understand the financials. All TV networks need the revenue to survive the competition. But what about honor and decency, and making a difference? Don’t these matter anymore?
If we are to grow as a nation of honorable, respectable citizens, I think our TV networks need to come onboard that train, as well. They can’t wiggle their way out of this one and say, they’re already doing their patriotic duty by producing kick-ass news programs and talk shows. They have to change the way they entertain as well.
As I told a friend working in the industry recently, if TV networks continue to feed crap to their audience, then that is what they get—a crappy audience.
(Originally published in the BusinessMirror on April 1, 2011. My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of said paper. Photo from www.pinoyamsbisyoso.com)