On Sunday All Stars and Tropang Trending

When practically every viewer was stunned by the announcement of the axing of Party Pilipinas last two months ago, the big question was WHAT NOW? Not long after, the network announced the concept of the new show replacement: artists to be grouped, given a theme and compete with each other. Right from the start the concept was met with scepticism and yes, admittedly, a lot of sarcasm from the loyal fans of Party PIlipinas. The big question remained: WHAT NOW?

The new show

Watching the pilot episode of Sunday All Stars (SAS), I was just praying that they get it through with the least of flack. The production numbers were great. I admire the dedication of the artists. It was good to see them (or at least most if not some) started to get their creative juices going. The next four episodes were a bit of a surprise in the sense that I must admit that the excitement of seeing what each group had prepared and who will win did catch on. I was also glad that the criteria for judging was adjusted as the show progressed, decreasing the weight of online and text voting and giving more weight on the say of the judges who were seasoned or veteran artists themselves. I like the fact that the entry of guest judges (be it deliberate or because some of the resident judges could not make it) diffuses the notion of undeserving wins because the mainstay judges have their own favored groups or artists.

SASlogoThat is the upside. The downside is that I am not sure how long the show – and the artists – can sustain such a format. To have to come up with a winning production number every week on top of their own gigs or projects as individual artists may take its toll at some point. We are already seeing a number of the busier artists struggling to meet the demands of the show, particularly those who need to be somewhere else because of other professional engagements. I mean, these are individual artists and SAS isn’t their only show. A lot of them are into other projects, some needing to be out of town, abroad or rehearsing most days of the week. Unfortunately for these busier artists, they turn out to be among the “liabilities” in their groups, and get some flack particularly in the VTRs prior to each performance. Some may deserve the “special mentions” for not being proactive or supportive but some don’t because they are simply doing their jobs as artists or performers.

I’m also not into the game portion of the show, or at least that segment still hasn’t grown on me. Maybe it’s because for years we had been used to having a noontime variety show on a Sunday sans the games that highlight the noontime shows during the rest of the week. The audience and the viewers are the focus on weekdays and Saturdays while the artistas and performers take center stage on Sundays. Breaking the habit seems a bit difficult, or may even be considered suicide, if the network cannot present a good enough reason to break it. And at this point, I’m still a skeptic.

I also sigh in regret every Sunday that the artists only get to perform during the group production numbers, unless they are part of a show currently being promoted. I feel bad for the singers/performers who have shows but could not really promote properly. I feel it such a waste to have very talented and established artists there who get to do their thing for just a few seconds or minutes. Sunday All Stars can boast of world-class artists who can keep our noontime Sundays worthy of spending in front of the television the way Party Pilipinas had if it could come up with a better format that will be fair for both the artists and the viewers. For now, it’s a struggle. The excitement of the competition is great but the toll it will take on its artists and its sustainability as a weekly thing comes with a big question mark.

The new trend

What I love though about the past few weeks is the shift of focus in terms of the production numbers, judging from the emerging winners particularly after the change in criteria for choosing the victors for the week. The triple win of Tropang Trending seems to send a message – deliberate or not – that glitz and glamour may be great up to a certain point but simplicity, sincerity and substance can take you farther.

Now don’t get me wrong with that statement. All I am saying is that I like the fact that the group that really zeroed in on artistry and purpose got to bring home the bacon for the past few weeks. After decades of being caught up in the ratings game, people in the industry tend to lean too much on gimmickry and popularity to get our attention as audience. Many times the people behind the shows overlook their responsibility to educate the audience too. You do not just think about what they want so the show will rate. You think about what they also need to know and learn to make television a more meaningful medium of communication. The kilig and kwela factors can only take us so far. These are the sure-fire escape routes for people behind the shows to rate without having to work that hard at artistry and creativity. After a while though, it gets stale and you need to find another loveteam or another sensational artist to carry the burden of making a show or concert rate.

TTrendingThis week saw the third straight win of Tropang Trending as Best Performance by a Group and gave them their 3rd Best Solo Performance in the person of Rachelle Ann Go. Rochelle Pangilinan and Mark Herras were previous recipients of this award. I wouldn’t say that Tropang Trending upped the level of performance because each group put a lot of effort in their presentations. I would say instead that Tropang Trending deviated from the usual. Instead of guesting big names, they opted to feature non-celebrities. They featured “ordinary” people who actually touched our hearts maybe a tad more this time because of the reality that they stand for. Instead of banking on loveteams, kilig or pakwela, the group really zeroed in on the theme and what relevant message they can impart through their performance. Usually this formula bombs when it comes to movies and tv shows (too deep, they say) but I am glad it has given this group significant wins the past three weeks. Is it safe to say that the judges are making their sentiments known in their choice of winners? I feel it very telling for veterans in the industry leading the wins towards a group that not only presents substance but also coherence, sincerity, artistry and an appeal that cuts across all generations – the way it used to be or even should be again maybe?

Tropang Trending I believe has the least number of artists – actor or singer – who are very active on tv during the rest of the week. That edges them out somehow in the online and text voting to some extent. And we all know that the voting public consist mostly of fans who will tend to vote for their preferred artists. But the competition being what it is, and with judges who are icons in the business and are very serious in upping their industry, I am glad that the usual formula to get viewers in isn‘t what’s lording over the decisions.

In a way, the competing groups make the viewers choose which appeals to them the most. And to those viewers who are not influenced by idolatry, the show makes them think deeper than just immediate or superficial gratification. In choosing their winner, they get to think about not just what they like but what made them think. We have too much of the kilig factor and the loveteams during the week, particularly in the teleseryes from afternoon to late evening. On a Sunday afternoon, the whole family is watching, from toddler to grandies. It is nice to see that Tropang Trending takes this into consideration, making their presentation appeal to this wide range of viewers.

tropangtrending1The pressure is now on Tropang Trending though because although the out-of-the-box formula has been working for them so far, they need to realize too that it will not work all the time unless they inject something different as they go along, or else the attention just might go back to those who aren’t lacking in the usual kilig and pakwela factor. Their strategy may just go stale at some point when you have viewer participation, particularly the younger generation that dominate the cyberworld in the equation. I do believe though that they are very much aware of this and will make sure they will not fall into that trap that will make their future prods predictable.

Congratulations to the winners not just this week but the past weeks. I just hope that the competition will not take its toll on the artists in the coming months. GMA, I think you still need to rethink the concept of the whole show to make it a venue for improvement for artists without making it such a burden or source of stress for them. Otherwise those may just be the very reasons for demotivation to set in and affect the air of camaraderie and healthy competition between and within the groups.

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