10 Reasons To Dislike TFC Cable Channel

One common experience for overseas Filipino workers is homesickness. Thanks to proactive minds of Philippines-based networks, there seems to be one easy cure for this malady. For years it’s already possible to watch your favorite TV shows abroad as if you’re watching them with family members in the comforts of your living room. Such piece of entertainment is a relief from a hard day’s work and often one of the things to look forward to after working hours. The Filipino Channel and GMA PinoyTV served as trailblazers paving way for homegrown sitcoms, news broadcasts and soap operas to be aired right into homes, dormitories or any other type of dwelling OFWs live abroad.

But as much as these TV channels cure homesickness or help connect with loved ones back home, it doesn’t mean the programs shown on cable TV are ideal for viewing consumption. If any, many of these segments lack creativity, uneducational or outright boring. Let’s identify some of the reasons for our lack of appreciation for the cable channel we ought to be proud of.

1. Poor casting on TV dramas. There are many aspects of TFC dramas we think require upgrade. One aspect is casting which is occasionally done poorly; Jhong Hilario seems too young to be the father of Julia Montes (Mara Clara) or Carlos Agassi to play as Jason Abalos’ father (Agua Bendita). Andi Eigenmann’s physical appearance doesn’t make her best fit as a military officer (Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin). There could be lack of appropriate cast in a thin pool of talent. In places like Korea, TV production companies operate independently from network studios which gives them freedom to select cast members. Scripts and cast lineups are then presented to TV broadcasters who may demand for popular stars to ensure higher viewer ratings and attract more advertisers. Such situation prompts production outfits to come up with great stories on top of fan favorite characters in a tightly competitive viewing market. In our observation, this isn’t the case in the Philippines.

2. Lack of originality. Although producers may seem coy about it, Imortal has become a poor man’s version of the popular Twilight series, the vampire-themed fantasy romance novel. One might wonder if American author Stephenie Meyer did not write the novel, ABS-CBN which produces the drama, would have come up with the same idea. To the uninformed and misinformed, Green Rose, Maria del Barrio, Nasaan ka Elisa and other stories originally aired overseas can easily be credited to ABS-CBN. It’s not wrong to televise these foreign made soap operas, but if only locally-made dramas are also up to par and not adapted from elsewhere. The Filipino audience isn’t dumb and deserve better written stories.

Nasaan Ka Elisa is a Philippine remake of the 2009 Chilean drama ¿Dónde está Elisa?

3. Lack of creative writers. While we acknowledge the great literary talents of writers like Rod Santiago, Pablo S. Gomez, Mars Ravelo and other writers who made their names in the field of Pinoy komiks and pocketbooks, it’s will be a shame to rely on them as the main source of stories: Mutya, Agua Bendita, Lovers in Paris and Precious Hearts Romance series. If we try watching Japanese or Korean dramas we somehow ask ourselves why ABS-CBN was unable to think of a story like this? A love story about a basketball player and an violinist, a story about challenges and adventures in being a member of a medical team or a story about secondary school students aiming to pass college entrance exams. Lines of script on these stories are usually very crisp and well-written.

Even ABS-CBN’s drawing of titles for dramas are very predictable; many of these soap operas simply adopt the title of the theme song: Mula sa Puso and Minsan Lang Kitang Iibigin are a few examples.

4. Public Announcements and Commercials. We TFC subcribers guess that we all follow the same program at any given time. That means if a TV commercial intended for Japan audience such as home delivered Filipino food gets aired, subscribers from Australia or Hong Kong also see the same ad. Community events in Singapore gets aired to viewers elsewhere in short ‘Global Post’ segments. Not a big issue though. What about Barangay Japan? Maybe it’s interesting to Pinoys in Japan but how is it very relevant to audience elsewhere who thought TFC is a channel that brings channel 2 newscasts, dramas, public affairs and TV magazine programs into foreign soil?

5. ASAP XV / Rocks. It’s good to know ASAP Rocks is one of the longest-running TV programs of ABS-CBN. But before it can call itself All-Star Sunday Afternoon Party, the talent it features must possess a more potent lineup. We often see stars and starlets dishing out covers of popular singles in front of shrieking fans. Hosts shout and scream most of the time. The show is an evidence of how influence of foreign entertainment has taken over its traditional Filipino counterpart. But while Justin Bieber dishes out original singles, Jed Madela almost exclusively does covers. And while Katy Perry is good at playing the piano and guitar, Sitti Navarro — who almost exclusively does covers too — only has her good vocals to showcase.

6. Promotion of Gossip. Filipinos overseas can’t help but want updates of favorite TV stars so The BUZZ, E-Live, Showbiz Insider Report and other entertainment news segments are proliferating. But even if current lineup of Boy Abunda, KC Concepcion and Charlene Gonzales is a huge upgrade over Cristy Fermin, the overall value of these shows is very still low since it only informs the public, but not educate them. If any, these shows try to dig into the private lives of stars often sharing stories about whose seeing who, blind items and at times fan the fires that start a simple argument or misunderstanding between TV personalities into full-scale word war.

7. Low Value Shows. Talking further about low-value shows, there are plenty of others that don’t necessarily talk about celebrities. While we found Kokey as a funny fantaserye, Agimat is a revelation of ABS-CBN’s struggle to keep the legacy of Nardong Putik alive. The Price is Right teaches us skills on guessing how much a car or a kitchen showcase costs. But that’s it. As a contestant wins, we feel happy for him but deep inside we somehow wish it was us. Pinoy Big Brother doesn’t offer us much value either. Instead, like its distant cousin Survivor where viewers watch participants enter the house and do mundane things. By the way, contestants of game shows are often portrayed as participants desperate for money and would do anything to get rewarded while both live audience and TV viewers are hooked as emotional hostages; let’s hope this contestant wins so he can build a new house for his family.

Mula sa Puso was a popular soap opera between 1997 and 1999. Its remake was launched in 2011. Photo credit: TV Series Craze

8. Recycled Dramas. For lack of new inspiration, it seems that ABS-CBN resorts to old yet popular dramas in a bid to create a trend of reviving past glory. Mula Sa Puso and Mara Clara are examples of these dramas. Is ABS-CBN is trying to cut costs and use minimal resources? Maybe not, especially with a record-level profits. Even if we look beyond these recycled stories, the stories behind TFC soap operas are predictable: a lead couple, a few villains who are rich, influential and powerful, and extended cast composed of meddling household helpers, gay cohorts and paid assassins of contrabidas. Stories tell of children switched at birth, a poor boy/girl falling in love with rich on-screen partner or a young hero up against formidable opponents in a fantasy series. Shall we expect a return of May Bukas Pawithin the next ten years? Please move beyond these plots and we will be excited.

9. Language Misuse. Scripts used by drama characters often mix English and Tagalog lines, and such usage can heavily influence how viewers use the language. Are these programs partly to blame for the country’s dwindling English proficiency? We don’t have evidence to prove that claim. But with its role to provide educational, not just informative news and entertaining dramas, that may be easier to pinpoint. Even TV Patrol use awkward segment titles such as Winner sa Life and Balitang Foreign. One wonders ‘Filipino Ka Sabihin Mo’ — a segment that teaches Tagalog language to foreign-born kids of TFC subscribers — would be helpful in this regard.

10. Fewer Educational Shows. Matanglawin is a great program to watch. But alas, it lacks peers in the current lineup of shows. For a target market of overseas Filipinos craving to eat traditional Filipino food or visit tourist attractions back home, we wish there are programs that highlight lesser known tourist attractions, must-visit restaurants and interesting things to do while OFWs are on vacation — instead of Trip na Trip‘s featured foreign attractions. After all, TFC is not only for Filipinos but to everyone else abroad who may be interested in visiting the Philippines. That is why TFC Connect is a good program to connect Filipinos abroad and beloved homeland.

We are aware that ABS-CBN dramas are also becoming popular in other countries like Singapore, Indonesia, China and even parts of Africa. But should that be enough? While that’s certainly a good news, ABS-CBN shouldn’t stop there and rest on its laurels. In a world paranoid about ratings and competing networks try to outsmart each other, the only way to move forward is to keep improving in your craft instead of deploying fans bashing each other in the head. With the list of issues above comes a corresponding wishlist we hope would be helpful for ABS-CBN / TFC in their relentless effort to serve their overseas markets.

Scheduling Issue
Why does TFC repeat shows shown the previous night? If the reason is because some viewers on different timezones need to be accommodated, then is this a one-size fits all package that, as mentioned earlier, shows intended for Pinoys in Japan are also shown to less relevant viewers? Why not include archives of all-time favorites like Okidoki Dok or Anna Luna (instead of introducing new channels like BRO and charge more money) or educational ones like Sineskwela or Hiraya Manawari for young kids of immigrant Filipinos to learn something while parents are out at work? To be a catalyst for Filipino values, TFC needs to be responsible on what it wants to show to its paying audience.

Unlike viewers in the Philippines who watch Channel 2 for free and can simply switch channels or switch off television sets if we don’t like the shows, TFC subscribers pay to watch the channel so it would be a bit justified to ask ABS-CBN to improve its lineup of programs. (Ouch.. we are constantly bombarded with ads about feature films to watch at Cinema One or great sports coverage at BRO — and hear Peter Rabbit chime in, subscribe na! Or the Global Dealer of the Year which honestly we think less than 1% of viewers are ever interested.)

We hear you say why don’t we just disconnect our subscription or switch to GMA Pinoy TV. We can only hope that’s as easy as its done; cable channels are often bound in contracts that cutting it off meant paying the provider the remaining value of the contract. Plus, GMA Pinoy TV might not be able to guarantee its program lineup is devoid of issues described above.

We don’t hate ABS-CBN or GMA Pinoy TV (fewer comments about this channel since we don’t subscribe to this at the moment). We just think current offerings on cable channel can be improved. Nonetheless, keep up the good work and congratulations on your awards.