Fearless Forecast: Modernong Pamilya

Since time immemorial (or at least during the 80s), Filipino networks have started to import shows from different countries. Most shows imported were anime from Japan, but a couple of shows like MacGyver and Charlie’s Angels were also imported from the United States, providing Filipinos variety in terms of programming and content. Fast forward to the present and networks, nowadays, still employ the same kind of programming model as they did before; from reality shows like The X Factor and The Voice to even the big names of American television like Pretty Little Liars of ABC Family. Last month, we examined the feasibility of an SNL franchise here in the archipelago. This month, we take a look at the potency of bringing one of America’s favorite comedies, Modern Family, and see if it’s worth the centavos.

One of the defining aspects of Modern Family is that the ensemble cast carries the whole series through. Whether the topic of Phil Dunphy’s (Ty Burrell) antics is on the table or the rowdy voice of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett (Sofia Vergara), Modern Family works because the cast is willing and ready to take on any material the writers give them. To cast an award-winning show like this, networks need to take into consideration the range and ability an actor has, and not just the fandom or the bankability of the star. The Dunphy parents, Phil and Claire, should be affectionate toward their children yet have this element of comedy in their range. On the other hand, the chemistry-laden couple of Gloria and Jay Pritchett, Claire’s dad, should have the opposition of a strict patriarch and the care of a mother, albeit with a different perspective on things. Phil and Claire’s shoes could be filled by your typical teleserye parents, a pair always in a garb of a sando and shorts for the dad and duster for the mom. Jay and Gloria, on the other hand, need to be more refined since Jay’s ownership of a closet company makes him more inclined to settle for the good things in life; just look at how Manny Delgado, Gloria’s son, prefers his coffee and entertainment.

On the issue between the marriage of Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), several religious and social groups might call foul at the treatment of gay marriage in the show. Portrayed as a loving couple, Cam and Mitchell adopted a Vietnamese girl name Lily, and the trio’s chemistry as a modern family has resonated well with audiences around the globe. With the recent project of GMA called My Husband’s Lover, it would be a breath of fresh air if the networks tackled this plot point with humor and wit to make the masses understand more about homosexuality and its advancements in the Western society.

To also estimate the success of Modernong Pamilya, one must gauge how intertwined the story is with the cultural landscape of the Western originator. In ModPam, the kids (Luke Dunphy and Manny Delgado) are subjected to play sports like basketball, football and soccer as a part of their growth and story. It is undeniable here, in our country, that basketball is the most popular pastime so it should be expected that at least a few episodes of ModPam will be dedicated to the said plot point. Further into the Modern’s story, Gloria had another kid, with Jay this time; she named him Fulgencio and the rest is cuteness history. Filipinos, unsurprisingly, love babies so a storyline involving the Pinoy Gloria having a baby boy would make the adaptation faithful to the source, whilst emphasizing the importance of family in our tight-knit culture.

What makes Modern Family a better show than its predecessors is that it doesn’t make a fuss about the issues it handles within the show. Instead of making a big deal out of a certain social topic, the show makes good with tackling it through the point-of-view of the different characters and how they react towards it. The show’s strong suit is that the emotional impact at the end of the show resonates well with audiences even if the characters just look at the camera to drive a certain point. Another factor that makes Modern so bankable in the States is that it does not hold anything back when it comes to wit and humor; at times, the wit is so sharp that you need to replay the scene to laugh again and fully embrace the jokes. Filipino sitcoms heavily rely on laugh tracks so that the audience gets it, even if the joke is really simple and, at times, witless. If the networks of the Philippines are dead serious on “changing” the face of Philippine television with revised programming lineups and movies every night, they need to realize that in adapting an Emmy-winning show will require brilliant writing and a group of actors up for anything that is sharp yet family-friendly at the same time.

Like any other show here in the Philippines, the longevity of a certain show is not as guaranteed like in the United States. One must remember that ABS-CBN tried to tinker with a Glee-like show, 1dol, only to have it crash and burn by thirty-five episodes, not even qualifying for a cult status. Before networks dive in to imitate the “success” of American shows, they need to consider the culture and sensibilities of our nation and its connection to the wit and humor of American comedies. Although the people of the Republic of the Philippines are developing their taste in entertainment, some of the core audiences want good ol’ fashioned comedy with family values to boot. Yes, Modern Family provides that, but is the country ready for wit and sarcasm delivered with the precision of a mockumentary-like style? Some Filipino audiences are complaining about the amount of so-called “original” content in the Philippines, and when you ask them about the state of Philippine television, they are going to be frank in stating the naked facts: originality is hard to come by, but there has to be a change in the grand scheme of Pinoy television. Change, as what ModFam advocates, is inevitable and is expected like Gloria’s “Baby Cheeses” joke.

Daniel Ian Comandante

By Daniel Ian Comandante

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