When a new TV show like Home Sweetie Home debuts TV, my initial reaction is almost always the intense wish for the new project to succeed.
Sitcoms have become rarer and rarer nowadays, with TV programming becoming filled with fantasy-themed daily shows or romantic comedies from our Asian neighbors. Now, it is hard to believe that for a time, sitcoms ruled primetime television, with a different one, airing every night.
Palibhasa Lalake and Home Along the Riles aired for more than a decade but nowadays, sitcoms are struggling to compete among more popular show formats.
Past local sitcoms, those light and funny TV fares that reflect the Filipino way of life, have contributed much to local popular culture. Now, it's almost a dying genre.
When ABS-CBN announced that it is filling up its important Sunday night lineup with the sitcom Home Sweetie Home, it appeared like a gamble on the network's part, with the timeslot usually being reserved for variety shows and more lucrative reality programs.
But if it is a gamble, ABS-CBN is betting strong. Home Sweetie Home stars the Kapamilya Network's two most bankable talents: John Lloyd Cruz and Toni Gonzaga, as husband and wife Romeo and Julie, living in a house with their in-laws.
On the pilot episode last January 5, we saw how Romeo and Julie's love story began and how the whole main cast ended up living under one roof. It was a quick, tight and cohesive retelling of their story aided by a series of flashbacks, interspersed with present-day scenes.
John Lloyd did fit the bill here as an average young man just starting his family with the woman of his dreams—and it helped that he is unlike some of his fellow actors today that are sculpted to perfection. His every-man appearance and demeanor built his character as a simple and likeable guy. But then, this can be risky because too simple and too likeable can turn out to be dry and flat. We need more personality from the character.
Toni played a character that is too similar to characters she played before, making it a bit of a problem for Julie to stand out as a fresh persona. Nevertheless, Toni was still effective making Julie, the sweet, kind, clumsy, and unassumingly lovely daughter, sister, wife and teacher.
For now, it is a wonder how the two characters will play together in the future, given that they were both presented as pleasant and conflicts are seemingly impossible. There were no personality clashes and that may make things routinely uneventful for the two lead characters.
In a way, this "all is well" arrangement between the two failed to give the audience a chance to see intense chemistry between John Lloyd and Toni, through a range of other emotions and scenarios.
The more interesting bits were given to the supporting cast. Early on, we were given clues on how these characters will play during the course of the show. On the first episode, it was clear that Julie's mother Loi (played by Sandy Andolong) will cause much of the show's friction due to her overbearing personality and her evident disapproval of her daughter's marriage.
Romeo's father (Rico J. Puno) was set up as the character who would provide a lot of crazy, funny moments (potentially some just ad-libbed), and some naughty scenes with the ladies.
Judging from the pilot episode, Julie's suitor Jay Jay (Jason Gainza) had more personality and solid characterization than the lead characers.
In future episodes, we hope that John Lloyd's Romeo and Toni's Julie will show more distinct characteristics that will endear them to masses.
Off-cam, the two lead stars are inherently funny and we hope their natural bubbly personalities will shine through onscreen.
Having said that, Home Sweetie Home has the potential to be a good ensemble comedy, but it is not necessarily fresh. We've had numerous other husband-wife-in-laws sitcoms in the past and we haven't seen yet what makes Home Sweetie Home unique.
More than offering a new concept, Home Sweetie Home is a homage to past greats like John En Marsha (check out the name of the family's neighborhood), with tricks being rehashed and reused (it felt like the recurring reaction of Romeo to Loi's constant monologues is the answer to Dolphy and Dely Atay Atayan's classic "Magsumikap Ka" moments.)
Overall, Home Sweetie Home is what it is: a light family viewing on Sunday evenings, enjoyed while having the weekend meal with the family. It is not a comedy powerhouse (at least not yet), and it is in need of more interesting story twists and excitement.
What can you say about the pilot episode of Home Sweetie Home? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.