Three new shows were added to Filipinos' primetime viewing habits last Monday, August 10.
The first to air was Beautiful Strangers on GMA-7, replacing Let The Love Begin. It starred Heart Evangelista, Lovi Poe, Dina Bonnevie, Christopher De Leon, Rocco Nacino and Benjamin Alves. It is directed by Albert Langitan.
The next to air was On The Wings of Love on ABS-CBN, replacing Bridges of Love. This is the first full-length teleserye of James Reid and Nadine Lustre, and the first TV directorial job of Antoinette Jadaone together with co-director Jojo Saguin.
The last to air was My Faithful Husband on GMA-7, replacing the lesbian-themed The Rich Man’s Daughter. It stars rumored couple Dennis Trillo and Jennylyn Mercado, with Bb. Joyce Bernal as director.
ABS-CBN and GMA-7 have been busy promoting these programs, since their most-prized talents are all starring in these television shows.
Here's a capsule review of the pilot episodes of these new TV shows.
SATISFACTORY PILOT. Lovi Poe and Heart Evangelista are friends-turned-rivals in Beautiful Strangers.
The GMA-7 show serves as the reunion project of the two after acting as rivals in the 2012 primetime teleserye Legacy.
The trailer of Beautiful Strangers shows the story of Joyce (Lovi), who was raped by Ronaldo Castillo (Christopher de Leon). She loses her sanity and becomes a beggar.
The rape victim is assisted by a doctor named Kristine (Heart) who turns out to be Ronaldo’s illegitimate daughter. Kristine will help Joyce (whom she knew as Lea), and will restore her beauty.
However, when Joyce regains her sanity, she plots revenge against Ronaldo and his family. Kristine will discover her plot, and realizes that Joyce is now her bitter rival.
The pilot episode begins in the present time: Joyce is set to marry Lawrence (Benjamin Alves), the younger brother of Kristine.
When they were about to exchange their "I dos," Joyce started crying and after a few seconds, she eventually walked out.
Kristine, wearing a red gown, then entered the church with her father to stop the wedding. Kristine reveals that she already knows about Joyce’s plan to destroy her family.
This was followed by the program’s opening billboard and immediately showed flashback scenes presenting the back story of Kristine.
It begins by showing a young Kristine celebrating her birthday with a children’s party, together with her father Ronaldo and mother Lourdes (Ayen Munji-Laurel).
Ronaldo promised Kristine and Lourdes that he will not leave them. Unfortunately, Ronaldo’s real wife Alejandra (Dina Bonnevie) went to the party and confirmed her husband’s infidelity. She then confronted the family and told Kristine that she is an illegitimate daughter, which Kristine did not know.
Alejandra blurted out to Kristine, “Kabit ang nanay mo! At alam mo kung anong tawag sa kabit? Bastarda!”
Of course, this moved Kristine and Lourdes to tears, and since Ronaldo needs Alejandra for money, he decided to abandon Lourdes and Kristine.
In the pilot episode, there were actors who already stood out in this teleserye: seasoned actors Christopher de Leon and Dina Bonnevie, and GMA’s “Primera Aktresa” Lovi Poe.
During the first scene, Lovi already showed her acting prowess. She had several speaking lines but with the tears flowing down from her eyes, her intensity as an actress and the emotions she wanted to convey in the scene were already felt.
It is even more exciting to see more of her dramatic scenes in the future, especially when she portrays the beggar Lea.
Dina and Christopher likewise gave stellar performances. Even Rez Cortez, who plays Christopher’s confidante, also had his own share of the limelight.
It is also interesting to find out how Dina's character as Alejandra, through her confrontation scenes, will make life a living hell for Lourdes, Kristine and Joyce.
However, the show’s stylist and wardrobe team must put in the effort to consistently maintain her look. There are scenes where Alejandra does not look as glamorous as her character is supposed to be, while there are some scenes where you does look like a rich woman.
Ayen, on the other hand, has yet to give her best and get used to portraying less powerful roles. It is still better to see her portraying an antagonist because of her strong features.
Benjamin Alves and Rocco Nacino, despite the short exposure, already made their presence in the teleserye. Rocco made sure that he will be noticed, as his eyes were full of hope as he waited for Joyce’s answer at the altar.
With his masculine looks, Benjamin will surely catch the attention of girls plus the fact that the journey of his character Lawrence is very interesting to watch. He just needs to be careful so his breakdown scenes will look natural.
If there is someone who should improve in the acting department, it is Heart.
Despite being given more exposure and getting most of the speaking lines in the first scene, Heart wasn’t able to match the intensity of Lovi’s performance. It seems that her performance is half-baked although she does look very beautiful onscreen.
It would be a shame if Heart won't be able to step up and give a performance at par with the rest of the cast members.
The child actress who portrayed Heart's younger version also showed great potential during the premiere.
We would suggest that director Albert Langitan be more careful in choosing his shots since those shown in the pilot episode seem to be shaky and old-fashioned. There are also scenes where the lighting is too bright. He could be experimenting in this project since, after all, he has had a solid track record of directing TV shows such as Rhodora X and Ang Lihim ni Annasandra.
There is also a tendency for the musical scoring to become too intense that it overpowers the scene, even the dialogue of the artists.
For me, the pilot episode of Beautiful Strangers wasn’t as convincing as expected.
Except for the cliffhanger when Lourdes’ face was bitten by a dog, I believe it should have more explosive moments that will make viewers hooked on the show and make them look forward to future episodes.
For me, the pilot episode of Beautiful Strangers is satisfactorally beautiful. It is okay, but it should have more powerful scenes and it could use a more brisk pacing than what it has right now.
ON THE WINGS OF SIMILAR IDEAS. On The Wings of Love aired on ABS-CBN several minutes before 9:30 p.m.
This teleserye replaced Bridges of Love and it also marks the first full-length teleserye of the Jadine loveteam: James Reid and Nadine Lustre.
The pilot episode centered on the American dreams of Leah Olivar (Nadine), and her desire to visit and work in San Francisco, California.
Before the present day story, the teleserye presented a little animation together with a short narration of Leah’s background. The young girl lives with her father Joe (Joel Torre) and sister Tiffany (Bianca Manalo), whom she calls Manang. Her mother (Isay Alvarez) had to go to the United States to give them a better future. However, her mother died in the United States while working there.
In the present time, Leah’s U.S. visa application had been accepted and she is ready to go to the United States to fulfill her dreams. Unfortunately, her boyfriend Jiggs (played by Albie Casino) was unable to acquire a visa. When Leah decided to push through with her plans going in the United States, Jiggs broke up with her, saying that she chose the United States over him.
Viewers also got a glimpse of the life of Clark Medina (James Reid). He is a simple boy living in San Francisco who has to work to give money to his siblings who were left in the Philippines.
There aren't any kilig scenes yet between the Jadine tandem…until the last sequence where Leah strolled around San Fo and shouted “I love you” when she bumped with Clark!
This teleserye can be commended for its use of HD cameras. Although this is technically not something new, since ABS-CBN has been already using these high-tech cameras for soap operas since 2012. The breathtaking shots of San Francisco are certainly a treat for viewers.
Nadine and James brought the acting skills they learned from film to television.
Nadine has improved compared to her previous roles, especially her recent movie Para Sa Hopeless Romantic. However, she has yet to fintune her acting, as there are times when the tone of her voice doesn’t seem to be fit for the dialogue.
James is still the charming boy that will make girls fall in love with him. His role as a kuya who will sacrifice for his siblings is also believable, even though viewers might have been used to seeing him portray bad boys on the big screen.
Also, the bond between Nadine, Bianca and Joel Torre as a family seems very genuine and they act like a real family.
The pilot episode also made it clear that we are following Leah’s point of view, which makes it clear for future episodes.
Having seen the pilot week during the fan screening last week, the first episode of the teleserye did not have as many highlights as expected. But fans would be interested to know that On The Wings of Love is fast-paced.
Director Antoinette Jadaone’s elements can be visibly seen in the teleserye. Even the musical scoring is almost the same from the films she directed (That Thing Called Tadhana) and she wrote (English Only, Please). Hopefully, she will come up with new devices to present in this teleserye, or else, viewers can get tired of tuning in to the show, knowing that they have already seen the kilig elements in previous films. It is good that director Jojo Saguin is also there to help bring new ideas for the teleserye.
I believe it is a good strategy that ABS-CBN placed this light-themed teleserye on the last primetime slot. At least, it can be a breather for viewers after watching heavy dramas since the afternoon block.
FAITHFUL TO THEIR CRAFT. GMA-7's newest teleserye, My Faithful Husband, is topbilled by rumored couple Jennylyn Mercado and Dennis Trillo.
The show was talked about because this is the first time Jennylyn and Dennis will be working with each other after their controversial breakup in 2011.
There are plenty of teleseryes tackling about infidelity but what sets My Faithful Husband different is the fact that it is female character who cheated on her husband.
The pilot episode presented the plight of Dennis and Jennylyn’s characters individually. Melanie (played by Jennylyn) was put in a delicate situation by her boyfriend Dean (played by Mikael Daez). Meanwhile, Emman (played by Dennis) longs for the love of his family, especially his mother, who has never shown her appreciation of him, even during his birthday.
The teleserye began in a cemetery, where Emman had to drive a hearse as part of his work for a funeral parlor. He sees Melanie, who visited a friend and asked for the number of her ex-boyfriend Dean (played by Mikael).
The two cross paths again on the eve of Emman’s birthday. He sees Melanie passing out because she was too drunk. He brings her to the funeral parlor so she can rest and sleep. The next day, Melanie was shocked to see that she woke up in a room full of caskets, even accusing Emman that he raped her. Finally, she remembered that she got drunk last night.
The two form a good friendship when they dine out for lunch. Emman then revealed that he was celebrating his birthday that day. When Emman paid their bills, Melanie had already left. Apparently, Melanie went back to the funeral parlor to buy Emman a cake and surprise him on his birthday.
Throughout the episode, the lead stars stayed faithful to their craft.
Jennylyn is really known to be an intense actress, and she did not disappoint in this teleserye. Her breakdown scene in the first part of the episode is one of the highlights of the show. Also, when she acted like a drunk woman, she gave a believeable performance of a drunk person. She also knows how to balance her character with emotions ranging from perky to depressed.
Dennis is also to be commended as he knows how to communicate emotions, especially through his eyes. This is also a departure from his past projects, since his character in this teleserye needs only subtle acting, unlike his previous roles where he had to be more intense.
This is also a breath of fresh air for Nonie Buencamino, who is often cast in villainous roles in the past. Snooky Serna proves that despite her long absence on the TV screen, she is still an actress to be reckoned with.
The scenes are properly scored, and the music sounds like those used in some movies. However, there is a tendency to have dead air when natural sound fails to be captured in some scenes.
The chemistry of Dennis and Jennylyn remains very trong. They still have the kilig factor during their build-up scenes – most especially their scene in the funeral parlor. It is also good that they had comic timing because the theme is too heavy, and a breather will be good for viewers.
Director Bb. Joyce Bernal and writer Suzette Doctolero also make use of symbolisms and foreshadowing.
Being set up in a funeral parlor (and Emman talking about death), could this be a foreshadowing of Emman and Melanie’s hearts dying because of love? That we have to see and look forward to in the coming weeks.
Aside from that, I am looking forward to more quotable quotes from the character. Dennis’ character already gave this one: “Bakit, minamahal mo lang ba yung tao kasi mabait siya?”
The point-of-view that we have to follow in this teleserye canï¿½ lead to some confusion.
As the title My Faithful Husband suggests, it seems the protagonist in the story is Melanie talking about her faithful husband Emman.
However, during the first part, it was Emman narrating the story. It can be a bit confusing, especially for a pilot episode, since it should already be clear whose journey viewers should follow.
These glitches can be overlooked if the actors continue to showcase their acting prowess in this soap opera.
LOOKING FORWARD. For me, when it comes to cinematography and technical proficiency, On The Wings of Love has an edge over the other shows.
However, My Faithful Husband comes out on top when it comes to the intensity and versatility of actors, especially with thelikes of Dennis and Jennylyn.
My Faithful Husband has relatable characters while Beautiful Strangers has the most complex ones, making them interesting to watch in the future.
However, the characterization of the characters are more clarified in On The Wings of Love, making it very easy and entertaining to watch.
It is now up to the producers, writers, directors and cast members to improve upon the quality of their shows as viewers take their pick among these newly launched programs.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.
PEPsters, what are your comments on Beautiful Strangers, On The Wings of Love and My Faithful Husband? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.