Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fresh comedy, absurd frugality

TV Times, 12-18 February 1978


If you think every television sitcom to come after John & Marsha must necessarily be a cliché, you can think again. Here comes Pete Matipid, which is really two keys above the ill-starred Asiong Aksaya. Part of the reason is because Pete comes closest to all our departed ancestors' penny-pinching hearts. The other part? Because Pete seems so much more considerate of our tube-anesthetized nerves.

Both romantic and pragmatic, a disarming comic who lives more frugally than the most Ilocano of us all, the character of Pete offers both comedy and sock. You can hear the canned laughter all the way from the sound booth, but you can also feel the sharp point of the mockery all the way to the tips of your manicured nails. You can almost hear Pete warning you that they shall surely up the cost of a hand-and-foot job even at the crummiest beauty parlor, and that's not even counting the tip.

In this buoyant comedy, Pete comes out a true absurdity, his obsession excessive, stupid, laughable. I can do a whole paper on the contrast between content and form here, but that is another story. What I feel is a gurgle of amusement rising up in my snobbish soul when I see the parade of bottles filled with the odds and ends of existence stacked above and inside Pete's cabinets. That is, until it strikes me, a few minutes after, that indeed, here is an original, a character, if you wish, but a brave one. Holding on to his convictions, however absurd, he makes a statement with his every move. He knocks your windpipes off, then socks you right where you can feel it--your wallet and its dwindling contents.

Sometime or other, you would surely wish you can gather up the excesses and luxuries of your lifetyle like a carpet sweeper and recycle them as Pete Matipid does. Indeed, some of the fascination of the show comes from the fact that it does not dislocate you but situates you instead against your backdrop and adds a new depth--a possibility--to that backdrop. Within the givens of your existence, depending on your lifestyle, it is surely possible to find a million and one ways to adopt Pete Matipid's philosophy.

It is a challenge, anyway, whether you accept it or not. Give me 20 specific ways by which you can save a little tonight: electricity, food, water, time, energy, yourself. And don't dismiss it all as part hype, part junk, part propaganda. You might be losing out on a signature lifestyle. Besides, were not some fortunes built on junk and is not every fashionable hang-up once the subject of conscious and sustained propaganda? Brown sugar, anyone?

What is, of course, plain and obvious now even to those who have yet to feel the tug of a pervasive sensibility (and a necessary one these days, considering how expensive living can be) is that Chiquito is the born comedian.

As Pete Matipid, he is every inch a natural. Shorn of the song-and-dance routine and the oiled smoothness that make many of his movie performances absolute no-nos, Chiquito comes out as a refreshingly nutty TV character, an improvement over some of the medium's still embarrassingly self-conscious performers. Of course, the possibility is always there that, given the regimen of a weekly show, Chiquito's performance may fall into a tiresome pattern, sacrificing competence for expediency. We feel that he will not, however, until and unless everybody else in the production staff does--the script and story people especially and first. Did not John & Marsha reek of a similar disease before its timely, even delayed, demise?

This is perhaps where Pete Matipid also proves itself a mite more respectful of its audience. Please, NO scriptwriter with seemingly absolute rights to the series. Instead, why don't you--the viewer--contribute your own storyline? It may come out more expensive for the production's bottom line, but it's certainly more democratic. And more diverse and varied. Which may mean a more interesting series, less chance of falling back on the same tired storylines and the same tiring gags week after week. Let us hope so, anyway.

A series like Pete Matipid should not be allowed to die from sheer boredom. It should at least live to a ripe, full season.

-- NBT
No title in original published column

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