Saturday, February 17, 2007

The old and the young

Many a time, I sit down and insist, "Yes, ours was a great time, filled with the most fantastic talents and the most unforgettable shows." Many other times, I'm not really sure. There is as much mediocrity in any generation as there is brilliance.

But memory is selective, and we often imbue our past with much more than it rightfully deserves. I had an exchange of emails recently with a young lawyer who sang hallelujahs about a television network and its standards manual, which, truth to say, that 50-year-old network seems to have found a need for only today. I tried to educate him a little in the realities of the television industry, in the relationship between a standards manual and ratings.

I wanted him to understand, lawyer as he was, that in the industry, a standards manual and ratings navigate separate territories and that to expect them to coalesce at any point, or for one to boost the other, is to ignore each one's essential roles. I wanted him to realize that in the industry, the two must necessarily take adversarial roles if they are both to be effective, not only because of the nature of each but also because of the nature of television itself as a mass medium. In his reply, he said he hoped it wasn't a youth-versus-age thing.

Of course, I answered back that it wasn't. But in retrospect--today--I wonder. Perhaps it is, after all, yes, a youth-versus-age thing. Perhaps the truth is that it wasn't so much that he disagreed with me as that he didn't in any way carry the baggage that I did. Nor did he want to. Like many of the young today, and like me when I was young, he wanted to pile up his own mistakes. I also didn't want to learn from the old when I was young.

The piece below, not deliberately, dealt with young talents and old talents in television in the '70s. They worked in differing genres, though the young really could have taken the time to learn from the old. Perhaps if they had, they could have become legends as well.

Then again, who can say our legends are the youth's legends, too?

"Impressions," TV Times, 10-16 June 1979


By the time this piece comes out, a decision on the future of Son of My Son would have been made. As we met our deadline, Patsy, the sharp-tongued comedienne who can range the gap between aggrieved innocent and streetwise wife with amazing dexterity and brilliant realism, had just moved on to her final rest.

Pugo, considered the dean of Filipino comedians, had earlier made his last bow, reaping well-deserved and unanimous applause from fans, peers, and successors alike. Now, Tange--the only remaining comedian in the regular cast of the weekly comedy series--has just been reported by a morning daily to be in critical condition.

Without these mainstays, Son of My Son can no longer be the comedy that it purports to be. Comedy is a difficult art, certainly more difficult in a medium such as Philippine television is today, which seems unable to find gifted gag writers with a consistent hold on their craft. Thus, television has had to depend most of the time on the innate wit of the comedians themselves. Sadly for Son of My Son, the remaining members of the cast do not possess the skills of those who have gone ahead.

Pugo and Patsy were outstanding examples of tried-and-true comedians who cut their teeth on the vaudeville stage, doing their thing in front of live audiences. Tange is a more recent product, but he too exhibits a keen sense of timing and a clear understanding of what tickles the local funny bone. In the sphere of local comedy, all three are unbeatable within their areas of specialization and characterization.


Watching Becca Godinez and Mike Monserrat on 2-Night a few weeks ago, our attention naturally wandered to similar ongoing combinations: June and Johnny, Joy and Bobby, Julie and Philip (this last team having only very recently been disbanded). Unfortunately for the men, the women always seem to dominate such combinations.

Johnny Litton is, of course, a television natural, despite the extreme feelings he seems to arouse among some viewers. Still, it is obvious that--certainly by choice--he plays a supportive role to the more excitable, more intense, and also more vulnerable June Keithley.

Robert Jaworski is new in the TV genre he has chosen to get into this time. He is also--certainly by nature--more reticent, more self-contained, and plainly more private a person than the stage-honed, bright-eyed, very peppy Joy Virata. Fortunately, he can count on a tight script to prop him up, although these days, he comes up with his own quite effective one-liners. He is still uncomfortable doing interviews, but he manages to provide the Celebrity host duo a gratifying amount of charming simplicity and good-natured bewilderment--all in all, an everydayness that is very refreshing.

Mike Monserrat, however, is no Johnny Litton. Nor is he a Robert Jaworski. He is younger than the two and lighter on his feet. He tries hard, too. Perhaps it is just that, paired with the articulate, sparkling, and actor-proof Becca Godinez, he is at a distinct disadvantage. It takes him long--sometimes painstakingly too long for the viewer--to get to the point, even if the point is only to introduce the next guest and the next number. He is at his best when he dances. So perhaps he can be made to dance (and sing?) more and talk less. However, he already dances a lot on Penthouse 7. And when viewers watch both shows, even if not in their entirety ... well, you can guess the result.

-- NBT

No title in original published column

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