POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 27 May 2010, Thursday
“Wow” is an apt prefix for the title of a show whose huge popularity spans the globe. “Wawa” (a contraction of the Tagalog word for ‘pitiful’) now describes the condition of the show’s host whose antics rocketed the program to the peak of the ratings charts.
Few local television programs have enjoyed the phenomenal success of ABS-CBN’s noontime variety show “Wowowee”. Over two hours long, the show features the usual song and dance production numbers, games, and other staples of Philippine TV. But it broke the mold by giving away more money and products than others and encouraging audience participation with atypical games and other gimmicks.
The cash handouts and scantily-clad dancing girls attracted immense viewership. Since it is carried by The Filipino Channel which broadcasts the network’s shows in the US, Middle East, and other countries, it has even gained foreign fans.
According to a Taylor Nelson Sofres Media Research Philippines report, on May 14, the show posted ratings of 18.1%, well above the 12.2% charted by rival “Eat Bulaga”, the long-running noontime program on GMA Network.
Much of the show’s popularity in its early days may be credited to its host Willy Revillame’s high-energy, down-to-earth performance. The show is said to rake in many millions a day for the network, with Revillame’s compensation at P1 million a day as he himself has said elsewhere. This wallet-busting figure does not include the millions more in fees that he earns from product endorsements.
Willy Revillame. (Image here.)
Sadly, one can’t buy manners or morals. When ABS-CBN’s dzMM radio host Jobert Sucaldito criticized Wowowee for creating a game played by students with low grades, saying in effect that this was fostering mediocrity, Revillame erupted. He called upon network management to fire Sucaldito, citing the big bucks his show was pulling in all due to his efforts. “Either he goes, or I go”, was the gist of what he said.
Jobert Sucaldito, host of dzMM’s “Showbiz Mismo”. (Image here.)
The staggering arrogance of that declaration hits you right in the sternum and cuts off the stream of oxygen to your lungs.
Revillame has been suspended several times from Wowowee and “Magandang Tanghali Bayan”, another show he used to host, for cussing on air. The potty-mouthed celebrity also earned public ire for his ungracious manners when he bawled out his own network’s traffic department – on air – for putting an inset of the live coverage of the late Philippine president Corazon Aquino’s funeral during a Wowowee episode.
Wowowee’s format has also been severely lambasted for fostering a culture of mendicancy. Many of its games revolve around making people do embarrassing things for money. It pains me to see game participants humiliated and taking it all, at a cost to their self-respect and dignity, because times are hard.
And the gyrating nearly-naked Kembot (shimmy) Girls? They are pretty and talented, and the show has made them popular and famous while dancing in scraps of fabric and heavy makeup. What message does this send to young girls? Never mind getting that college degree, anak, just be a Kembot Girl when you grow up? What signal does this send to men? That women are all about the curves and booty-shaking? Where’s the respect?
During the recent election campaign, Revillame, who endorsed Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manny Villar, sent the Kembot Girls to the campaign rallies. Pro-women senatorial candidates Liza Maza and Pia Cayetano, dismayed at the skimpiness of the dancers’ costumes, asked them to dress more appropriately. Maza and Cayetano were running under the NP banner. Like the song says, “Isn’t it ironic?”
The Kembot Girls with Revillame (center) at a Manny Villar campaign rally. Screenshot of an ABS-CBN ‘TV Patrol’ report on the Maza-Cayetano complaint.
Does Wowowee have any redeeming social value whatsoever? Does it uplift attitudes, promote good morals, encourage excellence and self-sufficiency? Revillame claims his show “helps” people. Perhaps, in the way you give a man a fish for a day – and make him do tricks for it first – instead of teaching him how to fish. Does that benefit society in the long term?
ABS-CBN management, to its credit, ignored Revillame’s tantrums and refused to fire Sucaldito. Revillame stormed off for a vacation, leaving the show to co-host Pokwang, whose comic antics now account for much of the show’s drawing power, as Revillame descends into the maelstrom of believing his own spin. On May 15, action star Robin Padilla was given a chance to host; his stint ends Friday. The day he began, ratings shot up to 20.1%, proving that it’s not only Revillame who can steer the show and pull in viewers.
With public opinion against him, it’s significant that Revillame went on leave, asked ABS-CBN to release him from his contract, and apologized for his actions. After a meeting, the network announced that the host will not be released from his contract, which ends next year. Meanwhile, he is on indefinite leave from the show.
It’s painful to watch a person climb from ground zero to the summit of his ambitions, only for him to fall into the yawning crevasse of public contempt, toppled by his own ill-considered actions. It’s too bad that Revillame wasted his chance to make a genuine difference in people’s lives and institute positive values and attitudes.
Someone should take away the happy juice Revillame’s been drinking, before he hurts himself more. ***