‘My Husband’s Lover’ and a new era in Philippine Television

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Dennis_Carla_Tom‘‘Filipinos watch #MyHusbandsLover because it is good TV.”
This landed on the no. 1 spot of a CNN iReport titled “My Husband’s Lover (Philippines): 50 Top Reasons Why Filipinos Are Watching,” posted by IndieLister on August 16, 2013.

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The date marked the 50th episode of GMA Network’s groundbreaking prime time drama series, when the hashtag #MyHusbandsLover (or #MHL) continued to top the Philippine trends in online social networking site Twitter. The trending take note, was uninterrupted since the program’s premiere on June 10, and therefore considered a phenomenon in recent Philippine television history.

Why so? Because in general, Filipino television series—or what the industry has renamed as the teleserye—generally have a problem in keeping audiences glued to storylines for a number of simple reasons. The plot may be too clichéd or contrived; told at a snail’s pace; or, when a network actually gets it right, they stretch the series beyond its script’s intended run and—well—mess it up.

PAGE-2-MHL-Title-CardMy Husband’s Lover, however, had all the makings of success from Day 1: A bold concept of a love triangle involving a wife, her gay husband and his lover, which no one had ever imagined—or risked—to air on free TV; a beautiful cast thrown into the fray; acting that is subdued yet effective amid the “taboo” (i.e. hysterics-free, which is the acting tradition of teleseryes); and a continuing story line that, while anchored on infidelity, is reflective of Filipino family values and sentiments.

The series begins with Lally (Carla Abellana) on her wedding day, narrating how she unintentionally defied her mother’s wishes to finish school, when she fell in love with Vincent (Tom Rodriguez) and got pregnant. Warned by her mother that marrying early was a curse from her own experience, Lally promised herself to become the perfect wife and to work on a perfect relationship, naively believing that love can indeed conquer all.

Happily, Vincent became the perfect husband for Lally as well, and as a decade quickly passed, their family grew with a son and daughter, with Vincent as the responsible provider and Lally as the devoted mother and wife.

But all of a sudden, Vincent and Lally’s perfect life started to crumble when Vincent’s first love from high school returned and sought him out in the person of Eric (Dennis Trillo). Eventually, Lally discovers her husband’s infidelity—her closeted gay husband’s infidelity—and takes the viewers on a roller coaster ride of emotions; of sadness, anger, and even laughter amid the tears, making the “bizarre” situation relatable not just to gays but to men and women in heterosexual relationships as well.

Despite the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) adverse reaction to the gay-themed series two weeks into its airing, My Husband’s Lover continued to gain a huge viewership, which surprisingly, even included very straight Filipino men.

The Sunday Times Magazine had spoken to a number of these male MHL fans, and generally, they were surprised themselves that they had taken to the show as well.

“Akala ko mang-didiri ako sa storya [I thought I would be disgusted by the storyline],” one of them—an executive and father of a sole daughter—had said in the typical Filipino machismo way, “pero na-hook ako [but I got hooked on it]because the way it’s been done is very decent and the acting is great.”

“I’m proud to be a fan of MHL,” declared an arnis expert.

An architect whose basketball team had lost when he watched a live game of the PBA said, “I should have just watched MHL at home instead.”

As far as numbers go, MHL started strong from June 10 to August 26 with the Nielsen TV Audience Measurement report of an average household rating of 23.3 percent in Urban Luzon, and 25.8 percent in Mega Manila against competing programs.

True enough, GMA Network’s fiercest competitor, ABS-CBN abruptly ended two teleseryes, which failed to compete with MHL (Apoy sa Dagat and Wag Ka Lang Mawawala), while its current bet, Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin is also lagging behind according to data from the same ratings service.

Based on the Nielsen report from September 2 to 10, MHL posted higher ratings than Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin in overall Nationwide Urban Television Audience Measurement, Urban Luzon and Mega Manila. In National Urban Philippines, MHL scored a rating of 19.7 percent versus Bukas Na Lang’s 16.7 percent; 23.2 percent against 15.2 percent in Urban Luzon; and 25.8 percent versus 14.4 percent in Mega Manila.

Indeed, My Husband’s Lover has broken new grounds in Philippine Television that will be hard to top as it ends its phenomenal run on October 4.

The series is not a perfect production; it has its flaws and certainly cannot please everyone, but for now The Sunday Times Magazine congratulates the creative minds behind the series—its director Dominic Zapata; creator Suzette Doctolero; creative director Jun Lana; creative head for Primetime Block, Jake Tordesillas; creative consultant Denoy Navarro-Punio; writers Angeli Delgado, Paul Sta. Ana and Marlon Miguel; brainstormers Jason Lim, Jonathan Cruz and Michelle Amog; and the rest of the GMA Drama Group led by executive in charge Lilybeth Rasonable and vice president for Drama, Redgie Acuña Magno—for giving the public a series that is at once risqué and decent; entertaining and smart; and one that will conclude its riveting story while the show is at its peak.

While the Filipino viewing public holds their breath as to who Vincent will choose in the end—his perfect wife or his gay lover—they can only hope that the end of My Husband’s Lover will serve as a challenge for the television industry to truly begin an era of good TV.

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