King of Talk Boy Abunda once said cheerfully among a gathering of friends that the field of showbiz is so wide to accommodate everyone. That it’s anybody’s ball game to get there, but to clinch it in the way of a “sui generis” as he had is a different thing altogether.
Abunda ought to claim that credit to himself with his portfolio of long-running no-nonsense talk shows throughout the years, which have become iconic on TV. That interfaced with daunting and dodgy issues plucked from nowhere, said host can take them all with prescience, profundity, and aplomb.
Sample the weekly The Bottomline giving face to Abunda’s public service show and the nightly Tonight With Boy Abunda’s daily reportage of showbiz. You won’t think he is the last man standing in the direction of entertainment talk shows.
No one had done this before—crossing the hard line between showbiz and public affairs talk shows. Not even perhaps his precursors with whom he owes a lifetime of gratitude for paving the way to where he is now. If indeed Abunda’s shows and himself have become icons or at least iconic to the reckoning of his generation, only history can tell.
Incidentally, the notion of iconic TV hosts and TV shows hosts were the bone of contention in my most recent guesting as panelist in the weekly TV talk show MTRCB Uncut on Net 25. Helmed by the agency’s board member and film director Joey Romero (son of the late National Artist for Film Eddie Romero), the show is co-hosted by actors Bobby Andrews and Jackie Aquino.
I shared the panel with two others: showbiz host and writer Butch Franciso, and director Bibeth Orteza.
Bare bones and all, no one could really speak with certainty from the three of us if there is in fact one good TV show in past and present history that could measure up to the word icon or iconic, even if Butch from mere recall had in random rattled off some of them from John en Marsha to La Aunor’s Superstar.
On my part I readily called to mind the Balintataw drama anthology of producer and TV host Cecile Guidote (now Alvarez) and founder of PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association), which put known literary pieces on the medium. So with Mitos Villareal’s Salimisim (Reflections) bannered by Marlene Dauden on ABC-5 that morphed into Panagimpan (Imagination), which moved later to ABS-CBN.
Unlike movies, TV shows being a highly disposable medium elude methodical scrutiny. We were in all accord however that with digitization, Philippine TV in the near future might yield a different and realistic form of cultural foregrounding.
During the discussion, some popular TV shows came with unforgettable, “iconic” controversies and scandals. Butch jokingly shared TV producer Chit Guerrero’s rift with Star for all Seasons Vilma Santos that went viral, and the departed talent manager Rey dela Cruz whose balding crown was pummeled with a live microphone by former bombshell Divina Valencia with fresh blood drips to boot caught live on national TV. The latter was on the show Rumors, Facts and Humors hosted by Alfie Lorenzo, an offshoot of Inday Badiday’s more popular See-True.
The ambiance lighted up recalling that I was then seated next to dela Cruz himself when the bloody incident took place. The gay talent manager seated beside Valencia was provoked when she took a swipe at his wards for being “too bold” for comfort in their movies to which he rudely replied to the effect, “Are you not a bold star yourself?” Poking the mic on the head of the unsuspecting dela Cruz without a word was Valencia’s way to make dela Cruz shut up as it abruptly segued to commercials.
Our free wheeling dialogue taped as live meandered from scores of insightful throwbacks of TV sitcoms largely coming from Bibeth’s end, to personal observations of the character of some TV hosts onscreen and off screen. At one point, Butch mentioned the pleasing character in Boy Abunda even off screen, to which I added that he is also generous to a fault. Butch in good humor replied, “Ah…that one I have yet to feel.” We were all caught on TV laughing our hearts out.
To be or not to be an icon of TV shows and TV hosting in the cultural landscape of Philippine television for the past, present, and future are issues needing yet comprehensive negotiations and challenges on the debating table. The boob tube after all has come a long way from being “mindless” to becoming a bit brainier and relevant for short attention span millennials and the future generations.