Adding comedy into a noontime variety show like Sunday PinaSaya is hardly new. Eat Bulaga has been doing that flexible format for 36 years and running. On different channels using an ever-changing range of hosts that can host and get into comic mode as well. But they never did it on a Sunday. So while Sunday PinaSaya may be delving into familiar territory. They get shown on TV on a day that Eat Bulaga is not around. (No ALDUB because ALDUB rests on the seventh day)
Before Sunday PinaSaya came along, let’s analyze the background of Sunday noontime programming. It turned out to be very challenging for GMA Network. After their own musical variety show Sobrang Okay Pare (SOP) folded, they went the classy route in Party Pilipinas. Infusing technology into the camera shots, putting a theme into every episode and even getting radio DJs like Gino Quillamor and Rico Robles to host the program. In short, an effort to be glossier than its competitor, ABS-CBN’s ASAP. Then Party Pilipinas eventually relented to the SOP format which is basically based on ASAP’s format. Then it went defunct. Several conspiracy theories were born after its cancellation. Something this article would not delve into anymore. Sunday All Stars then replaced Party Pilipinas using a format by the defunct That’s Entertainment. It got cancelled too. Weeks before the rumored cancellation, everyone’s question was “What program will replace the replacement then?”
Enter Sunday PinaSaya. The word “PinaSaya” in Sunday PinaSaya is basically a mash-up of “Pinas” (short for Pilipinas) and “Saya” (happiness). One of the first confirmed hosts was Marian Rivera. Then the rest of the co-hosts were announced. Ai Ai delas Alas, Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, Alden Richards, Julie Ann San Jose and Joey Paras. It became clear that the new show will be comedy-based. Improv theater will be infused into the musical numbers. It was also revealed that it is not produced by GMA Entertainment. It will be produced by TAPE Inc. The same company behind Eat Bulaga and the defunct show Diz Iz It. So there was an initial rumor that Sunday PinaSaya might be Diz Iz It 2.0; a last ditch effort to face stiff broadcast media competition. Outside the respective fan bases of Marian Rivera, Alden Richards, Julie Ann San Jose, Barbie Forteza and the tandem of Jose and Wally, there is skepticism in the air. How does Sunday PinaSaya take on veterans that have been on ASAP for decades now?
It became apparent that at this point, television programming became more about the audience and less about the competition. ASAP does its own thing. It worked for them. They have developed an audience. How about Sunday PinaSaya? The audiences that the roster of hosts have gathered are substantial enough to get them to watch Sunday PinaSaya. Marian Rivera can still work even with a bulging preggy tummy. Julie Ann San Jose still can work a crowd. Of course, everyone knew the kind of following that Alden amassed through the ALDUB phenomenon. Then Jose and Wally have been as versatile as they can get with all those years doing improv comedy at Eat Bulaga. Ai Ai delas Alas has top-billed comedy concerts even when she used to be at ABS-CBN. They are called strengths. They are factors that helped in differentiating them from the competition. While copying formats is okay, if it is inconsistent with what you can do best, why force it?
And so the segments at Sunday PinaSaya included musical numbers. Hashtags like #SPSKantawanan and #SPSLaughterRules really emphasized that it’s a comedy musical variety show. Then goes the twist that the audience is waiting for. There’s an element of musical theater in the song numbers presented on Sunday PinaSaya. One of the opening skits in the Sunday PinaSaya episode dated 16 August 2015 featured some songs of the iconic pop rock band Eraserheads. The lead character in this skit was Rico. He was portrayed by Gerard Napoles (that hilarious guy from Rak of Aegis). Songs that helped push the narrative were “Tindahan ni Aling Nena” (Ms Nena’s Store), “Ligaya” (Joy), “Pare Ko” (My Dude) and “Toyang”.
For “Tindahan ni Aling Nena”, Wally played the role of store owner Nena. For “Ligaya”, Julie Ann San Jose served as Rico’s titular love interest. For “Pare Ko” Jose Manalo played the role of Rico’s friend whom he confided his problem. For “Toyang”, Valeen Montenegro played the role of Toyang, Rico’s new love interest. It was like a karaoke musical complete with adlibs from Gerard and Jose. It also tugged at the heartstrings of the loyal Eraserheads fanbase. And since it was one of the first episodes that Sunday PinaSaya aired. Instead of transitioning to commercial. It transitioned to the next skit which featured Ai Ai delas Alas as a nouveau rich matron. Joey Paras played the role of her maid with stiff upper lip tendencies. Teen actress Barbie Forteza joins her in this segment.
Of course, Marian Rivera herself ends up with a segment here on Sunday PinaSaya. Judge MD. It was an obvious wordplay on “judge” and the initials “MD”. Rarely does it happen that one is a judge and also an MD (medical doctor). Also MD is a reference to Marian’s married name, Marian Gracia Dantes. It doesn’t include music either. But it contained a lot of physical comedy. It can easily be viewed as a parody of the conventional barangay intervention. Much of the laughter comes from the antics of the people needing intervention – Havana and Cheena. (Havana was played by Boobay. Cheena was played by John Feir. Both are in drag). Jose Manalo plays the judge’s sheriff. So adlibs are expected again. Ai Ai de las Alas even made a cameo. Reacting on how it seemed like both complainants have issues with mangoes and pointy chins. It was basically a no-holds barred improv skit for everyone to enjoy. Knee-slapping laughter all the way for Sunday PinaSaya.
So did GMA make the right decision in outsourcing the Sunday noontime slot to tape? And make way for Sunday PinaSaya? Yes. Comedy used to be GMA’s strength under their entertainment brand, GMA KiliTV. Now GMA’s situational comedies are only Pepito Manaloto, Ismol Family and Vampire ang Daddy Ko (My Dad is a Vampire). The rest of the comedy is supplanted by Eat Bulaga and The Ryzza Mae Show. There is a market for comedy that is not tapped enough. If Sunday PinaSaya worked now, why haven’t they thought of it before?
There goes the tricky aspect of the creative process. It’s like facing an adhesive wall and throwing whatever creative concepts you have in mind until something sticks. And to some extent, it meant focusing on your own resources instead of being too preoccupied with what the competitor is doing. Copying ASAP is never a guarantee that GMA can steal the audience away from them. So what gives? Going a little scripted with some improv theater thrown in might work. And it did. The Saturday Night Live format may be applicable in the Philippine musical variety genre after all. And soap stars like Marian Rivera get to do something light and enjoyable like Sunday PinaSaya.
The musical variety show is not an alien concept anymore to Marian Rivera. Remember her weekly musical variety show “Marian”? It had a good run of two seasons before its graceful exit. Not every program gets that opportunity. Her exposure to Eat Bulaga’s Juan For All All For One segments on-the-road also exposed her talent in improv theater. Jose can throw any line her way and she would always have a ready retort just as funny. And it’s one of the deceptively easy strategies of improv. Marian Rivera’s experience in “Marian” may not be applicable yet as she keeps an eye on her pregnancy while staying physically active. But her comic timing infused into comic skills worked well in Sunday PinaSaya.
It became a win-win situation. GMA found a unique competitive advantage by tapping an underrated market. And Marian Rivera found a way to work again without sacrificing sleep. She may be less mobile compared to her pre-pregnant days. But she can still host and act her way to viewers’ hearts. The Twitter trending statistics supported what most observants view as a recipe for a good start for Sunday PinaSaya. And they have only started so far.
Intrigued at how Sunday PinaSaya can keep up to the increased positive feedback? They have verified social media accounts with which you can dig more stuff and updates. Like their official Facebook page, Sunday PinaSaya. And follow them on Twitter (@SundayPinaSaya) and Instagram (@GMASundayPinaSaya).
Philippine pop culture is such a mixed bag. And we mean that in a good way. Variety helps a lot as seen on programs like Sunday PinaSaya. So there will be more topics worth discussing here at The Philippines Web to keep you interested. So following us on our social media accounts would also help you get updated real-time. Like our official Facebook page, The Philippines Web. And follow us on Twitter @pinasamazing. Much appreciated.