Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Oi! What happened, Oi?

PENPOINT - Ryan Mark -
It is now more than six months since GMA-7 Cebu's Sunday late-morning show "Oi" made its premiere. It was October last year when the Cebuano viewers had its first glimpse of "Oi" and its five hosts then - Marti, Recca, Eguia, Arriane and Yuri. From the looks of its debut, it seemed that ABS-CBN's "Jud Morning" faced a formidable competitor - or so many thought.

After its pilot episode, Cebu press raved about "Oi," saying it was dynamic, interactive, and stylish, leveling to the standards of GMA-7 Manila's "SOP." In fact, creative people from Manila were sent here to see to it that everything would be fine in terms of conceptualizing, editing, and directing. Yet, after the good reviews and the gargantuan predictions, "Oi" failed to sustain the momentum and match expectations. In short, the show has become a flop!

It's only now that I'll admit this: from the beginning, I had doubted the possibility of "Oi" toppling "Jud Morning." But since I'm very regionalistic - I've always loved and hoped for local talents to shine - I played deaf and blind to the negative comments about "Oi." I was deeply hoping that the show would eventually cope up and outdo its pilot episode. But every Sunday, the show deteriorates. I think its cause is the concept itself. It's not clear on what it wants to project or what it wants to achieve. It is literally a variety show. Like chopsuey, it is jumbled and has no direction.

Since the start, the concept of "Oi" has never really been made clear. All that has been said before was that it was going to be an interactive program. They also said that it would expose their hosts to tedious challenges including getting dirty and stressed just to show that though they're pretty and charming, they still can do what the common tao does. That was supposedly their way of getting closer to the "masa" viewers. That was why on its pilot episode, Eguia and special guest, Cebuana rising star Isabel Oli, were brought to the crowded Carbon market to do shopping. (Well as if it's really that challenging to shop there. Many market-goers actually, including I, find joy in haggling over prices.)

In succeeding episodes, there was Marti (who only stayed briefly and left soon after for the US), who tried his hand on pig-roasting as he joined the lechon festival in Talisay, then there was Eguia again in that flop interview with Dennis Trillo and Alfred Vargas. I say flop because she either had the wrong questions or threw them at the wrong time. I also got to watch a segment wherein Arianne interviewed a certain man at the Fuente skywalk who earns a living by sketching people for a fee. If I'm not mistaken it was a Christmas special, but I have to say it was boring because it was obvious that she was just reading questions from a cue card and relying on the instructions of the segment producer.

The better segment during the Christmas special was the interview with the oldest firecracker maker in Lapu-Lapu City done by Marti. He also did a feature on the beauty and risk of sporting a tattoo. Still, even if I wasn't furnished a copy of that episode's rating, I'm pretty sure it was way behind "Jud Morning" with its sentimental gift-giving segments to the children in Bohol, who survived the food poisoning incident, as well as the feeding of sidewalk dwellers along Manalili. That touching episode left me crying afterwards.

I also got to see that episode featuring the "Kalapukan Festival" done somewhere in Minglanilla with gays in skimpy attire having a scuffle amid knee-deep mud. Instead of being entertained, I was slighted because members of the third sex were made laughing-stock again. Okay, given the participants did it at their own will, still it was a form of exploitation by taking advantage of the dire financial needs of those gays. It was degrading.

Recently, I caught another segment that showed gays being pelted with iced water packs - the one who wasn't hit became the winner - another form of disrespect to the third sex. Why not simply show the beautiful side of gays - i.e. how they shine and succeed despite the odds and discrimination against them? Why do gays have to be the laughing stock if not the punching bag in these segments?

We also recently saw the entry of another segment, "Pop Sensation Showdown," hosted by world-class performer Rizza Navales. And more recently, there was a pre-Holy Week presentation with Yuri, Recca and Amon trying a hand in the drama department through a telesine entitled "Kinabuhi," a story of two prodigal children and another one who was a closet gay. I would say they should not have ventured into it at all because the acting was so dry. I hardly saw promise in any of them. That they are hosts and not thespians could, however, be use an excuse. But then, they could have tapped real local acting talents to star in that telesine. As for the "Pop Showdown," I admit it's a very good concept. I like it because it promotes and give exposure to local talents. But is one hour enough?

Last month, I learned that the irritating Eguia and boring Arianne (but boy was she very captivating parading in an elegant bridal gown designed by Philip Rodriguez in a fashion show last April 5 at the Mandaue City heritage garden) were already out as hosts, leaving behind Rizza, Yuri, Recca and Amon. Now, my question is did these hosts undergo workshop already, as what was announced before, to hone their potentials? It was even said that they would be trained in Manila so that they too would be ready to take on possible hosting exposures in either "SOP" or showbiz-oriented programs like "S Files" and "Startalk." Was this a "broken promise" because they have not improved at all? Their voices are lively but their expressions are bland. Try watching "Oi" and you will see what I mean. Which reminds me of a movie director-friend who once told me "shouting or raising one's voice while hosting does not manifest liveliness and energy at all. Facial expression and speaking voice should go together." Therefore, a hosting workshop would be a big boost for the "Oi" gang!

After all is said, my humble suggestion is that it's about time its producers should evaluate the show and come to a decision: should they let go of it and come up with another one or doubly work on its improvement? Should they choose to start anew, they should get hosts who have a clearer grasp of the dynamics of local entertainment, plus are mature to handle interviews, etcetera. Better yet, let the selection of hosts be a reality-based search so they can develop a following like in the case of Ethel Booba and Phoemela Baranda in "Extra Challenge" before. Let the viewers decide on whom they want to see onscreen. This way we are assured that the viewers themselves think that the host/s has/have more to offer than good looks. Because gone are the days where a pretty face is enough passport to showbiz. Talent now comes first what with the wonders of cosmetic surgery at our disposal. Still, even if looks have more bearing, the format of the show should be identified - will it be a talk show, a game show, a sports-oriented show, a lifestyle show or a singing contest? It should have an identity.

Let's face it: "Oi" is an expensive experiment that failed. Time to move on folks, or you will eventually lose your audience.

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