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Entertainment

Creating a new ‘The Bottomline’

Girlie Sta. Ana - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - After several successful years on the air — which includes scoring a win as Best Talk Show at the Asian Television Awards in 2011, USTV Best Talk Show Program, Catholic Mass Media Awards Best Talk Show, Gandingan Awards for Best Development-Oriented Talk Show, and NCCA Philippine Arts Festival Ani ng Sining, among others — viewers can expect some changes on ABS-CBN’s award-winning, late-night talk show The Bottomline.

However, these are changes that its host Boy Abunda clarifies are not meant to radically alter the show, but merely introduce some variety and keep it fresh and relevant.

“It’s an exploration of a new world of The Bottomline in terms of colors, in terms of text and in terms of the manner by which we will present the stories,” says Boy, who would rather not use the term “reinvention” to describe the transformation the show is about to undergo. “Reinvention is such an abused word. We’re making these changes because we need to be relevant, we need to be new. We need to be able to address the evolving taste of talk show audiences.”

The worst thing in an industry like this is for a show to become obsolete, or no longer relevant, especially because the whole point of a talk show is to give people a venue to discuss issues that are important to them. But because the landscape is changing — digital formats are changing the way and the rate at which people gather and absorb information — television has to change, too, if it wants to keep up and stay one step ahead of the game

Says Boy: “The worst thing is, to go into obsolescence when the tools are changing. It’s a constant battle between finding the balance of what to retain of the old and what to do with the new. Or sometimes find spark in the imbalance. That’s why I still don’t do questions from Twitter or from Instagram; I don’t do that. But I recognize (what’s good about it): Feedback is immediate, opinions are quick and news is at the tips of everybody’s fingers. So given that, we try to make the show as relevant, as progressive, as digestible as possible.”

Basically, there will be four distinct and identifiable The Bottomline formats. First, the show will still have the Bottomliners — people they invite to join the discussion — for some episodes. Second will be what Boy refers to as the “quiet one-on-ones,” like he did, for instance, with recent Manila visitor Mitch Albom of Tuesdays With Morrie fame. Third will be the “docu (documentary) interviews” where the fundamental element of the show will still be the interview, but where Boy and the writers “will be doing a documentary around it” and finally, the “one-on-three-or-four” where there will be a roundtable-type discussion.

Boy explains that the basic format of The Bottomline, which is the interview, will still be present because you cannot tweak a show too much, especially one in the talk show genre. “I remember when I started doing The Buzz, can you imagine, mothers during that time who were 50, now are 65 years old? I just saw the Barbara Walters specials and (I realized), you cannot change so much, so many elements in a talk material. The fundamentals stay.”

You can’t have a single format either and stick to that format the whole time that the show is on the air. “Hindi mo puwedeng i-template,” says Boy. “That’s what we’re trying to get away from. We want to be exciting. We want to be palatable, we want to be provocative.”

For him, as the host, as the one who conducts the interview, it also means stretching himself and taking a risk. But Boy is not afraid to do so. “Am I afraid to be like this?” he asks. “Diyos ko naman. But I don’t want to rot. I told the staff (of The Bottomline), the moment you feel comfortable in what you’re doing, something is wrong. I never want to reach that point where you can do something with your eyes closed, because that’s when you’re not being challenged anymore. Ayokong pagsawaan ng audience. Neither do I want to be bored with myself.”

With the modification in the formats and Boy’s incisive manner of questioning and skill as an interviewer, The Bottomline will enter a new phase. It will become better, bolder and braver — and that’s the bottomline, folks!

AM I

ASIAN TELEVISION AWARDS

BARBARA WALTERS

BEST DEVELOPMENT-ORIENTED TALK SHOW

BOTTOMLINE

BOY

BUT I

SHOW

TALK

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