Breaking Twitter records and posting some of the highest TV ratings for Eat Bulaga, the soap opera parody Kalyeserye is a pop culture phenomenon like no other. Anchored on the popularity of the fictional supercouple AlDub, the noontime show segment employs complicated backstories, plot twists, plot devices, subplots, characterization, exposition, tropes and a lot of different narrative elements that keep the story moving forward.
At its core, Kalyeserye is a classic tale of boy-meets-girl-and-we-all-just-want-to-see-them-live-happily-ever-after. Some say it’s shallow and undeserving of all the attention it’s getting. Some say it says a lot about us as a society, as a culture, as a people. The latter is true, and that’s not meant to be taken negatively.
The beauty of it all lies in the fact that it’s a parody. It pokes fun at and makes light of soap opera cliches. And if you’re gonna tell me that soap operas are already cheap and cheapening them with a parody does not have any artistic value, I’d have to respectfully ask you to get off your high-and-mighty horse and refer to the glossy critically acclaimed American primetime soap Revenge, which – if you really think about it – runs on the same twists and turns, and storytelling patterns as Kalyeserye, without the requisite laughs.
Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza are sensational, and the characters they portray are a winning formula. He’s the accidental prince charming who personifies all that’s good in a Filipino bachelor. She’s the nanny whom we relate to, the representation of the masses. He’s got that tisoy look that has been all the rage since colonial times and the most adorable dimples to match his dreamy features. She’s the damsel, though not necessarily in distress, in every fairy tale we’re ever known.
We felt all sorts of emotions watching their love story unfold – a love story peppered with obstacles, oppositions, push-and-pulls, conflicts and the satisfyingly frustrating split-screen separation. And let’s not forget the DubSmash-driven soundtrack played in snippets, acting as cues to the kilig moments that we know are about to happen.
The anticipation keeps us thirsty for more. While it all happens live and seems minimally scripted, the producers of the show certainly know what they’re doing. They’re always walking the line, always staying within the spectrum of accessibility, always teasing and not going too far that we’ll think that it’s a hopeless case. In video game terms, it’s challenging but to the point of a rage quit.
Timing, after all, is everything. And this has been foreshadowed with one of the most popular quotable quotes from the series, “Sa tamang panahon (At the right time).”
There is something to be learned here, whether you’re a soap writer or a stand-up comedian or a video game designer or a marketer – and that is giving your audience what you need to give them when they’ve worked just hard enough to get it. Not one single moment before. Give them what they need, but not what they want.
When the couple finally met in person one fateful Saturday at the backstage of the Eat Bulaga studios, it really felt like that was it. Was it the right time? Apparently not as a wall suddenly dropped from above, separating our protagonists once again. Film majors, don’t you agree that it was one of the most perfect executions of diabolus ex machina ever?
It reminds us of the struggle, that this tale is far from reaching its supposed happy ending, that it’s not as easy as it seems, that things are not what they appear to be. Another important aspect of this scene, which may have been overshadowed by the tears and heartbreaking frustration, is an important lesson in morals.
If you remember, Wally Bayola’s Lola Nidora made Alden promise not to attempt to see Yaya Dub. But his impatience got the best of him – and that, my friends, led to dire consequences, seemingly taking him back to square one and losing all the pogi points he accumulated over time. It was at that moment that Lola gave a lecture on trust, honor and being a man of your word. It was especially poignant and marked by gravitas at that time because of the emotional setting, which was a drastic deviation from the usual lighthearted nature of the show.
It was unexpected. It was hard to figure out what was coming next. It all felt real.
To be continued…
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