After botching what could’ve been an excellent series (Mara Clara) and half-heartedly mining for sentiment with cuteness (Mutya), Philippine entertainment conglomerate ABS-CBN tries again with hopefully a series that promotes values other than idiocy, crime, and the benefits of being an asshole.
100 Days to Heaven tells the story of Anna Manalastas, a cold, ruthless, and selfish toy company CEO who grows up jaded with the world thanks to the people close to her. Through her life, she collects a long list of people she’s stepped on, pushed aside, fired, angered, and wronged… none of whom she particularly cares and even gives a second thought.
But it all comes back to bite her when her car explodes from a planted bomb, quite possibly as an act of revenge. She dies and heads up to heaven, but is stopped by St. Peter himself at the gates, telling her she isn’t going in there, but actually jumping right into the bowels of hell. Anna begs for a second chance and St. Peter gives her 100 days to make things right with all the people she’s wronged. Only then will she get a chance to enter heaven.
So St. Peter sends her back down to Earth… in the body of her 7-year old self. And she sets off to find some way to accomplish her mission.
Great premise. But…
The series’ first two episodes crammed in what could have been anywhere from a week to a month’s worth of story. In Tagalog, masyado mabilis ang takbo ng story. The series moved too fast preventing what could have been more time to actually care about Anna, as well as put more weight on the sins or wrongs she has to right. Two seconds of being mean to someone ends up being too contrived and forced instead of developing her bitchiness.
Judging from the rest of the first week though, we’ll learn more about each of the people Anna wronged through flashbacks and exposition. Which is a good creative choice.
But what should have been established better is who the hell Anna Manalastas is. A couple of minutes of backstory is not enough to fully care about the character and get invested in her quest to get into heaven. Of course, she’s a horrible person, but the way the first two episodes sprinted through the people she’d have to eventually make up to, made it seem like Anna was merely have a bad day (like we all do) and not that she really is and has been a mean lady most of her life.
The series will of course follow Anna as she discovers the error of her ways and becomes a better person, but they could have at least spent a week showing that she isn’t a good person in the first place.
Oh, this is supposed to be more of a comedy/light-drama than a heavy, deep discussion on religion and sin.
But all of that can be forgotten, for now, thanks to the performance of breakout child actress Xyriel Manabat. Since her scene stealing debut as the star of Agua Bendita(the first half of it at least), Xyriel has gone on to lead her own show in Momay (one of the few coherently put together Philippine soaps in years) and did her best to make Noah even the least bit watchable. Now she’s back in this series as the lead star where she belongs.
Her natural charisma, charm and talent immediately jump off the screen, easily jumping from emotion to emotion better than most actors twice and three times her age. There is no denying how good Xyriel Manabat is.
Veteran actress Coney Reyes and Xyriel work well together both playing Anna, most of the time in the same scene, cutting from bigAnna to littleAnna mid-line.
The first week was promising, though sloppily set-up. The main concern now though is whether or not typical Pinoy soap opera dreck will overpower logic and common sense as has happened to many a show over the years (and currently to the cesspool that is Mara Clara). Even the most promising and wonderful starts can easily dive into waste (still looking at you Mara Clara).
And with the basic premise being Anna having to complete her mission within 100 days, one would assume that the series will have a natural run of a specific number of episodes. Unless of course the network decides to stretch one day over five episodes then the show will be here forever and the extension monster can still rear its ugly head.
Hopefully that won’t be the case and for a change, a series can have a solid run from beginning to end.