Check-in Review: The Curious Case of Maria La Del Barrio

And it becomes curiouser and curiouser. So I started writing this at the beginning of the week before the new red motif kicked in on the show, officially signaling the next chapter in the story. And all the frustration I had originally, subsided, even if just a little bit by this week’s episodes.

So first is what I had written at the beginning of the week and at the end is my hopefully not naïve hope that the show can pick itself up.

Originally Started Post:
So what happened?

ABS-CBN’s Maria La Del Barrio, which may or may not currently be in its “2nd book” or arc in its story, has been a strange collection of frustration, mind-boggling writing, questionable casting and a very noticeable decline in production effort.

That’s far from the excellent start of the series.

Now let’s get it out of the way first. This strange decline of Maria La Del Barrio is certainly no Mara Clara-level of crash and burn.

But if the ship isn’t righted soon, it could very well come close.

The Philippine adaptation of the mega-hit Mexican telenovela starring Thalia started off very well. Erich Gonzales was a great fit for the role as a beautiful, spunky girl from the barrio. And her proven chemistry with loveteam partner Enchong Dee ensured that the romance would be natural and not awkward.

In terms of casting, we were all treated to a wonderful, but all too short, guest performance from Ai-Ai de las Alas as Maria’s adoptive mother. She and Angel Aquino shared some excellently feisty exchanges before Ai-Ai was hustled over to another show. But to fill in as Angel Aquino’s nemesis, other than Erich as Maria, an equally talented Assunta de Rossi who has what is probably her most substantial television role ever.

The story was typical, yet the way the series attacked it was fresh. A rich man and poor girl fall in love, against the wishes of their parents who themselves have a soapy past.

Maria La Del Barrio, through the simple use of a sepia hue, presented a sort of fairy tale-like quality to the story. A mellow, subdued presentation that goes against what most primetime Filipino soaps usually do.

The series strayed from the original telenovela, but maintained the basic premise and injected Filipino flavor.

Fast forward to the present day and Maria La Del Barrio appears to be flailing. With no clear direction, jarring story turns and questionable casting decisions, the series has seemed like almost a completely different show.

From the fresh, enjoyable drama of the first couple of weeks to the now contrived and cliché-ridden schmaltz of the last couple of weeks. You could find and pinpoint traits and characteristic of the usual ABS-CBN heavy drama; the pregnancies, one-night stands, “other woman” characters, screaming matches, lies and misunderstandings, forced and nonsensical “twists” and cringe-worthy acting.

Where did this complete-180 come from? How did it start? Maybe typical network meddling? How could a show that started off so well creatively, suddenly take a wrong turn down a steep slope? It’s been almost like “Show A” and “Show B” instead of just Maria La Del Barrio.

Add to that the few problems the show already had like the lack of Latin flavor that should have been ingrained into the series as an adaptation of a Latin drama; that spice, that fire, that oomph that Latin telenovelas have. There’s the strange use of a reality show coronation song as the theme instead of the already existing Tagalog version of the original Thalia theme song (sung by Thalia herself) as well as the odd choice of a seven year old song as the love theme of the main couple and 2nd theme of the series.

And what about that 10 minute (*approximately… it feels like it) episode runtime? I actually don’t even know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing considering what’s been on screen the last couple of weeks.

After Watching Book 2, Week 1
Surprisingly enough and quite unexpectedly, here we are with a now red-hued Maria La Del Barrio. Some years after the incredibly cringe-worthy story jerking, we have Maria and Luis older, more mature. Moved on? Maybe not so much.

Friday’s episode was probably the most hopeful of the week, mainly because of this scene (incest inference notwithstanding):

Both Erich and Enchong showed that chemistry that’s been lacking throughout all the nonsensical twists that have brought us to this moment. Their back and forth was subtle, yet full of meaning and great to watch.

That is definitely closer to the show’s promising start than the regrettable last couple of weeks have been. And it almost made the last few weeks worth it just for that scene alone. Almost. Maybe.

But that seems to be the only thing to look forward to. As much as the grown-up love triangle of Victoria-Fernando-Sandra was intriguing at first, it is completely old and uninteresting now. There has been no sign of Vladimir (who’s probably now written off for the forseeable future), no Soraya (who’s 180-turn from psycho to reformed actually makes sense), and the Barrio is gone. The only interesting thing left is the fallout from Maria and Luis finding out they are not indeed siblings. And seeing Enchong and Erich act the hell out of those scenes. Are we really going to be interested in whether or not Sabrina gets to design knick—knacks?

Yeah…

After this week, it does seem like there’s been some course-correction in the world ofMaria La Del Barrio. But, as we’ve learned from the series itself, it’s still very early. There are still plenty of other things to nitpick about like the horrible theme songs, the diminished production effort (from sepia to yellow throw-up?), and the lack of fire.

While I don’t agree with how we got to this point, I am fully expecting some strong and powerful scenes for Erich as Maria and Erich and Enchong together as Maria and Luis as the pointless nonsense gets undone and unraveled. Here’s hoping that this isn’t all false hope and that Maria La Del Barrio can still right the ship yet.

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