Hindsight Review: GMA’s Munting Heredera – When Extensions Finally Catch Up

I had high hopes for GMA’s Munting Heredera. With Gloria Romero leading a big ensemble cast, before it premiered, I thought, finally, GMA has what it can call its big family drama. Rival ABS-CBN’s primetime DNA is the big, straight melodrama while GMA’s primetime strength is its big fantasy series.

But both networks’ reliance on their strengths make their attempts at their weaker side of scripted television (fantasy for ABS-CBN, straight drama for GMA) all the more noticeable.

But pre-show, Munting Heredera had the makings of a possibly good series. You’ve got Gloria Romero finally getting the substantial work she deserves and you’ve got three little, fresh-faced young actresses stealing scenes. But once the show premiered and it became clear that this wasn’t going to be some high-falutin, profound drama, its guilty pleasure status emerged. And that certainly was not a bad thing at all.

Munting Heredera was still fresh for GMA and its writing was tight enough for an engaging and interesting story helped by great performances from Romero, Roderick Paulate, and Camille Pratts as well as the raw, but capable young actresses Mona Louise Rey, Barbara Miguel, and Kyle Danielle Ocampo.

Though filled with plenty of typical Filipino soap opera conventions, the series was fun. It didn’t take itself too seriously and didn’t aspire to be anything more than it was, just good, clean, witty melodrama. Which is much better to do than thinking too highly of yourself and becoming embarrassing (yeah, I’m looking at you perpetual punching bag Mara Clara).

Munting Heredera did the impossible (something Mara Clara certainly didn’t do). Thanks to its ratings success, GMA granted the show several extensions. But they maintained that guilty pleasure, hilariously fun and well-written vibe.

The additions of Robert Arevalo, Andrea Del Rosario, Bobby Andrews and Ms. Boots Anson-Roa, after the possibly too-early death of Katrina Halili’s character Lynette, gave the show a big boost. When it started to look like the extension was going to be a bad idea, the fresh faces provided plenty of new material. And you can’t go wrong with creating a love triangle between Gloria Romero, Robert Arevalo, and Boots Anson-Roa. Not to mention having verbal catfights between Romero and Anson-Roa that could rival scenes from actress half their age.

But all these positives slowly started to fade and the downside of extensions finally caught up with the series. The writing suffered the last two extensions when it became obvious that the writers had finally run out of ideas. You come to that moment when you realize the story has begun going in circles just to fill the series order.

And worse, you realize that fun vibe has disappeared and you slowly begin hating two-thirds of the characters for being incompetent idiots, annoying jerks, or just plain assholes. And not love-to-hate assholes either. Just a plan ol’, walang hiyang gagos.

That moment when you actually want these people, who are supposed to be the heroes and heroines, suffering or better yet, dead. When you don’t care if people ever get reunited with their loved ones that were actually put in the danger they’re in because of their own stupidity.

The only thing that kept Munting Heredera from reaching Mara Clara-levels of hellish insanity was having less torture porn; less physical and emotional violence, though plenty of typical barilan scenes.

And maybe, a highlight of the latter part of the series, taking the depiction of Philippine police incompetence to new, even more realistic heights.

There were moments of lighthearted-ness that harkened back to the early days of the series, but the comedy morphed into the cruel, mean-spirited laugh mining typical of NBC’s American Thursday night comedies that try to do satire and comedy at the expense of others. Only, this is Filipino soap opera and it doesn’t work that way.

This past final week of the series was a relief, if only because it signaled the end. But it didn’t end without even more incredibly forced and contrived drama that just did not resonate anymore after the emotionless and shallow months that preceded it.

The one constant, which was actually my favorite part of the show, was the great father-daughter relationship between Manny and Jennifer and the chemistry of Roderick Paulate and Mona Louise Rey.

The series’ shortcomings overall in its latter half almost affected what had been great performances from its cast. Mark Anthony Fernandez excluded, because aside from being off-screen for more than half the series, his acting in the scenes he actually were present for came off incredibly amateurish and often painful to watch.

Aside from the aforementioned Gloria Romero, Boots Anson-Roa, and Roderick Paulate, Munting Heredera did feature some career performances (which is saying something considering the material they had to work with) from Camille Pratts, Neil Ryan Sese, Ynez Veneracion and Gabby Eigenmann. It is actually a shame their 2nd extension came too late for the series to have kept Katrina Halili instead of killing her character off. Like Ynez Vneracion, Halili’s at first one-dimensional character could’ve blossomed later on with deeper characterization. And Halili could’ve benefited from having another significant role on her resume (with only her performance in the International Emmy nominated series Magdusa Ka being the only other notable credit).

Overall, Munting Heredera squandered away a great start to end up being almost forgettable save for some strong performances from its cast. Now here’s hoping GMA’s next attempts at good, straight, primetime dramas with shows like Legacy and Biritera work out a little much better.

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