First Impression Review: TV5 Goes Dark and Mature with Positive and For Love or Money

Moderate spoilers.

TV5 has long had their foot in the door, but can’t seem to make their way inside what has become a duopoly between ABS-CBN and GMA Network. They hope to take another step into that inner circle with their new weekly dramas Positive and For Love or Money.

Yes, weekly. I’ve believed that for TV5 to really distinguish itself from the others, it needs to try something different with their programming line-up. They tried, to reasonable success with Wil Time Big Time as counter-programming to news and soaps in the evenings. They expanded by airing their own daily dramas opposite their rivals’ newscasts (to less success). But I think trying out weekly programs, like American television, or even trying a twice a week drama schedule like Korea would help the network set itself apart. They give it a try with these two new dramas.

But aside from their odd (for the Philippines) airing pattern, both Positive and For Love or Money take a much darker and mature tone to their stories that is certainly different from anything the other networks are currently offering.

The more intriguing of the two is Positive. Martin Escudero stars as Carlo, a young man who’s managed to abandon his sex, drugs and rock and roll life and turn it around to become a successful call center manager with a beautiful and now pregnant wife. But his reckless youth catches up to him when he finds out he’s contracted HIV and soon learns it’s developed into full blown AIDS.

Just as his life seemed to be on the right track, he now struggles with anger and guilt and has vowed to track down exactly who gave him the virus.

It is great to see Filipino TV networks taking risks. GMA certainly found success with its risk taking. Now it’s TV5 tackling what is definitely a topic that seems to be nonexistent and taboo in Filipino media.

Positive seems set on informing a Filipino population who is sadly undereducated on HIV and AIDS. And in its first episode, it manages to seamlessly integrate facts and figures into the story without feeling like a Sunday morning medical show. But as a scripted drama series, Positive needs to have a reason to exist and engage, otherwise it will just be a Sunday morning medical show.

Thankfully, it does have a reason. The first episode ends with Carlo vowing to find who infected him. What he does when he finds that person, we do not know. But to find that person, he writes down a list of his sexual partners, some of them, we catch a glimpse of. It should be very interesting to see where they go with the story as Carlo traces his sexual conquests. Women, men, threesomes, foursomes, powder in the mouths, needles in the arms; it will undoubtedly be a dark, yet compelling journey into his past.

But Carlo’s journey moving forward should be just as compelling. With a series like Positive that deals with illness as a central theme, there is a danger that it’ll turn condescending and self-righteous. (Hello Budoy!) However, Positive seems ready to be very honest, no matter how difficult the subject matter may be, to present the story of a man dealing with AIDS in a meaningful way and with depth.

To look at how it affects Carlo and those around him while also dabbling in soapy, dramatic elements as we meet all those he’s “touched” in the past.

It will be interesting to see just how much they push the envelope. While My Husband’s Lover opened the door to hopefully deeper portrayals of the LGBT community, Positive has a story that may be more universal and relatable to Filipinos.

Meanwhile, For Love or Money plays into the Philippines’ odd obsession with infidelity and sexual misconduct (just look at what movies and shows top the charts).

But what makes For Love or Money interestingly different is its strange, almost sinister air about it. The series tells the story of married couple Edward and Roselle (Derek Ramsay and Ritz Azul). Like many Filipinos, they’ve got problems with “the financial.” But that could suddenly change when a wealthy businesswoman, Kristine Almonte (Alice Dixson), offers P10 million to the couple for ten days with Edward.

Kristine claims her intentions are not “carnal,” even offering a contract that says there will be no sex. But during these ten days, Roselle would have zero contact with her husband. Yet, Kristine doesn’t spell out just what those ten days will be filled with either.

The first two episodes set up what is an interestingly twisted proposition. Kristine’s intentions seem very sexual, despite what she says, yet at the same time, you know there is some mysterious reason behind this insane offer.

There is no question what direction the series is going in when it comes to style and substance. This is not your typical soap opera or those adulterous movies that rule the box office.

While his last two TV projects on TV5 had him play a superhero and action hero, Derek Ramsay seemingly returns to being typecast as a pure sex object, a distinction that began at ABS-CBN. Here, it is almost amusing to see Edward’s anger at the thought of Roselle possibly accepting the offer as if Derek Ramsay himself is tired of these roles.

We’ll have to wait and see if this really is a different role for him. But it is definitely a different role for both Ritz Azul and Alice Dixson. Ritz Azul is being positioned as TV5’s leading lady and she was able to really prove her worth carrying this Summer’s solid Misibis Bay. Here, she isn’t a young, sexy bombshell. Instead, she is a lower middle class wife and bank teller who wishes she was didn’t have to worry about bills, mortgages or knocked-up sisters-in-law.

Alice Dixson, on the other hand, is the bombshell this time. You could call her a cougar or if they accept the offer, a sort of sugar mommy.

But things definitely don’t seem as simple as that. There is a whole rich-vs-poor undercurrent that touches on what, as the title says, people would do for love and money. It is an incredibly twisted premise that could either collapse into Pinoy soap opera tropes or be an engrossingly different concept.

Promising Starts
What both Positive and For Love or Money must do, however, above all else is to maintain their mature storytelling style without resorting to typical teleserye fodder. Content-wise, both series pushed the envelope. Neither series backed off implications of oral sex, foursomes between men and women, cybersex, masturbation and the possibility of prostitution (!).

And while they might not make religious groups happy and worry the MTRCB, TV5 is at a point where they need to present a fresher and more mature product. The last decade of Philippine television has increasingly been dumbed down in an effort to appeal to an audience the networks themselves are dumbing down with the kinds of shows they’ve been putting on the air.

Positive and For Love or Money are certainly not family programs, but not everything needs to be. For their target audiences, both series have something very promising to offer. And for TV5, a very promising start to what they might just be looking for.

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