TYPE OF REVIEW : FIRST IMPRESSION REVIEW
Minor first week spoilers/discussion. Click here for the Hindsight Review.
That it took so long is a discussion all its own. But finally, the Alden Richards-Maine Mendoza loveteam, aka AlDub, made their teleserye debut this week headlining the romantic comedy Destined to be Yours.
AlDub took the Philippines and the world by storm. Their unexpected and rapid rise in popularity and social media’s role in it will be the subject of future Media Studies courses in the country. But for now, most are concentrated on them finally making the jump from noontime and Eat Bulaga to primetime.
Pop culture and entertainment in the Philippines is driven by loveteams. Whether it’s soap operas, movies, TV commercials or even reality shows, Filipinos are drawn in by the idea of love and romance. So the next logical step for AlDub was for them to headline their own daily soap opera. For their many fans, it provides the opportunity to see them regularly in considerably more romantic situations than they may have opportunity for on a noontime variety show. For their managements and especially the network, it’s a chance to finally cash in on their record success with a primetime slot.
However now that the time has finally arrived, AlDub’s primetime debut has mostly been flat and uninspired.
After such a long wait and delay, expectations for their first teleserye were (fairly or not) very high. One of the many expressed reasons for the long wait was that Mendoza’s management (all under the same umbrella as Eat Bulaga‘s production company) wanted to hold off on giving the greenlight until the right story came along. Various reports had GMA Network more than ready and willing to give AlDub a primetime slot as early as November 2015 with several concepts apparently having gotten the thumbs down.
So as Destined to be Yours premiered and slogged through its first week, one wonders what the other concepts and premises must have been for them to get passed on while this series got the go-ahead.
Destined to be Yours has Maine Mendoza starring as Sinag, a loving and caring country girl who lives with her parents and siblings in their home/local museum/community radio station in the town of Pelangi. Alden Richards, meanwhile, is Benjie, an aspiring architect and the estranged grandson of one of the country’s biggest real estate developers. The two of them first meet as Benjie heads to Pelangi in an effort to impress his grandfather by trying to convince Sinag’s family to sell their valuable land for a big development. It just so happens that Sinag’s mother also has premonitions and just a few days before, had a vision that a man looking exactly like Benjie is Sinag’s soulmate.
The first week ends with their first meeting and Benjie working to get in the family’s good graces, including flirting with Sinag.
We all know where this is heading. And that might be the show’s biggest problem so far.
Destined to be Yours‘ first week felt very flat and uneventful. Many of the situations were either predictable or already featured in the show’s preview trailer. Not the least of which being Benjie and Sinag’s fateful encounter on the rope bridge which was the most featured and repeated scene used in pre-show commercials.
While Thursday and Friday’s episodes felt a little more tight (relatively speaking), the first three, especially the premiere, felt haphazardly edited with no sense of progression or meaning in what should be foundation-building episodes.
But there are introduction and foundation-building episodes and then there are Destined to be Yours‘ first episodes which were a strange combination of slightly boring and being a little all over the place. The incredible simplicity of the story, based on the first week events, works against it instead of allowing for refreshing possibilities. There is a lack of narrative excitement. And none of the situations and core events felt any bit creative or different. The series borrowed heavily from the Filipino soap opera playbook without adding something refreshing.
This was certainly a concern of mine going into the teleserye after watching the film Imagine You and Me. But while that film had some stunning cinematography to help carry the load, Destined to be Yours visually feels like it was filmed a couple of years ago.
When other GMA Network dramas are able to retain the look of a truly HD-filmed series despite cropping and excessive downcoverting, Destined to be Yours lacks that bit of direction and extra post-production editing that at the very least could help relieve some of the show’s slow start.
And a slow start certainly does no favors in helping to attract and draw non-AlDub fan viewers to the show. Many are saying the show is merely for the fans, but I doubt that’s any network’s #1 priority when producing a primetime program. Destined to be Yours should serve as a reintroduction of Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza, both individually and as a loveteam to help make it that much more accessible to both fans and non-fans alike. More viewers = more money of course. This first week seemed to rely too much on the audience’s preexisting goodwill toward AlDud instead of being easily approachable by new eyes.
With all the shortcomings of its first week, Maine Mendoza thankfully stepped up to the plate and delivered. Energetic and fun, Mendoza was well in her comfort zone most of the week and carried most of the show on her own back. She breathed life into Sinag even when the writing wasn’t all there for her (or any other character, for that matter). An emotional first episode father & daughter scene showed Mendoza still has room to grow when it comes to heavier material. But nonetheless, she was charming and effective when almost nothing else was.
In a similar way to my thoughts on Imagine You and Me, Alden Richards was completely underused and maybe even worse, given some of the most erratic characterization of the series. Inconsistent writing has Benjie as anything from being some kind of playboy who sleeps with any girl that smiles at him to being a kind hearted mama’s boy and everything in between. Instead of these things being part of a multi-dimensional character, it felt more like different characters played by the same actor. And in turn, that didn’t give Richards (who has proven himself a talented dramatic actor) much to work with.
Mendoza and Richards did not share scenes with each other (save for one fleeting bump, literally, and a random opening scene in the premiere) until Friday’s episode 5. But in those short scenes, Benjie came across as merely a primetime version of the Kalyeserye character that catapulted Richards (and Mendoza) to overnight success. Again, that does not do much if anything to help draw new people in, especially if the increased interaction between the two characters devolves fully into familiar gimmicks and recycled bits from Eat Bulaga.
The first week of the series ended without a hook. No twists or turns or surprises that should help hook viewers and ensure they’re along for the ride. Even without that big hook, the rest of the story and characters are supposed to engage viewers. Sadly, that’s not the case so far.
The simple and old-fashioned story coupled with uninspired directing and slow writing renders the first week of Destined to be Yours an unfortunate disappointment. It’s a little comforting to know Maine Mendoza’s natural energetic charm can carry a show full of fluff. But if there’s a goal to draw in new eyes, then there is a lot of work to be done. And I’m not so hopeful that it can be accomplished. If this show is merely for the dedicated fans, however, (like I also closed my review of Imagine You and Me with), none of this criticism will matter one bit. And that would be an unfortunate waste of huge potential.