Boys’ Love, or BL dramas have been popular across Asia and around the world. But the genre has seen an explosive rise in popularity in 2020, especially in the Philippines. And with it arrives a wave of new, original Filipino BL series, albeit only available online.
That changed this week with the premiere of My Extraordinary on TV5. The AsterisK Digital Entertainment-produced series is the first original local BL drama to air on Philippine television. And for such a historic first, the series is so far able to rise to the occasion.
My Extraordinary centers around college students Shake (Darwin Yu) and Ken (Enzo Santiago) who are drawn to each other after a fateful meeting on the basketball court.
The first episode does a great job of quickly, but carefully introducing Shake, Ken and the cast of supporting characters. Ken is the campus crush. Ladies love him and guys want to be him. Shake, meanwhile, is a shy new student who isn’t much of an athlete, yet gets roped into stepping in for Ken’s injured teammate in a pick-up basketball game.
We meet Ken’s childhood friend Sandee (Karissa Toliongco) who appears to harbor feelings for him, the hotheaded Mike (Sam Cafranca) who bullies the timid Shake and Ken’s mother (Yayo Aguila), among others. It is very much an ensemble with several characters making their mark alongside our two leads.
The series actually covers a lot of ground even with its relatively short half-hour runtime. It leaves you wanting more. And that’s certainly a positive feeling to have after a premiere episode.
Experienced vets Yayo Aguila and Jojit Lorenzo (as a teacher at the school) lead a young cast of talented newcomers. Enzo Santiago and Darwin Yu’s chemistry is already evident in the short time they had together in the episode. But the entire cast all leave an impactful first impression that gets you to immediately connect with them even as we’re only at introductions and not necessarily into the meatiest part of the story yet.
And that’s really what this episode does best.
Though the Philippines has many BL fans, it’s not something commonly seen on mainstream television. You can count the number of network series with LGBTQ+ main characters on one hand. And there’s a large segment of the Filipino audience who will not be immediately receptive to My Extraordinary or any similar series. (If the comments on TV5’s Facebook post promoting the series premiere is any indication.)
But this first episode is able to be accessible to a wide audience. Our main setting is a college campus. So far, it has started out as a family-oriented, coming of age story. That allows for a relatable entry point for the greater Filipino audience.
And in that way, it allows for the Filipino audience to see that stories like this are just as “normal” and a part of everyday life as any other local series. Maybe even more so. As the series progresses, there will surely be many opportunities for learning moments that should open some eyes. For others, they will simply see what will hopefully be a fun, emotional and romantic journey.
Director Jolo Atienza compliments Vincent DeJesus’ tight, engaging writing. The visuals match up well with the realistic dialogue and natural interactions between characters. And the cast effectively brings it all to life. There is a nice balance of lighthearted moments with a small taste of the heavier and more dramatic moments that are sure to come.
So far, My Extraordinary is off to a great start. Not only for the series itself, but for Philippine television as well.