First Impression Review: Though Welcome, TV5’s “Face 2 Face” Reboot Misses Some of the Original’s Magic

Not a spoiler-kind of series. lol

There is no denying that when all is said and done, Face to Face will be one of the few highlights of the early days of TV5. Kapamilyas and Kapusos set aside their blind #NetworkWarCulture loyalty to tune in to fellow Filipinos hashing out their problems on national television every morning. The Philippines’ answer to America’s shows with Jerry Springer (RIP) and Maury Povich was a ratings hit. Face to Face featured bleeped out curses, punches thrown (but rarely shown) and the odd chair hurled across the stage with host Amy Perez running for cover.

It was the kind of shocking, low brow television that has been a staple of American television for decades. But something quite foreign to a Filipino audience used to tsismis shows, cartoons and dubbed movies for their morning television.

But Face to Face first came at a different time. Social media was only just catching on, so moments that would surely go viral today lacked that avenue back then. The series also no longer has the novelty it once had as competitors like GMA and ABS-CBN would go on to offer up their own lesser versions of similar formats. And TV5 itself would try to carry on the same conflict resolution idea through numerous, far-less successful formats.

If anything were to have come close to Face to Face‘s impact since, it would have to be Raffy Tulfo’s radio/TV shows. But even then, his segments and programs (surprisingly) carried a much more serious and reliable feeling as he would connect complainants to actual people of authority to resolve conflicts.

Whereas the appeal of Face to Face was seeing conflicts introduced, explained and wrapped up within the hour. Sure it was an hour full of screaming and fighting and teleserye-worthy one-liners. (Even some suspicions of the conflicts being scripted.)

But Face to Face‘s appeal to the public is undeniable. Comments on TV5’s social media pages regularly featured people requesting the network bring it back, or at least air repeats. During COVID, TV5’s re-airing of old Face to Face episodes on linear TV was welcomed. (As well as criticized too of course.)

So it’s no surprise that TV5 decided to reboot the series. It is also a welcome development in the midst of ABS-CBN’s continued takeover of TV5’s airwaves.

But whether or not Face 2 Face (with its tweaked title) can capture the magic and attention of the original remains to be seen.

Judging from the first few episodes of this premiere week, it’s not hard to see that this reboot so far is a bit of a lesser version. And that’s just with the overall feel of the production.

Face 2 Face uses one of the multi-purpose studios at TV5. The same studios used for newscasts and other in-house entertainment productions in recent years. The smaller studio allows for a good-sized audience enough to offer the necessary raucous reactions to the juicy stories by the dueling parties. But it lacks the bigger feel of the original’s livelier and more colorful studio.

Many fans of the original were sad to see original host Amy Perez would not be returning. Karla Estrada is an experienced host (though admittedly, I have not watched a single minute of her previously hosted program on ABS-CBN). But perhaps not yet fully comfortable with the type of hosting needed on Face 2 Face.

With the first few episodes so far, Karla Estrada is often pushed to the background with the people involved in the conflicts easily taking over. Instead of being able to guide and direct the discussion and arguments in a conversational manner, she instead comes across as a stiff host. I can see that maybe it’s because she is still warming up to the situational environment as Face 2 Face is far from the fluffy confines of a morning talk show.

Moving forward, it would help for Karla Estrada to be a bit more proactive in both poking the guests in order to drive discussion as well as be looser and wittier to help lighten the often tense mood. Of course, she shouldn’t have to just mimic Amy Perez’s hosting style. But still with the Face 2 Face format, being a bit more loose and free flowing rather than strictly following the script will do a lot to make the hour feel much fuller. Gelli De Belen and Christine Bersola-Babao were able to do that with the Face to Face successor Face the People. She needs to find the balance between challenging the guests, helping to guide them toward resolution while also being fun.

Co-host and comedian Alex Calleja also needs to settle into his role more as well. Often times, he can come across as over-prepared with his humor. And that’s even with the few times he is actually approached to offer commentary during the episode.

There needs to be a bit more spontaneity rather than the stuffy feeling of the hosts as well as the Trio Tagapayo who are only ever called on for what feels like a few seconds each day.

The saving grace of these first episodes is the regular Filipino people who come to air their grievances on national television. In the mediacon for the series the week before its premiere, Karla Estrada talked about how the conflicts and problems that are brought before the show may seem insignificant or petty for some in the audience. But for the people involved, it could be their entire lives.

And that’s really what makes Face 2 Face still relevant even ten years after its original run. Many Filipinos still experience the same problems and struggles. So seeing these kinds of problems being sorted out can be much more relatable that maybe the latest recycled outrageous teleserye plot you can see elsewhere on TV.

Yes, there will be yelling. Yes, there will be name-calling. Yes, there will be chairs thrown.

But in the midst of that chaos, a simple, yet strangely engaging TV show still exists. What is the ultimate appeal of Face 2 Face? It’s maybe all of the above. Both the low brow aspect that may appeal to the Marites in all of us as well as the sincere hope that we can all just live a little happier and more peaceful. Especially in today’s world.

So this Face 2 Face reboot as a television program is a welcome sight. It definitely has some kinks to work out if it hopes to enjoy as successful a run as the original series. Those kinks are definitely as resolvable as the complaints the people bring to the show. But in spite of any of these early bumps, Face 2 Face remains a fascinatingly simple, yet engaging hour of television to have every day.

For now, full episodes of Face 2 Face are available on TV5’s official YouTube channel. But only in the Philippines. (Or if you have a VPN, sa totoo lang tayo.)
Hopefully they can make it available worldwide, unrestricted soon.

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