Canned show stirs TV debate in the Philippines

Fast-talking comedian Willy Revillame is one of the most popular television personalities in the Philippines with a legion of poor fans who crave the thick wads of cash he hands out to audience members.

But to many critics, the 50-year-old star represents all that is wrong with an industry that they say has for years promoted low-brow entertainment and toilet humour.

Producers at TV5 television yanked Revillame's "Willing Willie" show off the air this week amid an uproar over a segment involving a crying six-year-old boy the host cajoled into simulating a striptease for the equivalent of $230.

The incident in March has sparked a heated debate over the standards of Philippine television, with some calling for an end to shows they say prey on the poor and debase moral values in the conservative Catholic nation.

"Local television feeds Filipinos a steady, dirty diet of trash," leading film and television critic Lito Zulueta told AFP.

He said Revillame was a creation of an industry that had lost its moral compass as networks fought an intense ratings war.

"Television people forgot the canons of ethics and good taste, thereby contributing to the shallowness of Filipino pop culture," said Zulueta, a senior member of Manila's movie critics association.

In Revillame's show, studio audiences get the chance to win cash, cars, houses and other prizes by dancing and doing other acts on stage, but also by having to recount their problems with poverty and other hardships.

With a third of the country's 94 million population living on a dollar or less a day, Revillame's prizes appear as golden tickets to a better life while his show offers TV viewers a temporary escape from their hardships.

Highlighting the desperation of the poor, 78 fans were killed in a stampede in 2006 as they lined up to join Revillame's previous show on another network.

Zulueta and other critics said Revillame was not the sole purveyor of bad taste, pointing to other reality shows that promote greed and open hostility among contestants.

Meanwhile, scantily clad women who gyrate on stage and flirt with game show hosts are common fare on prime-time TV, while senseless plots in soap operas copied mostly from South Korean and Mexican "telenovelas" are a dime a dozen.

Daytime comedy shows accessible to children also use language heavy in sexual innuendo, in a country where sex education in schools remains controversial.

A soap opera that recently completed its run on one network was patterned after a 1980s-era soft-porn movie about a 14-year-old girl in a sexual adventure with two men, leading to unwanted pregnancy.

Another talk show currently on air allows housewives and mistresses, and warring neighbours to confront each other, often leading to verbal abuse and punch-ups, hair-pulling and other angry encounters on live television.

Content of this kind may be considered common in the West, but is much more controversial in the Philippines where about 80 percent of the population are Catholic and the church remains a powerful moral force.

Divorce and abortion remain illegal in the Philippines, and conservative lawmakers have repeatedly rejected bills that would promote artificial contraceptives.

In an emotionally charged appeal this week on her blog, theatre actress Monique Wilson called on her fellow artists to help raise television standards and boycott exploitative, low-brow shows.

Wilson, who counts among her achievements the lead role in the West End production of the Miss Saigon musical in the early 1990s, said television was supposed to empower and educate.

"When you see shows like Willing Willie - and many other similar shows - they do the opposite," she said.

"They dumb down audiences. They disempower them by creating a mendicant society with game shows that promise quick money. They keep them dependent on handouts, instead of creating opportunities for them to build on skills."

Veteran TV programmer Nessa Valdellon joined the chorus of calls in the mainstream press this week for advertisers to invest on shows that provoke critical thinking.

"It's not just a pipe dream. I believe the Pinoy (Filipino) audience is a thinking audience," Valdellon told AFP.

Nevertheless, many critics believe Revillame will soon be back on the air, with his show currently only being suspended for two weeks and the host defiant about his style of entertainment.

"The programme aims to provide a venue for everyone to show their talents, tell their stories and make their dreams come true," he said in a joint statement with his employers.

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star