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Face 2 Face makes a comeback

EVERYBODY loves a good fight, and no one showed them like Face 2 Face did from 2010 to 2013 on TV5.

THE SHOW, originally hosted by Amy Perez, then by Gelli de Belen, pitted two opposing parties against one another, facing disparate issues such as unpaid rent, stolen items (and boyfriends), and marital conflicts. Ms. Perez would interview both parties onstage to get their sides, but this would inevitably lead to fighting. In several episodes, Ms. Perez would have to jump out of her seat to avoid being caught in the crossfire, while two burly bouncers would pull the fighters apart.

Ms. Perez was aided by a co-host (the late Hans Mortel), who handled the similarly riled-up audience.

The show was also held up by a sort of “moral panel,” consisting of a lawyer (Persida Acosta, then the Chief Public Attorney of the Public Attorney’s Office), a clergyman (priest Sonny Merida), and a psychologist (Dr. Camille Garcia), who doled out advice to the fuming guests. Think of it like a preachy, moralizing local version of Jerry Springer. The show became a guilty pleasure, a pop culture talking point, and even had its own anthology drama spin-off.

The show has been off the air since 2013, and times have changed since then. The world has become decidedly more politically correct, and convincing people to duke it out on national television has become generally frowned upon. However, we think about all the secretly recorded catfights we’d watch on Facebook or TikTok, or even the ones played out on more important stages like the halls of government. We can think about how Raffy Tulfo’s show, a watered-down Face 2 Face, propelled the columnist and host into the senate. Perhaps there’s something feral left in all of us: so much so that TV5 is bringing Face 2 Face back, with a premiere set on May 1 at 11 a.m.

There will be changes, of course: actress, host, and celebrity mother Karla Estrada will be taking the center seat for the Face 2 Face reboot. Standup comedian Alex Calleja will be by the audience, themselves involved in the action by participating in live polls. The panel — then and now called the Trio Tagapayo — will now consist of lawyer Lorna Kapunan (known for handling high-profile celebrity cases), radio host Jun Banaag (known for his handle “Dr. Love”), and the original Face 2 Face psychologist, Ms. Garcia.

The need to reformat the show’s original formula was discussed by TV5 COO Dino Laurena during a media conference at the set of Face 2 Face on April 17. “Ang unang-unang pumasok sa aming konsiderasiyon ay hindi na po entertainment ang Face 2 Face (the very first thing that we considered was that Face 2 Face will no longer be for entertainment), although I’m sure everybody will be entertained: both in the fights but at the same time, the resolutions,” he said.

Pinag-aralan naming mabuti kung ano iyong bagay na kinagigiliwan ng mga manonood. Masama mang pakinggan, iyong dating pinag-galingan ng Face 2 Face, talagang ang binabantayan ay iyong bangayan (We studied well what things the audiences liked. It sounds bad, but in the original Face 2 Face, they really looked out for the fights),” he said. “Pero ang hindi natin nakita noon ay iyong resolusiyon na nangyayari pagkatapos, kasi hindi naman po pinabayaan ng TV5 na nauwi na lang sa awayan, tapos pag-uwi, parang wala na. Mahirap po iyon. Parang blood money iyon eh. Pinag-kakitaan natin iyong away ng iba (But what we did not see before were the resolutions that came after, because TV5 wouldn’t allow them to be led into a fight, and then leave it at that when they go home. That’s difficult. It’s like blood money. Earning from somebody else’s fight).

“We feel that we owe our public and our audiences a new kind of Face 2 Face. Not to say we weren’t happy with what we had before, but we owe it to our general public to make Face 2 Face an even better program with the people who are now involved in this show,” he said.

As if to prove a point, snippets shown during the press conference showed people hugging it out (but not before having to be pulled apart by the new bouncers: Marife 1 and 2).

The show’s new director, Frank Lloyd Mamaril, also dispelled the notion that the fights have been scripted and fixed. “Ang daming nagsasabing scripted ito, pero hindi pala talaga (lots of people said this was scripted, but it really wasn’t),” he said. He may have once thought that, but after going behind the camera, he noted that their guests needed minimal direction during the backstage interviews: they were already aggressive.

He talks about why this format — so polarizing, so common, and yet so juicy — works in a country like ours. “Ang Pinoy kasi, naturally, chismoso’t chismosa iyan. Gusto niya involved siya doon sa issue na pinapanood nila (Filipinos are natural gossips. They want to be involved in the issue they’re watching).”

MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., a unit of the PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund, is the parent company of TV5. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of MediaQuest, has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

Starting May 1, Face 2 Face will air Monday to Friday at 11 a.m. on TV5, and 8 p.m. on One PH, available on Cignal Ch. 1, SatLite Ch. 1, and Cignal Play. —  Joseph L. Garcia

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