The employed populace comprises parents, once-‘90s children, and wannabe ‘90s kids. There’s a reason why people turn to watching online videos instead of primetime TV after work. Sometimes, it’s not just the traffic. It’s really the stories on TV.
Remember the ‘90s shows you used to run home for. Remember when romance wasn’t the only theme of TV shows. Remember the anime sa hapon and the fantaseryes.
I ingested a lot of anime during that era, but there was one Filipino show that I was particularly proud of: Magic Temple.
Granted, it’s not for TV. But Peque Gallaga’s Magic Temple (1996) has a lot to teach today’s fantaserye screenwriters and TV directors—especially Bagani’s creators.
Characters should have quirks and flaws.
What’s striking with ABS-CBN’s Bagani is that you couldn’t tell Makisig and Zaijan apart—Bathala forbid that you only remember those two once-child actors!
In Magic Temple, the three protagonists—Sambag, Jubal, and Omar—were distinguishable. One was mature, the other a kenkoy, and the last one a crybaby. One had the power to float, the other spits explosive pebbles, and the last one creates life from his tears. There is no mistaking one for the other.
Bagani’s babaylan is also no match for Magic Temple’s Telang Bayawak. Though both exude wisdom and sarcasm, the former seem to be textbook and expected. Meanwhile, the latter has a house full of surprises—literally!
In the beginning of Bagani, all the protagonists also felt too morally upright. Clearly, the story would just plateau since the characters would not have to undergo some drastic change. They were flat and boring. A good story would give the viewer something to relate to—a flaw—and a journey to address that flaw; Magic Temple was able to do that.
The story should have tension.
TV shows use love teams as leverage as if screenwriters build a story around the leading lady and the leading man. That should not be the case for two reasons: one, it stunts the growth of the actors; two, it creates a non-existent prequel to a story.
When you cast a love team, you’re already telling the audience to expect the lovey-dovey between the two characters. There is nothing left to the imagination. The beauty of tension is lost; there is no more kilig. You already know how the story would go.
In Magic Temple, the actors were quite anonymous. The love story was also not blatant. The only girl around the protagonist’s age was—after all—a ghost. How could a love story ever develop between the two? Well, spoiler alert: It made me squeal in kilig during Magic Temple’s remastered screening at Powerplant.
The setting should have grit.
Kailangan ng dumi! The actors in Bagani are too clean! If product placement is a thing nowadays, then the show could successfully advertise some whitening or anti-stain products.
Magic Temple, on the other hand, is incredibly dark and gritty—and not just because it’s old. For one, the setting does not seem to be man-made. The beaches, the ruins, and the temple are actual places. If those were just in big studios, then kudos to the Magic Temple team because the set design and lighting looked realistic.
In addition, the characters look battle hardened; mukha silang nadumihan. Then, their costumes seem effortless—something that an adventurer at that time and place would likely put together.
Use songs and catchphrases sparingly.
Filipino viewers have become saturated with theme songs and slow motions. It’s the reason why Kung wala ka nang maintindihan memes exist. Trendy words like lodi and werpa also easily become passé.
If you’re planning to have songs and catchphrases in your shows, use them sparingly for maximum effect.
It’s well over half the movie before Magic Temple dropped the mic for its Buto Kalansay chant. It was immediately followed by a bones-and-bongos dance song. Despite the two songs playing too close to each other, they did not overwhelm the viewer because what followed was eerily stimulating.
So, here you go, dear screenwriters, this is what we want to watch. Bring back the complexity, originality, and magic in primetime fantaseryes.
Photo from www.imdb.com