'On The Job: The Series' And The Search For The Filipino Prestige Show

Late last year, the trailer for the upcoming On The Job: The Series was uploaded on YouTube (or was shown before Seklusyon in last year’s MMFF). The series will follow a separate story in the On The Job universe starring Teroy Guzman and Bela Padilla. I’m personally excited for the show because of a number of things:

  1. This will be the first Filipino TV show to be produced for a subscription-based streaming service. Exclusively streaming on HOOQ, the show will also be available in other Southeast Asian countries

  2. It will be the first major effort from Globe Studios—telco giant Globe’s new entertainment division that seriously wants to disrupt the local entertainment industry.

  3. The series will explore a six-episode format. Not often done enough on local network TV. (D5 Studio’s Sabagay Life comes to mind)

  4. I can finally put my HOOQ subscription to good use!

But what really gets me excited is the idea that On The Job: The Series could possibly become the first Filipino prestige show.

What is a prestige television show?

There’s no set definition of what it is, but basically a prestige television show is a highly-produced show. Often a 45-minute to an hour-long show that carefully treats its cinematography, characters and plot development that arguably elevates the medium to an art form. The term had traction in the early 2000s when Hollywood guys, disgruntled from the control of movie production companies, migrated from film to the small screen. During that time, television shows in the US were either campy or soapy. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Oz pioneered the category while Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones continued the lineage.

If you want additional info, you can check out Vulture's The Thirteen Rules of Creating a Prestige TV Drama

Do we need a prestige television show?

As a viewer, yes I would like to have prestige television in my TV set. It offers an alternative for viewers that may want something else from TV aside from entertainment. There’s no harm in consuming the noon-time show or watching primetime drama but like what I argued in a previous post, why limit yourself to the same food when there are other options with a different flavor available? Prestige television can also show Filipinos the full extent of the medium; not only can it provide entertainment, but also aesthetic nourishment and social commentary.

Local networks don’t even need to change their whole programming, they just need to make the prestige show a big thing. They can experiment by providing one primetime slot to one weekly prestige program that will run for six to ten weeks. Pump substantial marketing and advertising to it and evaluate the ratings.

Our local film scene is already doing this. Undeniably, it is more robust and playful compared to our local TV scene. Just take a look at the breadth of the selection of MMFF 2016. The downside to it however, is that it is only accessible to very few Filipinos. Quality local films are often only available in select cinemas. A person needs to make an effort if they want to watch one. But most importantly, a 180PhP movie ticket is too much for a family of five trying to make ends meet. On the other hand, television sets are easily accessible at most homes without additional cost and effort.

Would local networks be interested in producing one?

I’ve discussed before that our local television networks will keep churning formulaic teleseryes because business is doing good. Why try to reinvent the wheel, right? But when they eventually saturate the mass market and their profits stagnate, they will need to look for other markets to capture to expand their business. They can move up the economic pyramid and try to capture the upper and middle class. However, formulaic teleseryes wouldn’t necessarily work with the upper class. They might prefer drama or comedy that they watch on HBO or on Netflix. And this is where the prestige show comes in.

Another possible scenario: since networks are more interested in beating each other, why not create a prestige show to symbolize one’s dominance? Nothing would mean a network is more successful than being able to afford to allocate resources to a project that may or may not have great returns.


So how does On The Job: The Series fit in?

On The Job: The Series may be the spark to ignite local prestige television. I’m sure Globe Studios wants to make a big impact on the landscape. Buying the license of an IP that had generated international and local buzz is proof of their intention. The trailer they’ve released seems to be able to retain the film’s tone and grittiness. If the series becomes a success, local mainstream networks will take notice, see the viability of a prestige show and possibly invest on their own show.