Top Five Reasons Pinoy Soaps Suck Compared to J-Drama

Japanese Drama Pinoy Soap Operas Telenovela GMA 7 ABS-CBN 2 Mulawin Encantadia Darna Marimar Zaido The Last Prince

Apologies in advance to all fans of Filipino telenovelas, but I personally cannot stand many of them >.> Whenever I happen to surf by one of them playing in our local channels, the urge to pitch the remote at the TV is dire and great.

As a result, I am reduced to viewing DVD boxed sets of Korean historical soaps and cable TV broadcasts of Japanese dramas. But in my defence, this irascible dislike of Pinoy soaps is not completely illogical: here are my five very concrete reasons for being massively disappointed with local drama shows.

Lack of Originality

Okay — I’d be the first to admit that J-drama isn’t all that original either, with many of them being adaptations of manga and anime shows. However, these anime and manga are original works by their authors, so that’s a point in their favor. This is not the case with many Filipino soaps, which are either rehashes of older Pinoy soaps, local adaptations of American and Mexican shows — and more recently of Japanese and Korean shows, or mash-ups of popular childrens books, novels, and comics.

Bad Pacing

Local soaps take too damn long to finish >.> Who can forget the excruciating seven years that it took to finally locate the diary revealing Mara Clara’s secrets?! I certainly can’t — I’ve been subjected to that drivel by various members of our household. A good story needs just ten to fifteen episodes to play out its entire plot. Some of my favorite J-drama spanned a single season (Kimi wa Petto, Strawberry on a Shortcake, and Kamisama Mou Sukoshi Dake), and they held my attention far longer than — say, overwrought “epics” like Darna, Kamandag, or Zaido.

Low Production Values

It is not like we cannot do it — look at the products of the Renaissance of Philippine drama: Mulawin, Encantadia, and Encantadia 2; they had gorgeous costumes, pretty decent set pieces and scenery work, and CG animation that wasn’t half-bad. The effort put into creating the show was good enough to get me to watch, and stick around until the very end — the same way that slicker Japanese productions do.

However, the recent slew of half-assed shows — like my current pet peeve The Last Prince, is making me doubt my initial sentiment that Philippine TV has risen to a new heights. Am I supposed to believe that bad prosthetic work, a clear disregard for details (since when were poor barrio girls traipsing around with false lashes and french-tipped manicures?!), and that stupid stupid stupid plot is an obra maestra of local television?! I don’t think so.


Hana Yori Dango was a teenage romance drama, Nurse no Oshigoto was an afternoon work-centric daily for older women, and Yoshitsune was an evening weekly for history buffs and Taiga drama fans. All these shows are exactly as described on the weekly television guides. But that is clearly not that case for our local soaps — many of the prime-time dramas are described as “family entertainment” by the networks who produce them, yet they feature partial nudity, physical and verbal abuse, and other visuals that are clearly not meant for the audience they are targeting :/

Too Many Advertisements

Have you ever noticed that it is only in the Philippines that you get an hour-long show with only thirty minutes of actual airtime, and the rest being eaten up by commercials? This is clearly not the case with Japanese and Korean shows, since they have ever so politely included an eye-catch before and after every commercial break. Philippine soaps on the other hand air four or five minutes of the show, and then cut directly to a fifteen-minute stretch of insipid shampoo commercials, annoying political ads, and unrealistic face cream “testimonies”. Gawd >.>

Okay, I am done. Thanks to my flatmate Rael and her sister Heidi for humouring me for this post. Now I need a glass of water and a place to lie down. All this ranting cannot be good for my health.

32 Comments Add yours

  1. Sese says:

    I Totally effing agree with you


  2. Cola says:

    True. Quality or the tightness of a story is certainly not their priority. The packaging aspect has been watered down to please everyone at the same time.
    I bet the makers know what they are doing, but are clearly too play-safe or micromanaged so no one dares to challenge it. Frankly, I find it condescending to the “masses.”

    Sadly, a very low standard has already been set and frequent viewers accept it.

    Money money money.


  3. jani says:

    I totally agree. Although some Japanese dramas I wished ran for a longer period of time. Even if the stories are sometimes far fetched, jdramas still tend to resonate with their culture and be true to them.

    K.I.S.S –>would work for our dramas. But then again, the people also need to have better tastes. The pinoy dramas only cater to how the pinoy public reacts to them and will keep creating them that way as long as they have viewers like that.


  4. seedsop says:

    I agree with your points there. One pet peeve of mine that I notice really with Philippine Soaps is the deteriorating quality of the show as the series wraps up. They start strong with a solid sounding plotline, great visuals including set and costumes. But as the show ends, the plotlines become really ridiculous and far fetched, seemingly rushed to finish subplots which are not entirely ready to finish just yet, and the sets and costumes start to look cheap as if no care was taken into providing quality. Not to mention the crappy editing with transitions between scenes that will make your head spin.

    Sometimes I feel as if the bigwigs in the Philippine Entertainment Industry settle with a mediocrity as long as it sells then it’s fine. And the thing is, we don’t even have to spend that much to produce a decent drama that is at least as decent as the ones in Japan and Korea.


    1. banagherlinks says:

      As long as the station can earn bucks knowing that the shows earn good ratings they will constantly add more episodes to the show which will eventually dilute and divert the story from the original plot. It’s more about earning money; not entertainment.


  5. Kat says:

    I stopped watching TV on a regular basis for nearly four years now. I only catch a few episodes when I visit friends and they follow what’s currently showing. It’s enough for me to know that I’m not missing out on anything.

    What seedsop said is true. A lot of the local sopas start off great, but as the series goes on, the story goes off tangent and often ends up with a truly unbelievable note.

    It makes me wonder if they (the groups who make these soaps) ever really think about the entirety of the story before they produce it, or they just think of a good premise and write the story as they go along?


  6. minamic says:

    I will now point people who ask me why I don’t watch Filipino teleseryes to this post. 😀


  7. Shabby says:

    I never really liked local soaps because I found them too baduy and unoriginal. Though I have to agree with you that in some of the fantasy-type series, they have done a good job in terms of costume and graphics which is most likely the biggest part of the reason/s why people watch those. 😛 Advertisements are what turns me off to watch in local channels. I believe you can watch a series or the news in 10 minutes without those commercials. ~_~


  8. Xine says:

    I have nothing against local drama but I never really bothered watching them. They’re quite unappealing and predictable I guess.

    JDorama FTW! Lol.


  9. Suzanne says:

    OMG, I totally agree with this post! Being subjected to 45 minutes of a teleserye makes me want to throw something (preferably at the TV).

    What seedsop said is true: the initial premise is great, but as the series goes along, it becomes forced. The writers seem to be plotting the story while it’s airing…

    I haven’t watched any teleseryes in years. I always apologize to whoever is with me when I am caught watching, because I always, always find some detail to rail against. Details are important (you’re right about the French manicured nails).

    Gah. Water, plox.


  10. Jewel says:

    I AGREE. Honestly, I can’t stand Filipino telenovelas as well. Though I usually resort to buying pirated DVDs to finish the story. And I refuse to watch tagalized J-Drama and K-Drama… I feel that they’re butchering the show. –;


  11. riacar says:

    Soaps are generally planned shorter now. Also, you’ve named the fantasy serials. The drama-dramas are stuff that you’re probably not very interested in and those are generally better than the fantasy series. They definitely have better points that the fantasy ones for sure. But I totally agree with packaging and advertisements. None of the shows can come out with a consistent airing time.

    To be honest, I’m also not a big fan of J-Dramas because I tend to get very affected. Perhaps I may be counted as a member of Filipino mainstream society in this regard. J-Doramas tend to affect me differently probably because they’re very good at the subtlety of feelings, which tends to make the feelings more real and painful.

    I count myself a fan of heavy-handed dramatic Filipino soap acting perhaps precisely because I can still distance myself easier from their emotions due to the OTTness of it all. NOT that I don’t appreciate a good J-Dorama, it just is my preference probably as someone who’s a bit more sensitive to what happens on screen.

    I get super mega-involved, and it takes so much out of me emotionally. I seriously seriously get exhausted. Dude, I was in HK and I was watching 14-year-old-Mother and it just KILLED me emotionally. Ang sakhet. Ang hirap hirap kalimutan ng ganung klaseng bigat kasi totoo siya. >_<

    Moving on — there's also, from a cultural perspective, that the Filipino dramatic and comedic culture tends to the more obvious as a whole. Our best and most commendable form of wit, IMHO, is from the gays and their lingo. You don't really find rapid-fire wit, REAL wittiness, otherwise.

    But I appreciate the quick-wittedness of it all because you can't find it anywhere else. Comedic sarcasm doesn't work with (Or sarcasm in general) is not something that is received well unless draped in the glitter trappings of gayness here in the Philippines.


  12. thanks ria for the longform comment 😀 people — myself included — tend to dismiss local fans as bakya and this intellectual analysis of the stereotypical pinoy drama is just what non-fans need to know to buck the trend. i mean, we can’t have a discussion with just one side of the story, right?


  13. Oberon says:

    I just sat through an episode of The Last Prince and felt like laughing the entire time. How can Filipino viewers take this stuff seriously at all? Better yet, how can Filipino directors and producers create this kind of crap and actually feel proud of half assed productions where attention to detail and common sense are thrown out of the window? I might not be a film school graduate, but I can definitely tell when it doesn’t make sense for these magical characters to be walking around in some jungle landscape with perfectly styled hair, immaculate if not overdone makeup, and ridiculously colored silk and rayon costumes that look like they came straight off of a rack?! I haven’t even gotten into the terrible acting which takes a back seat as long as the actor/actress is as light skinned as possible (even if artificially bleached) and as non-Filipino looking as possible. The directing and cinematography is uninspired and the music (when not directly ripped from American pop songs or movie soundtracks) is ponderous. I could go on for hours, but I’ve been struck dumb by laying eyes on the most ridiculous thing of all…

    …Paulo Ballesteros as some terrible Michael Jackson wannabe character… WTF?! How can you even justify this character in the plot?! That’s like including some weirdass Elvis Presley character in the middle of Lord of the Rings! Totally incongruous and dumb.

    This can’t be the best my homeland has to offer for TV drama, is it? While Japan has been said to never have any original ideas of their own but perfect already existing products and ideas, the Philippine entertainment industry does the opposite: take existing concepts or shows from elsewhere and mangle them into abominations for the undiscerning Philippine viewers. Unfortunately for them, the industry seems to think that all they have to do is play to the lower common denominator instead of aiming for world acclaim.


    1. oh lol oberon — i love your comment, thanks for making my weekend 😀


  14. Mikee says:

    Its not that I hate being noypi (I’m a Filipino-Japanese), but this topic is oh so true…but our local dramas especially the noon-time and prime-time dramas, it sucks like hell…I don’t know why most people still watch these dramas that is totally nonsense and boring and, and so on whatever you people should call it, but it really is that BAD, take example those fantaseryes that most people watch…where is realism of everyday life in that? Still our local dramas were bad, boring, unrealistic, don’t have a moral value (take the Panday Kids for example which most kids use to imitate and brawl other kids in school and streets).


  15. MasherX says:

    To be honest I’m not such a fan of modern asian shows but the philippines, is just pure mediocrity. Why is it that if it’s asian is almost always centered on cheesy romance and heartbreaks? I used to watch early japanese drama about Samurais and japanese emperors and wars, asian dramas focusing on mid ’80s to ’90s life, awesome heroes with heroic heart and barbaric brutality, that was good stuff. The earlier animes were total kickass as well, now it’s mostly a harem, a snore fest.
    Anyway philippine entertainment is mostly a spin off of many popular shows, movies, dramas, etc.. that was made a hit on both western and eastern viewers, ( not talking about how most of it sucked like twilight ) and think if some of it were bad enough, filipino spin off is left with no name.

    They also copy shows like SNL and big brother, but the reality is they don’t care about the show, as long as they’re watching the most popular or most good looking celebrities and/or rich folks, most filipinos are suckers for these and call it talent.


  16. Brixter says:

    They always stay on the safe zone. Repeat the process like its a mushroom thing.

    I don’t watch ABS-CBN nor GMA and even TV5 soaps because they all are crap.


  17. jimbo says:

    Pinoy drama sucks – everything sucks..


    1. So what’s your point?


  18. banagherlinks says:

    HELL RIGHT!!!! I’m kinda pissed off of how this pathetic shows are called drama series. I’m not a fan of drama series but I can still distinguish a well written plot…. Slow paced shits…. Redundant issues…. Damn…. The story goes like this: there’s a poor guy or girl meets the rich partner. They fell in love with other, there’s an obsessive third party who stop at nothing to screw their relationship; eventually they will get screwed but they will have a child a long lost child… Fuck that!!!! Those fucking writters don’t know what it means to research and add some good details. Those shits can never be compared to bloody monday, city hunter, CSI: new york, spartacus, prison break. Now that’s some good series to watch. Man this blowing off steam =P


  19. Jihnel says:

    The main problem is that the only type of shows they make are soap operas.


  20. Kuroneko says:

    Look at GMA’s poor adaptation of Zaido compared to Kamen Rider Kabuto. Philippines drama always have low quality story and production set. They always tend to be safe always using the missing daughter, corporations CEO who fell in love to a poor woman.

    And they always do tricky things. See for example the recent ABS Princess and I. They shoot in Korea and it aired for a couple of week (or rather one week?) then the production goes back to the Philippines and rented a mansion that looks a lot like those mansion in Korea.

    And the actors can’t even portray their roles. Take for example Daniel Padilla when he was about to descent in a mountain he doesn’t want to be injured so he fall awkwardly.



    1. Kyle says:

      Correction: Princess and I taped in Bhutan, a country near India. Bhutanese people are also Buddhists as Koreans are. However, they have a Tibetan culture (A hybrid mix of Chinese and Indian culture).


  21. Jed Relativo says:

    I’m an engineer, but also an aspiring author, hoping one that day my stories will raise the standards of these televised rubbish we call as teleserye. Honestly I’m tired of seeing those and I wish that some day our local networks will just stop airing them for everyone’s sake. And another thing, do you know teleseryes promote emotional weakness among Filipinos?


  22. LJ says:

    Philippine drama sucks because in the point of view of many Filipinos it sucks. Well for me they don’t suck coz they show the realities in the Philippines. They reflect how feudalistic and elitist the nature of our society is. Our dramas show how Filipino people handle and struggle against the very colonial rooted nature of our society. Well those who have agreed to the assertions of the arrogant and ignorant author of this post including the author himself are stinkier than the stinkiest fish coz you have no patriotism. I suggest you better study soc sci 10 first in UP Diliman before making a post like this next time. Ang hirap sa mga pinoy palaging ang pagbasa sa mga konteksto ng lahat ng anyo ng panitikan ay sa pananaw ng mga kolonyalista hindi sa pananaw ng mga kinolonya. Tignan mo na nga lang sa konteksto na lang ng pagbubuo ng bansa, palaging napagmumukhang masama sa masa ang mga komunista at laying tagapagtanggol ang amerika-pamahalaang imperyalista. Marahil magulat kayo sa layo ng aking halimbawa sa paisa subalit may maigting na koneksyon yan. Aral Aral muna ng soc sci 10 pag may time ha.


    1. Whoa, while I like your assertion that Filipinos should view their own culture from their own perspective more, I can’t see how making valid criticisms of Philippine drama makes you any less patriotic?

      Should Filipinos just blindly praise anything Filipino for the sake of patriotism? Even if a product (show) is of measurably bad quality? There are a number of things about the Philippines that I’m proud of, but pinoy soaps are not one of them.

      And btw, Magnetic Rose has probably taken SocSci at UPD.


    2. Five words: “I Am Dating A Gangster”.

      I rest my case.


    3. Kolokoy says:

      To be honest, a lot of Philippine shows suck because of actors that did not bother undergoing rigid acting workshop (GMA stars, for example) and low budget, recycled plot (ABSCBN, GMA, TV5).

      And I hate it when they add the barilan thing. I don’t think that is always a part of our Philippine culture. We are not the war-freak unless you live in the Southern part of Mindanao where most people Christians or Muslim sleep with a gun.


  23. Bumping up an old post — while I stopped being entertained by over-melodramatic telenovelas over a decade ago, they have one thing over J-doramas: the acting, while nothing to write home about, does not make me want to puke. 90+% of any J dorama I watch on TV has acting so painfully bad I can’t stand to watch it AT ALL. (It’s not like I’m picky about acting either. I never thought about the art of acting until I watched Japanese shows).

    Just, UGH.


  24. Jill says:

    Filipino dramas remain the same for the past fifty years. From the days of analogue technology to the digital format, Philippine TV promotes a culture of anti-intellectualism and complacency. The status of the Philippines as a Third World Country apparently reflects the need for day-to-day escapism. While people at times need something to watch that can give them temporary relief from their struggles, Philippine TV does not raise the moral, cultural and intellectual development of the society.

    The following are the problems of Philippine TV with Philippine Drama shows being the most notorious of all:

    1. The rich and poor are generalized. The rich are often portrayed are exploitative, manipulative and arrogant and if they are people with good intentions, they always suffer the misfortune of having their heirs stolen, with the heirs as always are raised by poor families with hearts of gold. This is often the premise of the story of the protagonist.

    2. The male and female protagonists, when their connection begins starts during childhood. They separate and then they meet again. Often, they suffer from as usual from the discord among their families and other antagonists (other male and female characters) or either way there’s the nice guy and the good girl who are supporting characters who would fall for the leading protagonists first until they decide to accept that they’re feelings will not be reciprocated.

    3. The villain or the antagonist does not get killed even if he or she has been hit by many bullets, burned, drowned or crashed by debris or struck by explosion. After several more episodes, the villain turns out to be alive and is back to make his or her evil plots. In Philippine TV, villains are invincible for as long as the producers want to keep the story running because of those high ratings. Time frame and proper sequencing of story development to make it believable is never, ever happening.

    4. Philippine drama, romance comedy and family-oriented TV shows are the staples but it is Philippine drama series that occupy the longest time slots. Dramas ran in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening with variety shows, game shows and news in-between. Our Asian neighbors also have their own staples of TV drama but their shows have wider combinations of genres in particular they have period dramas or historical dramas that promote their histories and cultures. (China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand) In the Philippines the settings are always between the mansions and buildings of the rich and the slums of the poor. The Middle-Class people are hardly present.

    5. Philippine drama series has no flesh-and-blood characters. With the stories following a rehash of the same formula, complexity and depth are absent. Babies getting stolen and switched at birth, long-suffering mothers and fathers whose kids get stolen or the wives cheated on by their husbands. Mistresses who do their never-ending schemes, fathers with two families, half-sisters who are after or are drawn to the same guy, the kidnapping, the amnesia, vehicular accidents to either kill the protagonist or what it is that destroys the villain. Rich matriarchs who reject the poor girls who are the love of life of their rich sons, the ugly female protagonists who are dark-skinned, cursed or born with deformities on their faces and on their limbs, the protagonist and her poor family goes to the city in search for a better life, the rich comes in and makes their life miserable, the husband who cheats returns and reconciles and last but not the least the expensive weddings of the protagonists.

    6. While this part was already mentioned in the article, indeed, Philippine TV shows are either recycled or remade. Major TV networks in the Philippines are notorious for repackaging the stories of TV series abroad. Producers took a lot from Mexico (Marimar, Rosalinda, Maria la del Barrio, La Usupadora- the plot of this story was similar to GMA’s Impostora), Korea (Baker King, Pure Love, Coffee Prince, Full House, Stairway to Heaven, My Girl, Lovers in Paris) Japan (Zaido) USA (Zorro- was adapted by GMA 7) being among the prime examples. Of course we remake and repeat our own shows. (Mara Clara, Pangako sa ‘yo, Gulong ng Palad, Darna, Dyesebel, Anna Liza, Flor de Luna, Mula sa Puso). Producers turn Filipino movies into TV shows and TV shows into movies. (Ang Probinsiyano (ABS CBN), Ang Utol kong Hoodlum, TV 5, Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara, ABS CBN, Panday, ABS-CBN). During my time, Mara Clara, that ran from the early to the mid 90s was also made into a movie and guess what it’s like watching a summary of the entire TV series. When RPN 9 aired Marimar into the prime time slot back in the 90s, ABS CBN made its move by transferring the time slot of Mara Clara from the afternoon bloc to the evening programs, thus the beginning of its dominant prime time viewing.

    7. Philippine TV in conclusion is for inducing arrested development. TV drama fans are quick to say that they relate to the characters and to the stories. Question is do Philippine TV series- the drama shows have flesh-and-blood characters? Is there an actual in-depth development of the characters? If they do, they are unique, unforgettable and most of all complex.

    And why is it that when a drama series comes up, the titles would either be the name of the female protagonist or a title of a song?

    In the end the usual reaction of die-hard TV drama fans would be:

    a. Don’t watch if you don’t like it.
    b. I watch because of _____________________________(insert name of the teen actress and the name of the love team)
    c. I can relate with the characters. (What characters? )
    d. It helps me forget my problems. (With all the shouting and face-slapping?)

    There’s something I would like to insert here. After watching Heneral Luna the reactions of some people in the audience resonate the effect of Philippine TV. The reason why I am mentioning this great historical movie is I relate this to the reactions of some people in the audiences who are sorry to say have been turned into dimwits. (Remember the girl who asked her boyfriend why Mabini was seated all the time? ) Point is, the massive overdoes of these degenerative characteristics of TV drama placed many Filipinos disconnected to the vital points of their individual and collective development. With no TV programs promoting our history, literature, science and culture or let alone be used as sources for creating innovative stories (e.g. period/historical dramas or series that relate to science e.g. CSI, Eureka, Bones), the TV networks enclosing their statements that they aim to improve the lives of the masses are all but lies.

    However there were few good shows: Santino, Honesto, Ning Ning, ABS CBN) Ilustrado (GMA 7) and those good old educational shows from ABS CBN (Math Tinik, Epol Apol, Sineskwela, Bayani, Hiraya Manawari, Art Jam) GMA 7 (Art Angel) but unfortunately, the major TV networks stuck again to their usual agenda.


  25. Raden A. Payas says:

    To express more emotions, local dramas should use pure Tagalog instead of Taglish. Taglish is always corny.. It is easier to see emotions in “Mahal na mahal kits” compared to “I love you very much”


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