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[OPINION] Noontime rigodon

By ERIC CABAHUG Published Jun 20, 2023 10:33 pm

If somebody told me five or even three years ago that the day would come when It’s Showtime would be seen on a GMA channel and the Dabarkads would leave their home for the last 28 years and move to another station, I’d have pooh-poohed both as fantasy. But here we are, in June of the year of our Lord 2023, just a couple of weeks away from having that as an everyday reality. 

“With the new programming movements in TV5, we are sad to announce that It’s Showtime will no longer be seen on TV5 beginning 1 July 2023,” reads part of ABS-CBN’s statement, released June 20, about its 14-year-old noontime show that has been airing on the Kapatid channel for almost a year now—since July 16, 2022 to be exact. 

Those “movements” include TV5’s decision to move the show to an afternoon schedule in order to free its noontime slot for a “new” program reportedly called This Is EAT!.

That’s Eat for Eat Bulaga!, the even longer-running show starring Tito, Vic, and Joey. While the noontime show continues to air with the same title on the Kapuso network, sans TVJ and the Dabarkads, the entire original production team is no longer the same Eat Bulaga! that viewers “mula Aparri hanggang Jolo” have tuned into daily since its transfer to GMA from ABS-CBN in 1995. When TVJ's new show starts airing on July 1 on the Kapatid network, it will be a month shy of Eat Bulaga’s 44th anniversary, having premiered on the now defunct RPN-9 on July 30, 1979 (anyone who feels it’s been around longer would be forgiven). 

Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey De Leon announced they are parting ways with TAPE, Inc. on May 31.

But don’t cry for Vice and the rest of the Showtime gang. They’re only saying goodbye to TV5—the show will continue to air on its original noontime slot on A2Z, Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, iWantTFC, and TFC, and its total outlet count will remain at six when it debuts on its new home, GMA’s GTV Channel, on July 1. 

“G na G na tayo, Madlang Pipol!” the ABS-CBN statement enthuses. For its part, GMA announced the development in its social media pages with artcards that echo another iconic Showtime line: “Madlang Pipol, let’s make some noise!”

It's Showtime hosts

Haven’t heard of GTV? You’re not alone—neither have I. But apparently, many people have. According to the Nielsen TV Audience Measurement data in 2022, GMA’s second free-to-air channel has “sustained its lead over counterparts TV5, A2Z, and Kapamilya Channel. GTV logged people audience share of 10.5% in total Philippines against its closest rival TV5, which got 9.8%.”

This data makes this already colorful and eventful rigodon of noontime shows even more interesting and exciting. If Google’s numbers hold, Showtime’s exit from TV5 might even be a boon to the show as it plays to an even bigger audience alongside its loyal viewers (carried over from its 13 years on ABS-CBN and one year on TV5). What’s unsure is how much of Eat Bulaga!’s devoted crowd will follow TVJ and the Dabarkads’ move to the network owned by Manny Pangilinan. 

In any case, the clear winner in all this is GMA. Sure, the network “lost” several big names including Maine Mendoza from its roster of stars with the original Eat Bulaga! cast’s departure. But Showtime’s entry, as the latest in a growing list of partnerships with erstwhile rival ABS-CBN, adds a bigger constellation of certified superstars to the Kapuso fold. Now, it will no longer be a shocker if someday soon Vice Ganda makes an appearance in Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho or Anne Curtis makes her debut in Magpakailanman

Also, business-wise, GMA did not lose anything. It continues to earn from its long-standing block time contract with the producer of Eat Bulaga!, TAPE Inc. And even if TAPE one day decides to pull the plug on the show and end the deal—due to low ratings and lack of enough advertisers to sustain production costs—the network can then offer the slot to ABS-CBN and potentially finally bring Showtime back to the prime channel where it originated from. 

Eat Bulaga! introduced new hosts on June 5 following TVJ's departure from TAPE, Inc.

With its rival’s powers and reach significantly clipped, GMA continues to face considerable challenges, not least of which is the turning of the tide of audience preferences away from free TV and more into online streaming. The network did not necessarily absorb ABS-CBN’s audience after the network's shutdown in 2020—the landmark “event” only hastened people’s move to the digital platform that started as early as five years or so ago. 

Are we in for even more musical chairs of this sort in the coming months or years? A Coco Martin FPJ teleserye playing on primetime GMA perhaps? Now we know better than to pooh-pooh anything of the sort.