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Loud, livid welcome for ‘Darna’s’ return

By Nestor Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:42:00 08/14/2009

Filed Under: Television, Entertainment (general)

MANILA, Philippines?The big deal on TV this week is the start of the umpteenth ?Darna? production on GMA-7, with Marian Rivera in the title role. We caught the show?s first telecasts and found them rather loud and livid as they set the stage for Marian?s first appearance as Narda/Darna. We trust that this initial over-the-top approach will soon settle down once the new series has made its big-deal impact on viewers.


Particularly loud in the initial telecasts were the characters played by Kier Legaspi and Odette Khan, who screamed and chewed up the scenery in rather alarming ways. Do local viewers really like this shrill presentational style? We understand the superficial turn-on of flashy melodrama and black-and-white characters and situations, but rue the fact that they oversimplify things and steal the scene from more significant elements like motivation, conflict, rising action and climax.

Of course, some viewers couldn?t care less about such refinements. All they want is their nightly fix of easy-to-follow situations and cliffhanger endings that entice them to keep watching each day?s installments, ad infinitum or nauseam, as the case may be.

Others, however want more meat and logic to the TV dramas they watch, so we trust that our production people keep their more exacting preferences in mind, as well. We do want our viewers? taste to improve in time, don?t we?

In any case, the arrival of ?Darna? has made the competition jazz up its own act, to prevent the new series from completely dominating the ratings. That?s why, on ?May Bukas Pa,? the latest subplot is unusually strong, fielding not just Vhong Navarro, but no less than comedy king, Dolphy, as well. Now, if that isn?t bringing out ABS-CBN?s big artillery, we don?t know what is.

The channel?s extra efforts are merited, because ?May Bukas Pa? has been its ratings leader for many months. If ?Darna? ends up routing it in a major way, it will send out the ?wrong? message that could affect the rest of ABS-CBN?s evening programming, as well.


As for the new ?Darna? series itself, its first few telecasts have focused on the heroine?s oppressed childhood, her close friendship with an orphan boy, and her complex relationship with a snake-girl who later grows up into Darna?s arch-enemy, Valentina.

Most of the first telecasts have been par for the loud and livid teleserye scene, but two performances stand out because they?re ?different.? The first is Janice de Belen?s portrayal of Consuelo, the mother of Valentina. De Belen?s characterization is outstanding, because it?s deeply felt, while not being over-the-top.

Being a good actress, she?s able to ?go melodramatic? while still making her character believable and empathetic. This is what many of the show?s talents can?t manage, because they concentrate on over-the-top flourishes that are too shrill and silly for words.

The other interesting performance thus far is turned in by Iwa Moto as Valentina. With some help from creative scripting, her character is more tragic and conflicted than past versions of the story had it.


This time around, Valentina?s terrible secret initially pains her rather than turns her into a vengeful monster, and the ostracism she suffers adds enormously to her loneliness and grief, which are alleviated only by her only friend, Narda.

Of course, the ironic twist to all this is that Narda will eventually morph into superheroine Darna, with whom Valentina must fight to the death.

What about lead star, Marian Rivera, how does she fare as Narda/Darna? As of last Thursday, nothing much was forthcoming from her as Narda, whom she played with standard niceness and good cheer. However, we expect things to heat up once Marian becomes Darna, because she has the curves and moxie for the role. Let?s hope she doesn?t disappoint.

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