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Ali Sotto’s new TV show is a movable feast

By Nestor Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:18:00 04/09/2011

Filed Under: Television, Celebrities

MANILA, Philippines?It?s great to see Ali Sotto back in TV hosting harness again, after too many years spent living abroad with her hubby. Now that he?s retired, they?ve moved back here, hopefully for keeps?and definitely for good.

The first show to take smart advantage of Ali?s presence here is GMA 7?s weekday ?discussion? and ?street forum? program ?Starbox.? Despite its uninspired and rather limiting title, the show sustains viewers? attention, because it invites ?ordinary? people to share their views on a number of topical or trendy issues, like last Tuesday?s thematic question, ?How far should parents go in protecting and defending their errant children??

The show fairly sizzled?and bristled?because the Jason Ivler case is still in the news and the telecast savvily guested the controversial mom, Marlene, who added to the zing and spin of the proceedings by showing up in top feisty defending form, complete with tattoos across her arm, and assertively clad in zaftig shorts and thigh-high boots!

Well, you can imagine how that hit the Commonwealth Avenue crowd, who got unusually worked up and involved as Jason?s feisty, take-no-prisoners mom defend her protective actuations from questions and tirades hurled by ostensibly ?ordinary? onlookers.

Thank goodness, Ali was expertly able to keep the crowd in line and the discussion pretty much to the point. She also looked trim and great, by the way, so it looks like she and her new show (her cohost is radio?s Papa Jack, who has to work harder to keep up with her) will be around for quite a while.

It?s also instructive to note that ?Starbox? sometimes shares pretty much the same slot as TV5?s ?Face to Face,? another program that feeds off controversy and gets people fightin? and feudin? for ?more colorful? televiewing?s sake. So, how will the two shows fare vis-a-vis each other?

?Starbox? is less shrilly and nastily combative, so it does better. Its other big plus is its on-location, street-forum setting, which visually adds to its sense of electric energy and pertinence to how ?real? people think and feel about issues relevant to their daily lives and concerns.

In a sense, the new program comes off as local TV?s version of London?s Hyde Park or our own Plaza Miranda, where people are free to meet and express their opinions on a wide range of topics.

Even better, it?s a movable feast, with its location constantly in flux, so it could reach your corner of the Metro sky?and demographic pie?anytime soon.

It?s instructive to note that this ?street? element is becoming more popular on local TV. If memory serves, ?Eat Bulaga? started it with daily barangay-based forays into specific neighborhoods, to award prizes and other surprises to some lucky individuals.

That?s all to the good, because it liberates the TV ?box? from its usual, studio-based and thus boxed-in confines. Which is why the ?Starbox? title strikes us as not just derivative and rather flat and vague but also contradictory, because the show itself is definitely out of the box.

Dear GMA, think up a new and better program title. And watch the show really fly.

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