One hundred days in one hundred forty episodes

Three reasons why I decided to watch ABS-CBN's 100 Days to Heaven.

One, the main premise caught my attention, unusually for a local drama. By now you know the drill: a successful yet ruthless businesswoman is killed in a bomb explosion, and because of her many sins she is sent to hell. She begs for one more chance, and she is brought back to earth as a child. It's not an original concept, but it's not one that's done a lot on local television, like I'd know, because I don't watch a lot of local television.

Two, Coney Reyes plays that ruthless businesswoman. I wasn't really a big fan of hers - I remember Coney Reyes on Camera on Saturday afternoons, but only as a cue that Eat... Bulaga! is over. (Also, this opening sequence.) I thought I'd watch her act this time.

Three, I had something to review. Not that anybody would read, but, you know, I don't watch a lot of local television and I thought it'd be interesting to write about it.

That review never materialized. I was planning to give a show a week before deciding whether I'll stick with it or not. That one week ended up being two weeks, then three weeks, then... I was watching. It became something to look forward to, because it wasn't like most of the other soaps out there. (And it is on ABS-CBN. By rule, I never watch any of GMA's soaps because they're mostly trying so hard to be cool it looks bad.) The pitch was good. Xyriel Manabat was proving why she's infinitely better than Jillian Ward. And, also, the title itself suggests it won't drag on forever - something local soaps are guilty off. One hundred days, and that's it.

Of course, I knew the show won't last for 100 days flat. It's a hundred days within the universe of the show; the first episode was all about Anna Manalastas' back story, and the real hundred days didn't start until the next episode; and knowing local soaps and its penchant for melodrama, nobody would dare speed things up. But it started things off quite nicely. Jodi Sta. Maria's portrayal of con (wo)man Sophia Delgado was nuanced. It was also nice to see Smokey Manaloto again - I haven't seen him since Home Along da Riles ages ago - and it was interesting seeing Dominic Ochoa be someone other than the third party. In fact, the only thing that ruined the show for me, I think, was Jewel Mische's hysterical methods.

The problem came with my expectations. As the weeks passed by I slowly sucked my family into watching the show. We were enjoying it (and were being impressed by how Xyriel didn't sound like a smartass while playing back-on-earth Anna) and we looked forward to what will happen next. But me, I've been covering American television for a while now, so I can't help but predict how things will go for 100 Days to Heaven. Who had Anna killed? I said it's Miranda; I was correct. Is Jessica just pretending to be Anna's distant cousin? I said yes; apparently she isn't. Is Sophia Anna's long-lost daughter? I said, well, duh. And, well, duh.

Not that it detracted from my viewing. I knew some twists were coming but I always knew something else will happen. And most of the time they did. But then the show started to forget a few things and - as expected with every other local soap, but not this one - it dragged.

The pilot established Anna's back story, and most importantly, introduced us to some of the people who she aggrieved - the very people she has to go back to within those hundred days, the very people who she has to do right now. And those people have been people who she directly dealt with. Now, at one point, the show featured Maricar Reyes, as the daughter of a man who made a concept for a doll, tried to pitch it to Anna's company, and was promptly turned away - only for his concept to be used, and successfully at that. All he wanted was royalty payments - an unusually large amount - and he wasn't given that. So, daughter gets angry, especially after father gets injured in a house fire that she caused, because she was encouraged to play with electrical stuff because of what happened to him... yeah, I know, it's that tedious. And I haven't talked about how she pretended to be a ghost to avenge her father's bad luck.

The producers probably also found it tedious, so the story ended after half a week.

The idea was, Anna's little acts - the acts she thought were right before - had a ripple effect on many people. But that meant long flashback-based sequences explaining what happened before. And that dragged.

At one point it seemed the show was forgetting the "mythology" it established in the pilot with all these "cases  of the week" episodes. So where's the child Anna gave up? And then, in the middle of the series, they had these myth-heavy episodes: the reveal that Sophia is the child, the reveal that Miranda had Anna killed... those were exciting times. Movement! And then, we didn't hear anything about it (apart from Sophia and Anna's very-not-subtle conversations about mothers and daughters).

And then, as the series neared its end and the death count started to go up, the flashbacks appeared too often. So Sophia's little brother, Kevin, died of injuries sustained from an accident, complicated by this rare blood disease I never got the name of. Cue her, and us, remembering everything. Then Anna does the same. Andres does the same. Bruce does the same. Jopet does the same. Two episodes of flashbacks.

100 Days to Heaven ultimately fell victim to the syndrome afflicting almost all the local soaps: a heavy reliance on sentimentalism, the propensity to drag everything out to milk all the drama that can be milked, and of course, those out-of-nowhere makes-no-sense-at-all twists. Sophia entering this angry phase against Anna when she found out the truth about her identity? It was too much.

So, when it was announced that Xyriel will be appearing in a new Christmas-themed drama, Ikaw Ay Pag-Ibig, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, the show will be over. I knew the show will end on a happy note - Anna will succeed in her mission, she will reunite happily with Sophia, and she'll go up to heaven. Whatever happens in between becomes irrelevant at that point (not helped by the fact that the "next on..." segments spoiled a lot) and I kinda fast-forwarded my way through Friday night's (Lost-like, judging from the Tagabantay/Tagasundo face-off that felt like Jacob and The Man In Black) finale. Anna's up in heaven. Sophia sees an Anna look-a-like on earth. And then? It was a satisfying end, but only because we all saw it coming. And also because I saw Fatzi's face in the final end credits.

By that time we also got tired of watching the show. I, for one, can only speculate on what will happen for so much. It will get painfully obvious, and the show's frequent use of the theme song for every emotional moment was grating. ("Mahiwaga ang buhay ng tao...") But then again, we're in the upper middle class, we're a media-savvy family, and to boot, I watch American television for a living. We are not who this show is catering for. This show is not for people who are used to watching hour-long weekly series. This show is for people who don't change channels throughout the day. I took a chance watching it, and I was pretty happy with it, but it ended up being like all the rest. It could definitely be better. It must definitely be better.

Will I watch Ikaw Ay Pag-Ibig? I'm not sure. Watching 100 Days to Heaven got tiring in the end. Probably because I was thinking too much.

And your responses...

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