We weren’t around when Sharon Cuneta launched her new talk show on TV5, but we made up for lost time by catching it when we got back. As pluck and luck would have it, the telecast turned out to be a loquacious, bodacious lulu, featuring a long interview with Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who regaled televiewers with her feisty ripostes, colorful anecdotes, and signature sesquipedelian verbal flourishes—and skirmishes.
Sharon was delighted to see her sassy, brassy guest in top form, because it meant that viewers would keep watching her daily (4:30 p.m.) show from start to finish. To the program host’s credit, however, she gave as much as she took, and the sight and “zounds” of two celebrity icons in full synergistic and symbiotic froth, flair and flail made for a memorable viewing hour that the competition would be hard-put to match, let alone beat.
It was also good to see that the host had done her homework, citing highlights of her guest’s career, life and idiosyncratic persona, which Santiago acknowledged—and proceeded to verify and vivify with choice and tart examples, her unique way of talking and thinking.
On the debit side, the interview was sometimes too entertaining, briskly and efficiently going from one sure-fire audience-pleaser to the next, without sufficient connections being made for the whole hour-long exercise to leave viewers with an integral view of Santiago’s unique ethos and persona, beyond her “full-performance” feistiness.
The interview was also too much of an unstinting love fest, with Sharon focusing almost completely on the sweet and sassy side of her famously sweet-and-sour guest. As a result, the more informed and updated viewer was kept perpetually waiting and hoping for the contrary revelation that would make Santiago emerge as the multilayered and even occasionally contradictory public person she is—not to mention her private “secrets,” which were hardly touched on at all.
Happily, we did get some details about Santiago’s “surprising” interest in religion and spirituality, which has made her take formal theological studies at the graduate level. This is the “other” Miriam that we yearn to know and understand better, because the new insight leavens and provides a fresh and telling contrast and context to her all-too-predictable verbal bravura.
On Sharon’s part, we evinced a desire to interact insightfully with her guest of the day so that viewers could get vivid and telling “life lessons” from the exchange. She succeeded in this endeavor, apart from the occasional tendency to make the proceedings too giddily, frivolously “entertaining,” for TV ratings’ sake.
She should also learn to be less of a total fan of her interview subject, so a more balanced and distanced portrait can emerge.
To achieve this better, the program host should remind herself that her viewers’ welfare is more important than giving her guest a psychic massage by praising her to high heavens. With a few other tweaks here and there, Sharon’s new show should do just fine!