The reality show taking over local television has been lamented often enough; what has gone unnoticed is how this has also brought upon us a set of faces and voices that have become television show hosts. Unlike their predecessors, these hosts are usually created from scratch – they’re not primarily actors or singers who have ended up hosting one variety show or another. Instead, they are groomed to become the “ideal” hosts for any given show, any given network. Ultimately allowing for the hosts to become symbols of not just the shows they hold together, but of the network they are part of.
Toni Gonzaga country
In recent years, ABS-CBN 2 has become Toni Gonzaga country – even when Gonzaga has consistently gotten bad reviews for her use of ungrammatical English, Filipino and Taglish, and the over the top, almost irritating, delivery of her spiels. For most of the year, Gonzaga’s on TV everyday for a reality show (Pinoy Big Brother and all its incarnations, as well as Pinoy Dream Academy), and on Saturday afternoons for showbiz talkshow Entertainment Live.
In all theseshows, Gonzaga holds things together as host – even when we are made to believe, as probably her co-hosts are, that everyone who holds a microphone is on equal footing. So while Mariel Rodriguez, Bianca Gonzales and Nikki Gil are usually in these shows with her, they are mere secondary hosts, doing pre-taped, usually negligible segments. Even with Luis Manzano (in PBB Teen Edition) and recently, Billy Crawford (in Pinoy Dream Academy), Gonzaga is allowed to man the fort as she controls spiels, and particularly with Crawford, practically carrying him and his awkward hosting skills through most of the show.
But Gonzaga isn’t just a reality/talk show host. On Sundays, she shares the stage with other ABS-CBN stars on variety show ASAP, where she also proves her singing and dancing chops. She’s also an actress with a string of movie hits, a singer with a couple of CDs to her name, and a concert performer. So while she seems to be the same as the rest of ‘em ABS-CBN stars who are expected to do everything, Gonzaga’s edge is that she actually really and truly does everything.
To the best of whatever abilities she has, even when limited, which apparently has paid off, if product endorsements are to be a measure of her credibility as celebrity.
The host as celebrity
This is the way Gonzaga has redefined what it means to be a successful host on contemporary television. The host may have always been celebrity, but Gonzaga pushed it further by becoming feed and fodder for everything else that goes with being actress and singer in this country: she revels in intrigues, bares all about her life and love, allows for a real quirky and silly self to be revealed through her shows – and once, even as a houseguest in Big Brother’s house.
It is here that one finds the Gonzaga may have redefined the notion of the host by selling not just her ability to keep people glued to their TV screens, but also by using her personality and person as that which sets her apart from the rest.
And so even when Nikki Gil can hold her own (she’s a MYX VJ after all), she seems to have something missing compared to Gonzaga. Because the latter shows that hosting isn’t just a skill anymore; it’s about everything else but that.
Next time: Beyond ABS-CBN