Thursday, June 26, 2014

After 'Gutz', cable channel to feature more Filipinos

(June 13, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“We think it’s going to be an enormous show here; from a production point of view, it’s a program that we’re very proud of,” said Christine Fellowes, Asia Pacific managing director of Universal Networks International, of E! Channel’s new reality show, “It Takes Gutz to be a Gutierrez.”

At 71 Gramercy in Makati City, an hour before the show’s launch recently, Fellowes told the Inquirer  that E! was growing “increasingly stronger” in Southeast Asia, hence the tapping of local content and talents.
When the Gutierrez family pitched the project to E!, she said, “We all felt the show would work really well for the channel’s values. They have great ambition and they’re very connected as a family. For us, it was an obvious fit.”

Fellowes noted: “E! is one of the most successful international cable channels in the Philippines because Filipinos love celebrities. They like the glamour, the fun and the aspirational side of Hollywood. We’ve had great success with ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians,’ and that [spawned] a number of spin-offs.”

Inspired by the Kardashians’ long-running reality series, “Gutz” likewise depicts “normal” situations that “humanize” celebrities, Fellowes explained. The Gutierrezes easily adjusted, she said, because of their individual show-biz experiences.

“I’ve met with the family as a group,” she recounted. “They all bring different things to the conversation. They’re accomplished businesspeople. They have a very long history with show business, and a very good eye for what will work on TV.”

Universal is slated to approve similar shows, Fellowes added. “There are [other] big personalities coming out of the Philippines and from across Asia, who have interests beyond their borders. We will definitely be doing more productions with local partners. We do E! News Asia, which covers celebrities and events around the region; we produce E! specials. Last year, we did one on Anne Curtis, which was fantastic for us. That was just as successful elsewhere in Asia. We have another special coming up later in the year from the Philippines. We’ll continue to do that type of production.”

Fellowes declined to comment on specifics of the budget, but emphasized that there was no scrimping involved. The Gutierrez family was followed by cameras while on a cruise around the region. “It’s a very high-production-value program. It’s up to the standards of our international and Hollywood programming. We felt that the cruise was an interesting idea… Putting them in a situation where they’re together on a boat could create some really interesting and dramatic adventures.”

Agreeing to appear on such a show also required the family members to be “more open” than they had been in the past. “You’re definitely going to see some things in the show that nobody knows,” she said. Indeed, for starters, actors Richard Gutierrez and Sarah Lahbati revealed in the initial episode on June 1 that they had become parents to a baby boy, Zion

The six-episode show will have a second season, it was recently confirmed by Gutierrez. The christening will be shown in one of the future episodes.

Another Universal channel, Diva, is again focusing on Asia, Fellowes said. “[We have a] continued investment in local production for Diva. ‘Supermodel Me’ was very successful. There will be a new season in November, with contestants from all around the region.”

Fellowes related that Universal has done a lot of research on women in Asia, and continues to gear specific shows based on relevant findings. “Filipino women like comedy and American programming more than [their counterparts in] any other part of Asia. Women here put a great [premium on] creativity. The research showed us that they have strong friendships and family ties. Such themes as overcoming adversity, looking after the family— Filipino women relate to them very strongly.”

(“It Takes Gutz to be a Gutierrez” airs Sundays, 9 p.m. on E!)

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