My MVP Winner Luis Palaganas (left), Finalist Adrian Pellejera (right), with guru Alex Compton
Quick, name the current reality show with the largest cast of crushable manly men! If you said Survivor Philippines or Pinoy Fear Factor, you're wrong. My MVP: Most Valuable Pinoy, on the revamped TV5 network, is a search for the next basketball superstar in the Philippines, and boy, does it have a lot of men. The show began with hundreds of applicants, whittled down to a top 25 for training camp, then to a final team of 12. The hosts are Bayani Agbayani and Jason Webb, with Norman Black and other coaches playing key mentor roles. The first episodes capitalized on the comedy factor of not-hot, typically unathletic wannabes, but also showed some undeniably cute players. Choice personalities got mini-features on their life stories, and, at its most touching and human, My MVP plays like Hoop Dreams for an entire nation. It's hard not to root for all the Filipino men taking a chance -- for some, a second chance -- at pro glory. Now, that's what I call a reality contest.
Too bad the show doesn't seem to be aware of its sexy potential. There's a fly-on-the-wall journalistic approach to coverage that makes it look like news footage. It lacks the clean elegance and jolty sensationalism that can make people ogle and swoon at the exciting events and personalities, which is what the most addictive game shows offer. Like sitting on upper box B, you'd have to squint and keep from blinking to relish the muscles and sweat.
The one advantage of buying an established international franchise like Survivor is that the format has already been perfected. With shifty focus and too-loose story editing, My MVP is a sometimes messy viewing experience. I even forget what the guys are playing for, and what the rules are exactly. I didn't even know this week's challenge against PBA veterans was to be the last episode. (The show bows this week.) I should have promoted this show earlier, with this unsolicited advice: If My MVP stepped up to woo a gay audience plus women who are only into the game because of the boys, we would have new basketball idols right now with obsessive following. Hey, there were at least a couple of homoerotic jokes thrown by the boys during the show's run, and we all know sports is gay anyway. Let's hope for a second season.