Mar 5, 2017

[Pink Culture] Hanging Out: Season 1 (Team Magazine)

Hanging Out holds that special place in local LGBT history as being the first Filipino LGBT web series. We've already had a few TV shows like My Husband's Lover and others but  this is the first venture into web entertainment.

Across 6 episodes, the team behind the show (which is coincidentally Team Magazine and the Blued app) set about to tell what they call a "post-coming out" narrative. And they do have a point - most local entertainment efforts to tackle LGBT stories tend to focus on the stress of being in the closet and dealing with the fallout that comes with coming out.

And while rough around the edges, the show certainly has a lot of heart and tries to accomplish a lot within a very limited time frame.

Synopsis: Hanging Out is a Filipino LGBT web series produced by Team Magazine and Blued and created by Petersen Vargas & Patrick Valencia. The 6-episode series is available on both YouTube and Facebook.

The show starts with David (Paulito Del Mundo) showing up at the wrong address for a Grindr hook-up. Instead of the hot torso he was probably talking to, he walks into the surprise birthday party for Adrian (Jox Gonzales) by his group of friends. As the friends were expecting Adrian to show up with a new date none of them had met yet, the case of mistaken identity manages to slip by for it to be too late for David to get out.

But one thing leads to another and David is made to stay for dinner and eventually for drinks after. Adrian's actual date ends up leaving early and it's clear that Adrian's friends feel that David is a better match for him. There's some interest in one another between Adrian and David as well but whether or not they become an item is but one of the stories of the series as a whole.

What I Liked: The barakada narrative is definitely the more interesting aspect of the series as a greater part of the season focuses on how David slowly integrates into the group. This gives the opportunity for various characters to get more of a spotlight in each episode as contrasted against David and to some extent the will-they-or-won't-they progression of the not quite relationship between David and Adrian.

Another interesting move was to open up the show to different writers across different episodes. While this doesn't do much for an overall sense of progress for the romance meta-plot path, it does make for some great almost standalone stories that work pretty well. The two episodes that stand out in this regard are episodes 3 and 4. "Go-To Guys" as written by Jade Francis Castro shows us how Fidel (as played by very gay J.P. Mercado) is one of the world's best straight guys for a gay guy like David to have as a friend. "Coming Close" as written by Petersen Vargas feels totally separate from the rest of the episodes but it also acts as one of the best depictions of HIV testing I've seen in local entertainment. So there are definitely some great stories in this show and I kind of wish they had gone for a more anthology format with episode framed as a short film-like standalone story.

What Could Have Been Better: The show as a whole felt oddly rushed and signs would indicate that planning could have been better. The barkada angle was but one part of the overall direction for the show and it could never fully juggle those stories, the romance angle and the occasional effort to be somewhat more SOGIE-relevant within its six 12+ minute episodes. Clearly the team had some big TV-level aspirations and ambitions for the show that simply couldn't be realized with their budget and the limitations of their show format. Throw in habit of weird camera angles or unnecessary cuts within a scenes and you get some rather shaky bits in the filming.

And while it's understandable that the actors were all new and thus would not be the best performers around, the casting of David still sort of befuddles me beyond he has a likeable face for most viewers. He had the most screen time and some of the most important dialog in the show and yet he wasn't able to give the words justice most of the time. He had some endearing moments without dialog but for the speaking bits he seemed to lack impact and any real chemistry with Adrian. Little things like this hurt the show in the long term as his often flat delivery of lines distracted me from what they were trying to say.

TL;DR: As the first Filipino LGBT TV series, Hanging Out was never guaranteed to be the best but at least they tried really hard and manage to see things through to the end of the season. I hope that future seasons (should funding be secured) figure out a better focus for the show's narrative and character development is spread out a bit more evenly. Thus the first somewhat disparate season gets a good 3.5.

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