MANILA — Nearly two weeks since ABS-CBN halted its entertainment productions due to the coronavirus pandemic, its flagship variety program "It's Showtime" went live Thursday through a virtual gathering of its hosts, in a defining image of the new normal of physical distancing.
"It's Showtime," which had been airing memorable episodes since the initial government lockdown of Metro Manila, held its first live episode sans a studio setup.
The setup, instead, was digital, with a dozen video call screens shown on television as the hosts streamed from their respective homes.
Vice Ganda mentioned they were on Zoom, the now-ubiquitous app that allows group video calls and which has similarly been used in other online entertainment efforts, like the ongoing "Bayanihan, Musikahan" concert series.
The hosts, plus director Bobet Vidanes, opened the Thursday episode by dancing and singing along to the "It's Showtime" theme song, as they usually do in the regular telecast.
"Maraming ways para magpasaya ng tao, that's why you're here," Vidanes said.
Unique segments included the "Corona Ba-Bye Na" dance challenge, where hosts and fans shared their take on the Vice Ganda choreography; as well as a battle of wits with the mainstays divided into two teams.
The latter game notably had participants improvising buzzer sounds with items at home to determine who would answer first.
Despite the physical distance, the hosts' fun-filled banter still translated to their virtual get-together. Vice Ganda, Vhong Navarro, and Jhong Hilario traded teasing remarks, while new mom Anne Curtis whispered her usual high-pitched greeting to avoid waking up her daughter Dahlia.
The online setup was not without hitches. Throughout the episode, Ryan Bang appeared to have connection problems, with delayed responses and choppy audio that became the target of a running joke.
The live portion comprised two hours of the Thursday telecast of "It's Showtime." Its last 30 minutes were dedicated to a re-run of "Tawag ng Tanghalan."
Before giving way to the singing competition, Vice Ganda announced that "It's Showtime" will continue holding live episodes via Zoom this week, as the program looks to carry on its mission of making people happy, especially amid a worldwide crisis.