The Demise of Egyptian Television


Image from ScoopEmpire

Ramadan is just around the corner and that means people are getting ready to watch everything during the first few days in hopes of filtering out what they are going to continue watching for the rest of the month. Year after year, all the big channels are slated with shows that attempt to garner as much viewership as possible; with big stars just sitting back and wondering what their next project could be, and the up and coming actors and actresses hoping to stand out in order to guarantee more work. This leaves us, the audience, in the debris of what production companies call ‘their best work.’

Image from Al Bawaba

Looking at the shows set for this year and thinking about the shows that have appeared throughout the last few years, one cannot help but feel a sense of defeatism. Actors, writers, directors and producers have gone from supplying audiences with top notch television to adhering to the whimsical demands of an audience that has been plagued by the Mohamed Ramadans and Amir Kararas of the world.

We stay up and watch as these men and women take to the screen to perform the words and ideas of seemingly adolescent writers. The issue at hand is a systemic one and not one of talent, capabilities, or even resources. Every year numbers are leaked claiming so and so actor took home millions for their role and then upon watching them perform, we question our sanity and that of those around us.

Shows, especially Ramadan shows, are built around a cult of personality; the idolizing of men and women based on trends and popular opinion. So these shows succeed, they get their record breaking viewership and the money they wanted from commercials and that’s it, no need to think about it more than that.

Later on in the year we question why none of our productions were recognized globally, whether in film or in television. How come none of our 32 Foreign Film submissions to the Oscars have come to fruition?

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The issue at hand is that those in control of the means of production are not producers but businessmen (yes, usually men). They are not concerned with art or standards or content, they are merely concerned with their bottom line; their return on investment, which is understandable from a purely business point of view. So they hire writers who write what people want to hear, not what they want to say. They hire directors who can adhere to a tight and rigorous schedule and they hire actors who have enough star power to attract viewers. So it becomes Yehia El Fakharany’s show as opposed to a production on its own.

Every Ramadan one could rely on Adel Imam to appear in a hackneyed and clichéd show filled with predatory humor and a role that is not in tune with the actor’s age. We idolize the likes of Mohamed Ramadan, a man with many skills (although acting does not seem to be on the top of the list) as he rampages through cities, villages and towns to exact revenge and violence on those who are seemingly less righteous than him.

Image from Eye of Riyadh

It has gotten to a point where the cult of personality has reached a stage that people already have predisposed opinions. Nelly Karim is great, she’s always great, did you see her in whatever? Yes, she is a good actress and has on occasion delivered powerful moments within her roles, but it has gotten to a point where if she stars in a Kleenex commercial people would want her to get an award for blowing her nose on television.

This is not an evisceration of actors who are talented, this is an evisceration of our single minded opinion; our adherence to what we believe people think is good and us following in suit. If one is to look around the world, not even to Hollywood or British television but to our neighbors, we would notice that we are behind and we are unaware of it.

So this Ramadan, as you turn on your television to watch a new show and hope for some action and interesting plot twists, take a second and actually look at what it is you are watching and I guarantee you the first thing that will come to your mind is: “What is this? I don’t understand what this is.”

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