Tilo ngwana Rashaka looks into the South African national soapies and suggests that no current soap opera in the country will, at least in the near future, dethrone Generations as the most watched daily leading soapie.
I’ve been self censoring myself for so long that today, Tuesday 22 October 2013 at exactly 09: 31 decided to break the silence.
For over a decade, Generations has been dubbed the powerhouse of the South African film and television industry. With over 8 millions daily viewers, Generations is certain it has South Africans and previously also Batswana viewers at its feet.
Let the truth be told, Generations is the leading South African daily soapie as far as the viewership is concerned. Like all the other soapies, Generations has had the best story lines that kept viewers on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next. The interesting thing that I’ve noted about Generations is that, when it sneezes, the rest of the country catches the cold.
The soapie has produced seasoned actors that are now the forces to be reckoned with in the industry. Actors like Rapulana Seiphemo, Connie Ferguson, Siyabonga Twala, Sello Maake ka Ncube, Seputla Sebogodi, Menzi Ngubane, Katlego Danke, Sophie Ndaba, Camilla Wildman, Leleti Khumalo and the list is endless are all the products of Generations.
But the question remains, is Generations that powerful as perceived to be? Personally, I would say it had its moments and now it’s losing its grip. The soap opera ran dozens of story lines that irritated the majority of South Africans who responded by threatening to stop watch the soapie, and even Generations‘ former actor, Mike Mvelase who played conservative Khaphela, also came out lashing at the soapie for some of its story lines labeling them “immoral”
Even though viewership rating may be great, that only cannot be analysed as suggesting that Generations is the best. There is no solid competition for Generation at 20:00, the idea of tuning into SABC 1 every mon-frid is already internalized in the minds of many people.
Only few ordinary South Africans can identify with the story lines. It’s starting to lean more towards the west, or is been like that for so long. At least the make-up, wardrobe and lighting departments, inter alia, are doing a great work.
Isidingo, wow, what a production. Let me set clear the record from the offset, I am not a fan of Isidingo and I have tried in more than one occasion to get to like the soapie but I failed. I just don’t feel it. I don’t think I’m its target market, I always excuse myself as saying.
I only watch Isidingo because I have to produce work for the newspaper that I work for, but other than that, I wouldn’t watch it in my free personal will. I started reading closely into the soapie last year in June amidst the hype of Mam’ Agnes and Bianca surrogacy story line and all the court case drama surrounding it.
But from the few episodes that I’ve watched, I must say Isidingo can be regarded as a number one leading production in South Africa. The production team is doing a very good job. Isidingo is immediate, cutting-edge and the script is well written and the directing is magnificently brilliant.
But then the question remains, if Isidingo is the best production as I argue, why is it not the leading, soapie, at least in terms of viewership, in the land ? I think there are many reasons behind that.
1. Competition: Isidingo is competing with e-tv’s Scandal for the same audience. Bear in mind that Scandal is also one of the best productions in the country. 2, patriarchal power: at 19:30 Zulu news that has substantial amount of viewership is playing on SABC 1 and news mainly appeal to grown up male audience who can dictate what to watch and what not. 3, station: SABC 3 is regarded as the SABC’s commercial station mainly targeting white minority. 4, target market and economics: Isidingo targets minority middle going to high class audience whose buying power is more advanced.
7de Laan, despite the soapie having English subtitles, I can’t speak Afrikaans and at least for now, I’m not interested in learning the language. Because of that, I don’t follow the soapie. I only know there’s Paula, Vanessa, Mr Mentjies, Maria, Aggie, Oubas and I forget his wife’s name. Those are the only characters that I know. The last time I checked Salamina joined the Soapie and following her untimely departure form Muvhango, Florence Masebe also appeared in 7 de Laan.
But despite that, I also hear 7 de Laan is the great production and from what I saw with the soapie winning numerous awards at SAFTA’s, I’m also convinced it is.
But 7 de Laan will never be the leading soapie in South Africans in terms of viewership. It targets white Afrikaans minority and although lately the producers have been trying to introduce black faces, it’s also competing with e-tv’s ever growing Rhythm City.
But in terms of winning awards, like it or not, that will always be its annual ritual, especially for public voting categories. Unlike all the soapies in the country, especially Muvhango, the LSM of 7 de Laan viewers is much highers hence voting with their R5 is not a pain in their necks.
Muvhango, is a public knowledge that the soapie is my number one favourite in South Africa but only because I can identify with the simplicity of the actors and I even share the same culture and rituals with some of the actors. That, according me, seeing my culture, beliefs, customs catered for excites me. Sepedi-pedi sa Khomotjo, Humbulani le Carol se nratisitse Muvhango go feta ntsu leo, go no swana le ge Kenneth Mashaba a be a kwetenkwetsa polelo ya badimo ba geso go tshwantshetso dikgao ya Generations. Ee, ke thokgola tseso!
On SABC 2, Muvhango is currently the leading production in terms of viewership. In the past, Muvhango has had the best story lines. You are more than welcome to differ but one story line that I think was, and still is the best in the South African television industry, is Doobsie-Thandaza drama. That one is unbeatable and even Muvhango thus far hasn’t produced something that surpass that story line by standard.
Other story lines that have really captured my attention was KK-Meme abuse. Just so that I mention, Tsholofelo Monedi is my number one favourite actress in South Africa alongside Zenade Mfenyane from Generations, and her departure from Muvhango has left a huge gap that even Chomee of Jaiva sexy fame cannot close.
Agnes’ domba ritual, Meiki’s departure, Lebo-Humbulani sister boss’ storyline was not only good but professionally portrayed, Mukwevho-Mokoena boradroom clashes among others were also good story lines.
But either way, Muvhango will be never capture viewership that surpass Generations‘ viewers by numbers, unless if they prove my prediction wrong and fix many technical issues that I’m not interested to go into. To tell the truth, Muvhango had its chances to be at the helm of the South African entertainment industry with Doobsie-Thandaza, Mashudu-Masindi-Cathrine and Doris taking on the Mukwevho’s story lines but blew it away.
The many gaps and cracks in between that include, inter alia, Thandaza renewing her hairstyle while in ICU was trending on social media, Vusi involved in a fatal car accident that saw Thandaza’s car written off and yet the next morning wake up and go to a new school that he started in October, barely three weeks before writing final matric exams, Sundani lying about Thonifho’s paternity and even when everything is out in the open, there’s was no meeting between the Sinthumule’s and Mukwevho’s to discuss the matter, Mulalo playing MC on his wedding day, Ranthumeng leaving without a proper send off, Busani, KK, Thuli, James, Agnes and Sizwe being the only executive staff members of MC, among others, need to be looked into. As a loyal fan, sometimes I feel cheated.
That’s the state of the South African soapies according to me. Generations‘ being the number one soapie in the land, even though Muvhango and Rhythm City are the only soapies in the country that can dethrone it but the said soapies played and continue playing around with their chances. Isidingo and 7de Laan are the best productions in the country but will never be on top of the helm as far as numbers are concerned.
Picture: Just Curious.