Better written series on Mzansi Magic in 2018

I read in sadness the other day on social media, a prominent local scriptwriter (and I guess creator/producer) boasting about having conceptualised a series in three days and I knew the end is nowhere near for mediocrity in SA television. 

It is safe to say Mzansi Magic has now taken over as the pinnacle platform for black content for South Africa, sorry SABC 1. While the SABC still boasts the largest number of television audience, Mzansi Magic is the culture now. Much like twitter, which statistically represents a drop in an ocean even in social media standards given that Facebook has almost twice its user numbers, the platform is the force that influences popular culture.

If it trends, it is covered by the media and it is a thing! 

As we all look to Mzansi Magic to keep shining the light on black content, we have also seemingly surrendered to the acceptance that quality and excellence has now become secondary. In our instant gratification culture that demands something new in a speed that leaves one with no discernible room to appreciate workmanship, we are slowly killing the art of story-telling. 

Our writers are looking for cheap laughs and meme worthy moments instead of being true to the story. 

Take, Ferguson Films' latest offering on the channel, The Imposter. That series is bad. The story is ill-conceived and comes across as a rushed mess that makes no sense. Ferguson Film team is clearly packed with competent people, iGazi, The Queen and Rockville prove that. However, in the haste to feed the monster of more, more, more ... they have let the standard drop. 

I could (and have) write a whole essay about how local scriptwriters should stop writing for Twitter or that even good shows are getting too trite that the script exists merely to set up the next trending moment…but who cares, right?

At this point, Mzansi Magic knows who their audience is and likely not trying to set some standard of excellence for black content. They are meeting the quota and pulling the viewers. That's what matters, right? 

WRONG. 

The problem is that we are now rewarding this mediocrity with not just media coverage because they trend but with awards. 

Whatever.

Maybe I am exposed to too much... maybe I am expecting too much. 

I mean, I watch a lot of international content and somehow expect out local content to measure up. Perhaps sometimes, unfairly so given the resource disparities. 

But then I am reminded, we are a country that produced shows like Home Affairs, iSthunzi, Society, Heist and Harvest — these are shows that could very easily take on Queen Sugar, How to Getaway With Murder, etc in a screen writing competition any day. 

We have the talent. We have the stories. We just get caught up in hype too easily and loose our sense of striving for excellence too readily. 

Let's hope 2018 will bring a new crop of local television series that are about artistic merit and less social media bait. 




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