“When you ask them the reason for their dislike, they usually do not have much to say. Why? Because they actually haven’t seen them. They form their opinions mostly on hearsay, and on the fact that the day they wanted to watch Bayern versus Barca, their sisters, mothers and wives would not let them, because they were engrossed in My Herat Beats For Lola.”
I don’t take people who dislike Telemundo seriously. When you ask them the reason for their dislike, they usually do not have much to say. Why? Because they actually haven’t seen them. They form their opinions mostly on hearsay, and on the fact that the day they wanted to watch Bayern versus Barca, their sisters, mothers and wives were engrossed in My Heart Beats for Lola Volcan and would not let them near the remote control. They got heartbroken and have held that grudge like a jilted lover. So they come online and talk about how useless Telemundo is, and how it diminishes the IQ. Oh please.
See, I can understand anyone’s hatred for Zee World. The actors are too extra: they cry in slow motion. They stand in their living rooms, rendering chairs dormant and unfulfilled, and they are always decked in shiny over-the-top jewelry, even when they are in bed. This isn’t to say they do not tell good stories, but the stories are usually so unnecessarily slow our eyelashes grow grey on them. Some of their stories also seem to tell too much for too long. You start out watching an Anjali from when she was eight, then you watch and watch and watch some more. Anjali is still eight at the thirtieth episode, but they have only just begun. The series, however, is still going to show her life history till she hits forty in thirty episodes per year. And it doesn’t matter if the actors get bored; they are willing to replace them mid-series to get their story to the permanent site. I like to think Zee World is teaching its viewers patience.
But in Telemundo, their stories are never that slow. Their acting is usually so realistic you wonder what film schools they went to. From crime to romance to mystery to drama, they touch every theme and tell their stories in fun doses, one per day, with many repeat episodes in case you were too busy living to catch the first. When they pair their lead couples, they are conscious of chemistry, and would never sacrifice it for sentiments or big names. Their love is believable, their fear, happiness, and sorrow is too. Telemundo goes all out; they don’t hold back. If you doubt me, go and watch Iron Rose aka La Dona, or Under the Same Sky, and see storylines that will make you shiver in suspense.
Let’s come home for a bit. What Nigerian series do we have? I remember that back then in the nineties, we would sit in front of the telly on Sundays to watch Beyond Our Dreams, and on Thursdays to watch After the Storm, but we sat every day to watch Maria De Los Angeles and I still remember that story to this day as opposed to that of its Nigerian counterparts. There are many reasons for this, some of which I already explained.
For one, we Nigerians are so miserly (read lazy) with our stories. We cannot afford to show episodes per day. Even on the days we air one hour shows, thirty minutes of the time is spent on Ariel and Dettol and Close Up adverts. Remember Super Story? It was the closest we came to committed following of a Nigerian series. But what we got, really, was thirty minutes of adverts and twenty-five minutes of the episode, and then we had to wait till the following week to continue where we stopped.
Secondly, Nigerian television hardly put our power situation into consideration. Of course, Nigeria still experiences power issues in 2017. Some places go on for months without power. In fifty-seven years, we haven’t been able to wean ourselves of the “Up Nepa” screams that accompany a flickering bulb after days of darkness. But our tv series don’t care. They show once a week at a particular time, and never show again. And if you miss it that one time, just say adios, mourn and move on with your life. Even the ones that manage to show daily, show only at certain times of the day. So, if I work from 8am to 8pm, I can never follow a series that shows at 6pm, unless I want to lose my job and go hungry.
I also think the stories of a place should greatly reflect the lives of the people. And so you have the rich and the poor in a telenovela, you have the sick and well, the love-struck and hard-hearted, the influential and the criminal. I was telling a friend the other day how there is always a prison and a wedding in every telenovela. Predictable, yes, but true-to-life. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many a Nigerian soap. It mostly focuses on the rich or the poor (hardly the poor). You find people in fancy houses with well-made-up faces and alien accents, as if they would suffer a stroke if we spoke like Nigerians. The Nigerian soap rarely reflects the real experiences of the Nigerian people, and so the latter cannot connect to the former. This is why they producers opt for outlandish stories, because the ones who should tell our stories do not tell them well.
I think Telemundo deserves more credit than we give it. I have seen four different telenovelas recently, and I applaud how they weave so many stories into one without losing authenticity. I like to think Nigerian soaps can learn a thing or two from their art. We can’t claim their shows reduce IQ when ours offer neither pleasure nor intelligence. At least, pick one. And if after this you still don’t think you should pay more attention to the Mexican magic, I can only pray that your wives, mothers, and daughters spend more time keeping you away from the football—or movie, or Game of Thrones—you love.
Are Nigerian television shows ever going to surpass the charm of Telemundo?