The top 5 failures of Kenyan television shows
Back in college, I wrote a paper on Kenyan TV and the audience with the aim of analyzing audience’s perception of local content. The results were depressing – Kenyans don’t watch Kenyan programmes, not as much as they should anyway.
Over and over, blame has been hurled at local TV stations for their lack of ‘patriotism’ when it comes to airing local content. However, going by what show creators have been churning into the Kenyan market, they are partly to blame for this local content throttle.
You don’t need to be a genius; you certainly don’t need to be a TV critic to know that some of the local programmes aired on our local TV stations are crap. And audiences just hate crap.
It is the man with the pen who crafts a story. Now, depending on his creative edge, the script can either be a hit or miss.
Take an example of Tahidi High, one of the longest running shows in Kenya, a program that had so much potential in its maiden days but has since been reduced to mediocre plots of high school silly crushes and juvenile delinquency.
Another good example is Mother in Law where there is neither creativity nor freshness in plot execution. It is becoming blander and blander with every episode.
There are two reasons why a show is poorly written; one, the writer is an amateur, two, he or she is in a rush for plot continuity.
There is a reason why TV shows go for breaks, which seldom happens in Kenya. This is so that TV stations can analyze and evaluate audience response. Did they like the program, did they find it boring and why?
After analysis of ratings, the show creators are put to task (if their shows still have potential) to tighten and tweak their plots leaving no loopholes for cancellations. If they fail, they are axed. It is that brutal, that’s why we have good television.
Kenyan shows do not have the burden of cancellation on their backs, and perhaps such a criterion would make the writers bring their A game.
Make no mistake, dialogue can make or destroy a TV program. Sadly, this is a factor that some Kenyan TV writers don’t quite get. There is a reason why shows like Gilmore Girls have become a pop culture and are usually referenced when discussing best TV dialogues.
Any character who can pull off memorable quotes whether annoying, witty, wise, sarcastic is a show stealer even when he is not the protagonist in the story.
Your dialogue needs to have legs and walk, those lines we just want to memorize for later use. You know the kind we can quote to appear smarter or funnier than we actually are.
Some Kenyan shows have dialogue that sounds too rehearsed, artificial like it is being forced.
There has been a lot of debate as to whether it is the character development or the plot that is the most important element on television. No matter which side you take, these two are interdependent, without character development there is no plot and vice versa.
A 3 dimensional character is the most interesting character in any work of fiction because he brings more depth to the story. He is flawed, he is morally ambiguous and he always has the element of surprise even when you think you know him well.
Once again, this is where local content fail terribly. We are used to the 1 and 2 dimensional characters where what we see is what we get. It is character development that made the Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Lost and Dexter the successes they are today.
Have you ever watched Tatiana Maslany, James Spader or Kerry Washington in action? I am not trying to rain on anyone’s parade but surely some of our Kenyan actors/actresses need acting school training. Don’t you get pissed when you are watching a show and the actor makes it obvious that he is acting?
Some Kenyan actors just recite lines and wait for their turns to speak. If this were the case then by God, we’d all be actors.
I know extras have a minor role but some of those extras should be thoroughly coached on how to enter a scene and how to react. People watching do not need to know you are extras, just be part of a genuine crowd.
This is the point where I wish I were taking a swing at Nollywood, their extras are the worst in television history. But that is a story for another day.
I am sorry to say this but beauty isn’t acting, putting a pretty face on the screen in the hope that audiences will be pleased worked for me when I was a teenager. That said, those eye candy men and women are not just going to cut it unless they can actually act.
You know, the likes of Scandal’s Kerry Washington were gifted with beauty but she holds her end of the bargain by bringing her acting skills to the set.
Much of the dramatic effect is achieved in the acting stage under the vision of a good director. This effect however can be reinforced in the post-production stage. Editing is an invisible art and when done with creative precision, it can the dramatic effect sought after by every TV programme out there.
I am talking about soundtrack mixing to convey mood, shots like POVs that can build up drama, intercutting, the use of split screen, fast motion, montage e.tc. You don’t see much of these in our local shows.
The transitions are monotonous, sometimes our cutaways are irrelevant, and it makes you wonder why they even bothered. There is absolutely zilch attempt to build up dramatic effect in the editing stage.