WHY SANTALAL’S PILOT WAS A FAILURE
For everyone who had to sit through the entire premiere episode of Citizen TV’s highly publicized Santalal, allow me to share your pain. As a member of the audience, I’m allowed to have expectations. Scratch that, let me go the revolution way of airing complaints: IT IS MY RIGHT TO HAVE EXPECTATIONS whenever a new show comes up. And on the part of the show creators, writers, actors, DOPs, these expectations have to be fulfilled. I don’t ask for much, only that you dazzle me with your oozing creativity, and maybe just a little vanity.
But Santalal was wrong in so many levels, my expectations were squashed in the first five minutes into the show. I’ve been known to have the patience of a ticking time bomb, five minutes is even longer for me but I decided to play ball. I waited and waited for my hook, something that could grab my attention, even remotely, make me care about this show to want to watch it again. But nothing. Thirty minutes is a long time not to deliver. As a protagonist, Santalal didn’t even leave a mark on my mind. She didn’t evoke anything, not even sympathy after being dropped off in an ASAL region.
Yes, I get it that they were establishing the story, introducing their characters one by one. I believe that there is a way this can be done without boring us to death. I even get it that there are some shows which start off with really bad pilots and evolve into masterpieces. If Santalal can pull this off, I will personally call Gerald Langiri, swallow my pride and ask for an autograph. Be a patriot now, follow this link http://amvcaawards.dstv.com/ and vote for him. He’s been nominated for Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award, Best Actor in a Comedy Category (it is time to dethrone Nigeria).
Back to the matter at hand, the pilot is the most important episode of a show because it will determine so many things. First, it determines the longevity of the show, sadly not in our case because some bad shows have been on air since the 2000s and there is nothing we can do about it. The pilot also determines the number of audience the show will sustain thereafter. Audience is king, but in a country like Kenya the audience is often taken for a ride. That is why our broadcasters push mediocre shows down our throats.
If I could master enough courage, I’d be waving some placards in the street corner and demand to be taken seriously as a member of the audience. The Constitution might call this incitement but don’t mind me, it’s the consequences of too much caffeine coalescing with repressed rebelliousness. It wears off in the morning.
All I’m saying is when introducing a new show tread carefully fellas. You don’t want skeptical people like me writing bad reviews about your ‘creative breakthroughs’ in the middle of the night. The pilot is a selling tool, to broadcasters, to the audience which ultimately relates to the money machine – the advertisers.
A good pilot opens the door to brighter things to come. A fairly good one allows us an opportunity to at least peek through the window. An average one leaves us at the gate to walk the rest of the way and get to the door. But this one never even got us closer to any doors or windows. No white picket fence to peep over. Like Santalal, we were dropped off in a dusty, deserted bus stop. But unlike her, we were not picked up by a ‘not so good uncle,’ instead we were left waiting, and time just passed by until we saw the fading credits. I felt cheated, a rip-off of my precious time.
I can’t believe I held off going to the bathroom for this show, a priviledge only accorded shows like The Good Wife, How to Get Away with Murder, Friends, OITNB, Orphan Black, Mad Men, Homeland, Arrow If the writers don’t tighten the plot, even Nollywood ace Desmond Elliot won’t be able to save this one.