Friday, May 15, 2015

MASSIVE MILESTONE. Legendary producer George Mazarakis marks 20 years as executive producer of Carte Blanche on M-Net.

Carte Blanche on Sundays at 19:00 on M-Net celebrates an utterly massive milestone today: it is exactly 20 years today that the legendary producer George Mazarakis has been the showrunner as executive producer of the long running weekly investigative magazine show.

In the whole of South Africa's TV industry George Mazarakis' achievement is unparalled, sharing the remarkable honour with only one other person - Patience Stevens of Tswelopele Productions who've been steering the SABC's popular weekly glamorous lifestyle magazine show Top Billing on SABC3 for 23 years now as executive producer since 1992.

Besides George Mazarakis and Patience Stevens who've both surpassed two decades as the same executive producer still working on their respective weekly hour long shows, nobody else in all of South African television can claim the same daunting feat - made even more remarkable given the mercurial nature of channel line-ups and whims of broadcasters where local TV shows are annually commissioned and cancelled a dime a dozen.

Carte Blanche will celebrate its 27th anniversary in September on M-Net, with George Mazarakis who've deftly steered it for 20 of those years as M-Net's flagship show.

Carte Blanche, produced by Combined Artistic Productions, has not only maintained its true Sunday night appointment television cache over the past decades but has perennially remained the most watched show and most watched local show on M-Net.

Occasionally bumped by Idols some weeks, Carte Blanche has always reclaimed its top ratings spot on the most watched programme list, weathering anything from the biggest buzz-making American shows of any given season to local reality productions with its uncompromised credibility and mix of tantalising stories, unflinching consumer exposes and newsmaker profiles.  

Besides garnering countless awards and accolades, Carte Blanche has maintained its number one position as M-Net's most watched show for a mindboggling (and counting) 1 040 weeks.

With its slogan of "the right to see it all", George Mazarakis has remained an unabashed, outspoken advocate for press freedom in South Africa as Carte Blanche kept evolving, constantly pushing the boundaries of what's possible for the investigative magazine TV genre from the pre-internet, pre hashtag era, to today's multi-media, multi-screen and multi-channel television environment.

In 2008 George Mazarakis was instrumental in starting Carte Blanche's "Making a Difference" campaign, setting out to raise R20 million. Instead the campaign became a movement and has since raised more than R100 million to make a real difference in ordinary South Africans' lives.

"I first met George Mazarakis in 1995 when he accepted the appointment as executive producer of Carte Blanche; an academic from Rhodes University with experience in both television and radio," says Jon Sparks, the owner of Combined Artistic Productions, who calls George Mazarakis "a giant" in South Africa's TV industry.

"Over the past 35 years I've been fortunate enough to work with many talented producers in film and television but none have come close to matching the determination and dedication that George has shown at the helm of Carte Blanche," says Jon Sparks.

"He has a fiercely loyal and dedicated team that perform miracles week after week and whilst he always maintains that he merely guides the ship – we all know that George Mazarakis is Carte Blanche."

"Try to imagine having to deliver 1 hour of television every single week for 20 years. That's daunting stuff," says Jon Sparks.

"The pressure is relentless. Critical deadlines, legal issues, viewings at odd hours and over weekends and of course the need to produce a programme that will entertain the viewers when they sit down at 19:00 on a Sunday evening to watch a show that will provoke thought, anger, laughter, tears and hope."

"How does anyone maintain the same level of dedication and commitment  to show number 1 041 as you did to show number 1?  Surely that can only be achieved by an extraordinary person. What an honour and privilege to work alongside a true giant in our industry," says Jon Sparks.

This Sunday night Carte Blanche on M-Net will once again bring viewers that just-right mix of can't look away stories. Devi Sankaree Govender will investigate the 3 500 farm murders reported since 1990, investigate the medicinal use of dagga, Derek Watts has a story about elder abuse, and Bongani Bingwa interviews Mmusi Maimane, the new top man of the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party.