Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Music biz set soap Rhythm City from Quizzical Pictures on e.tv celebrates a decade on South African TV; promises 'more gripping storylines'.
Rhythm City on e.tv is celebrating a decade on the air since the weekday soap set inside South Africa's music business started on the red letter channel on 9 July 2007, promising "more gripping storylines".
With some of the soap's original cast like Jamie Bartlett, Sethabi Taunyane, Mduduzi Mabaso, Mpho Molepo and Tebogo Khalo still seen in the popular local weekday drama, the actors and crew last week celebrated the 10th birthday with a lavish Johannesburg birthday bash.
In June 2007 e.tv cancelled the low-rated youth soap Backstage that failed to lure viewers, but to the channel's credit, e.tv believed that the channel must have a local weekday soap and gave it another try with Rhythm City, produced by Quizzical Pictures (formerly Curious Pictures).
The soap, its characters and its intrigue - set against the backdrop of the fast-paced South African music industry with drama taking viewers from the streets and clubs of Soweto to the recording studios and radio stations of Johannesburg - instantly found bigger appeal under e.tv viewers.
Moved from 18:30 to the 19:00 timeslot in January 2015 opposite SABC3's Isidingo that remains in a ratings struggle, e.tv's Rhythm City now commands a sizeable audience of 3.5 million viewers. It perennially remains the second most watched show on e.tv just behind e.tv's other soap, Scandal, as a lucrative half hour of prime time programming for the channel.
"Rhythm City is one of e.tv's flagship shows, drawing audiences to the channel who are looking for their dose of daily drama," says Marlon Davids, e.tv's managing director. "We are delighted with the way both the show and e.tv have evolved over the past 10 years and look forward to reaching more milestones together".
"When we started working on Rhythm City, we didn't think that we would still be going this strong 10 years later," says Harriet Gavshon, Rhythm City executive producer at Quizzical Pictures. "Creating gripping storylines for a daily soapie is challenging, but it's a challenge that we take on with gusto."
Besides stories revolving around the struggles as well as the glamour and excess of the local music biz, Rhythm City touched several sensitive and controversial subjects besides the backstabbing and in-fighting that characterises the serialised nature of a soap, ranging from abortion, homosexuality, rape, HIV/Aids and drug addiction to violence against women.
Some of it did land Rhythm City and e.tv in hot water, like last year when the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) found the soap "shockingly inapprioriate" with woman abuse and a strangulation scene without warning in a timeslot too early for the visuals.
Over the years Rhythm City incorporated several real-life celebrities and musicians into its fictional universe, ranging from Kelly Khumalo, Khuli Chana, HHP, Khanyi Mbau, Kwesta, Slikour and Freshlyground to DJ Cleo.
In the past decade Rhythm City has seen its series of cast exists like Pam Andrews leaving after 7 years, backstage unhappiness, a new opening sequence and look since October 2014, firings like Kelly Khumalo in 2009 over diva behaviour and other, more brutal firings like Connie Chiume - even a real-life studio lot fire at Sasani Studios in 2014 that temporarily shut down production.
Watch the first episode of Rhythm City on e.tv here:
I'm one of the very few journalists and TV critics in South Africa - literally 4 at most - who was there then when e.tv still showed Ricki Lake and who covered Rhythm City when it started a decade ago, covered it ever since, and who are still around 10 years later to report on it.
It feels disappointing and distasteful that e.tv and Quizzical Pictures couldn't bother to invite, or even just tell, the few longest time media about Rhythm City's 10th birthday celebration at the soap's set on Wednesday.
So, sorry about it but not being able to hear what e.tv execs and the show's producers and cast have to say unfortunately means I can't cover more of the soap's milestone and report who said what.
Who knows where the world will be in another 10 years? I don't know.
What I do know is this: If Rhythm City happens to still be on the air on e.tv by 2027, irrespective of how it looks and who happens to be in it and making it behind-the-scenes, I and some of the few other stalwarts will still be around to report on it, to cover all the news about it, and to chronicle every aspects around its place in and on South African television.
Congratulations to e.tv and Quizzical Pictures on the Rhythm City 10 year TV milestone.