THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Queen telenovela extended to 5 days per week as Mzansi Magic adds a Friday episode; Rami Chuene, Thato Molamu joining the cast.


Its proven to be true South African television royalty and from August Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) is extending its telenovela The Queen from 4 to 5 days a week, adding Fridays on the back of boffo ratings.

With the additional weekday episode the cast is expanding with Rami Chuene joining in the role of Gracious, and with Thato Molamu added in the role of up-and-coming lawyer, Bakang.

The Queen - a fascinating local telenovela produced for one of the M-Net's channels provided to MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform - remains a hugely under-reported success story in South Africa's television industry, although it typifies everything that the new generation of South African television production can and should be.

The Queen - with its most watched episode in June that pulled 955 891 viewers to Mzansi Magic in its 21:00 timeslot - is the little TV locomotive that could, produced by the wife and husband team Connie and Shona Ferguson and their Ferguson Films outfit.

The Queen made its debut on Mzansi Magic at the beginning of August 2016 and the past few months production and production capacity has been ramped up to adjust for the additional weekday episode that will see the telenovela enlarge to 5 days per week from 31 July 2017.

The Queen is not just a South African TV rarity because it's done by black producers, who are married to each other, and with one of them also having a starring on-screen role (Connie plays Harriet).

It is also that the show, revolving around the fictional Khoza family, also continues to receive both critical and widespread popular acclaim. 

Usually what the TV critics like, viewers don't - and vice versa - yet The Queen has proven to be the rare TV gem everybody likes to watch.

"The Queen has become one of Mzansi Magic's most popular shows," says Reneilwe Sema, M-Net's director of local channels.

"As it stands, it broadcasts from Monday to Thursday, but its immense acclaim demands that we make it a full five-day a week show. Viewers just can't get enough of the twists and turns in the story, so we are giving them more."

The Queen has added seasoned actress Rami Chuene to the cast in the role of Gracious, with Thato Molamu added in the role of up-and-coming lawyer, Bakang. Magic Hlatshwayo returns as Kwanele's supportive dad, Alpheus.

Meanwhile viewers can't get enough of the flamboyant character Kgosi (played by Sello Maake ka-Ncube) who has created a new iconic South African TV character for the ages.


A Queen building out the TV biz
While shows like The Queen - and the process of how it is now being produced - is actually what the struggling South African public broadcaster should be doing, investing in, and nurturing in terms of exposing and training new talent in front of and behind-the-scenes - it is M-Net's Mzansi Magic that took the risk.

Being bold and spearheading the effort on this "new type" TV drama making, it is now Mzansi Magic that is getting the rewards with a show like The Queen that is produced on a much smaller budget than a mega-show like the KwaMashu set Uzalo of SABC1.

While drawing sizeable audiences to Mzansi Magic - which is what ultimately matters to the bottom-line - The Queen is also working and building out South Africa's TV-industry with novel re-invention. 

The popular show is both enlarging and upskilling the local TV production industry, while at the same time training and giving new people a change to learn and get experience as they go along for the ride.

It is something that the SABC is actually supposed to be doing - like the BBC - but is something that has steadily shifted to South Africa's pay-TV sector that doesn't need to, but that has picked up a large part of the responsibility with The Queen as a great example.

The Queen also does a lot of on-location shooting - for instance filming at rented homes multi-purposed as the set instead of paying for costly studio space - and using rooms, doors and exteriors of one property for instance to cleverly create numerous in-story locations.

The telenovela also gives a lot of young, and new, people opportunities in front of, and behind, the camera to learn and get a foot in the door of the TV biz - again something more in line with the remit of a public broadcaster but something that is clearly an important and integral part of making the show for The Queen's producers.