Monday, August 29, 2022

INTERVIEW. Arnold Vosloo on Netflix's Ludik as the streamer's first Afrikaans show, using call sheet power for good, and baring his butt in Boetie.

by Thinus Ferreira

Someone stoned on set or hitting on a crew member? Tell South Africa's leading man from Hollywood, Arnold Vosloo starring in Netflix's first Afrikaans TV drama series Ludik, who's learnt to wield his on-set power and influence as a go-between with precision to help sort out problems and keep casts and crews happy.

As number one on the call sheet in the 6-episode first season of the Rose and Oaks Media-produced drama series now on Netflix, the Hollywood-hardened Arnold Vosloo, has honed the skill to use his "leading man"status during production to intercede on behalf of cast and crew member who might have a problem or who are struggling to be heard.

TVwithThinus sat down with Arnold Vosloo to find out more about his portrayal of Afrikaans hustler Daan Ludik, the origin story of his latest flurry of work in South African productions, what it means for the first Afrikaans series to be on Netflix, what the local film biz can learn from Hollywood, and what he remembers from baring his butt on screen in the eighties.

You visit South Africa and your work here periodically - so you did the film Griekwastad with MultiChoice and kykNET, then the film Silverton Siege for Netflix Africa recently and now Ludik for Netflix as well. You did Forgiveness and Blood Diamond in 2006 and there was a gap until now. Why now these multiple projects all in South Africa?
Arnold Vosloo: I was in South Africa because I come to visit my mom and my sister Nadia and Joyce here. 

A few years ago, a year or so before Griekwastad, I was saying to my sister I just feel like I'm not doing great work, I don't feel inspired by the stuff that I'm doing in America. It's nice to be working and it's nice to be earning dollars, but it's not everything. I'm looking for something different; something more satisfying.

She has a PR background, she suggested that she call one of her colleagues. We did an article in I think Sarie magazine in which I expressed that. I said in the article that I would love for the local guys to hire me and do South African stuff - honest good South African content and I'm prepared to come to South Africa. 

That's how Griekwastad came about - Tim Theron and Cobus van den Berg saw that article and contacted me and sent me the script. I was won over by the script and came out to do it.

Then it kind of snowballed. Mandla Dube then reached out to me for Silverton Siege on Netflix to do that. That happened and the Ludik drama series actually goes back almost six years to when I read the original pilot and loved it - I thought it was the best Afrikaans script that I've read.

They were trying for a while to make it happen and couldn't and then finally, thankfully, got Ludik set up at Netflix Africa.

It's been really interesting, it's just been a joy to come back to South Africa and work - let's say once a year for three or four months, come down to South Africa and do some South African work and play what I am, which is a post-middle age white Afrikaner. It's just a pleasure. 

I don't have to be a Russian, or German or whatever the Americans are always asking me to do, I can just be what I am. 

'Netflix has never done this
and they loved the script,
they weren't reluctant'

Or a Mummy! You mentioned Ludik took 6 years - this is another one of those projects that germinated for quite a number of years. What does it mean for Netflix to now also have a TV series such as Ludik as its first Afrikaans TV show and for it to be on a global streaming service for a worldwide audience?
Arnold Vosloo: It's huge. It's huge for us being the guinea pigs for the first Afrikaans series, and when I say Afrikaans, really 40% Afrikaans, 60% English. 

But it's huge because Netflix has never done this and they loved the script, they weren't reluctant. 

We didn't have a big budget - we weren't showered with lots of money like the did some of the other shows because they simply don't know where Ludik is going to land: What is the buying power of Afrikaans essentially is what this thing is going to reveal.

If people watch Ludik and it does big numbers, then obviously Netflix is going to say "okay, there's an audience out there, we've got to make it a part of our work now. 

They've got everything else covered, the African market all the way up to Egypt. If Ludik works, they'll open their wallets for Afrikaans. They'll do movies, they'll do other series and on a personal note, Ludik was always envisioned as a an 18-episode deal.

If we get great numbers, then we'll come back for a second and a third season to wrap it up. 

I hope we do fantastically well because I really would like Afrikaans people to tune to Netflix and see Afrikaans content. It looks beautiful. It looks like Ozark, it looks like those American shows - it doesn't look like an inexpensive Afrikaans show. 

The other bonus is that we're translated into five other languages, so no matter where you are in the world you can watch it with English and Spanish covering half of the globe.

Your bare butt is the first one I ever saw on a screen, in 1984 in Boetie Gaan Border Toe. Done without any intimacy coordinator. South Africa's TV and film industry is now starting to add intimacy coordinators to the crew. 
I'm wondering if you can share a recollection of when director Regardt van den Bergh asked you to be naked and show your behind in Boetie, to how the industry has changed to now?
Arnold Vosloo: Somebody mentioned it to me the other day - one of my friends - saying "remember being kaalgat in Boetie"? And I said I wasn't kaalgat, that didn't happen! He was like: "No, you were naked".

I literally don't even remember it you know but when you're young and you're stupid you do whatever the director asks. You're gung-ho. You want to take one for the team. 

The whole intimacy coordinator development is a very good thing. I have one small scene early in Ludik with my wife who's played by Diaan Lawrenson. We had an intimacy coordinator on set. 

It isn't a sex scene per se but I had to kiss her and at some point reject her, push her away and that kind of thing. It's always awkward those kinds of things and as a guy - especially number one on the call sheet and the lead on the show - I would hate to be with somebody and in an intimate scene like that, and then afterwards have them feel like I was pushing, doing something inappropriate. 

It would be awful. I would hate to have that on my conscience. I'm all for intimacy coordinators. And for showing my ass in Boetie I literally don't remember it. Ha ha!

When you started going to auditions in Hollywood, you'd tell them "You don't know me but I'm going to make your project better". 
Even on the Ludik set you told the producers "guys you need to be on set more, the people love it when they see you". 
Your mentorship and advice beyond being an actor is wonderful. What is something you'd say South Africa's industry can improve on with our production ethos and how hands-on we are?
Arnold Vosloo: Firstly, I know the budgets are small and it's an impediment because actors are spread around - they're shooting one thing now and next week they've got to shoot on the other project, so they take lots of jobs to make ends meet. 

But what would be a huge help is if every production - no matter how big or small - if they just had a week, even 10 days, just to rehearse with the actors, talk about the script, talk about ideas that your character might bring to the table, simply because a lot of the time you're on set, you're blocking something and you film it, and while you're shooting it, you get an idea.

Now you're thinking: Instead of sitting at this table, I should just walk out the door - that really says everything about the scene.

But when you shoot, you now don't have time to change anything because time is money. Some sort of rehearsal period is great - which we had on Silverton Siege - Mandla Dube was adamant that we have time to talk and to ask all these questions that we needed to ask so that we didn't waste time on set.

Secondly, being number one on the call sheet - which I was on Ludik - it's a huge responsibility. You're the leading man and the crew really look to you. The crew on any show is really smart. They work all the time. They'll know if the leading man is weird, or insecure or any of that stuff. You have to be a leader, you have to inspire a crew, you've got to inspire your director. 

I learnt that from the Americans. I worked there with great people and the good ones always did that. Even Leonardo DiCaprio on Blood Diamond

He was definitely number one on the call sheet and if anyone on the crew had a problem, if any of the cast had a problem, Leo told them they could come to him. Don't go to the producers, come to me and tell me what the problem is and I'll go to the producers and them it's an issue they need to rectify.  

So you hold that power only for those few weeks, everyone needs to make you happy and make sure that you're good and henceforth you can use that power as a sort of tool to inspire the cast and crew and make sure that there's no bullshit on set.

'on Silverton Siege Mandla Dube
was adamant we have time to
 talk and ask all these questions
so we didn't waste time on set'

Is Daan Ludik good or bad, or is he an antihero?
Arnold Vosloo: Yes. He's an antihero. It's a cop-out answer but he's both. He's a bad good guy and he's a good bad guy. He's both of those things. 

One can make an argument and say that intrinsically the guy's a hustler and he's always going to see a profit somewhere, but then you're also a product of your environment. 

Somebody like Daan Ludik's obviously savvy and he is a hustler. He looks at the bigger picture of around him and how things are run in terms of South Africa, how things are doing. 

Somebody like him is smart enough, cunning enough, to say "You know what, I need to take my own destiny in my hands. I've got lots of mouths to feed, people to take care of" and then he goes down these other roads which might not be completely legitimate. His intentions are good, let's put it that way.

Ludik season 1 is on Netflix and released on 26 August 2022

Friday, August 26, 2022

244 000 poor South African TV households still waiting on their digital terrestrial TV installation and government set-top box.

by Thinus Ferreira

Close to a quarter million poor South African TV households are still waiting for their subsidised digital terrestrial television (DTT) decoders to be installed South Africa's minister of communications and digital technologies, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, revealed at a media briefing on Thursday afternoon.

Eleven years behind schedule, South Africa's government is still trying to complete the country's long-overdue switch from analogue to digital terrestrial TV, a process known as digital migration.

While the South African government and the parastatal TV signal distributor Sentech have started to switch off analogue transmission signal towers in several provinces - something that has damaged the TV ratings of the SABC over the past year - eMedia's has refused to do so, taking the communications department to the Constitutional Court and demanding that the process be delayed until more free-to-air TV households have access to DTT instead of simply being cut off from public television in South Africa.

The outcome of the court case in which has been victorious over the department, has seen the analogue switch-off deadline of 30 June 2022 pushed out further to an undetermined date.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that the new final date for households to register to receive a free DTT STB is now 30 September 2022, and hasn't declared a new final switch-off date.

On Thursday afternoon Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, at a DTT press briefing, said that 244 000 DTT installations still need to be done for indigent TV households earning less than R3 500 per month and who qualify for a free DTT set-top box (STB) decoder.

The 244 000 include TV households in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape who had their installations delayed due to adverse weather and flooding halting the process.

Between April and July this year there have been an average of 15 288 registrations from TV households applying for the government-subsidised STB, with the number of registrations declining.

"The total number of new registered households between April and July 2022 now stands at 61 155 and this translates to an average of 15 288 registrations per month - therefore, representing a decline in set-top-box applications and registrations," she said.

"The digital migration process is a national priority, and it must be completed without any further delay for the benefit of the country," Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said.

HBO's House of the Dragon on M-Net drew 7 701 DStv Premium subscribers on Monday to watch on linear TV in South Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

On Monday 7 701 South Africans watched the linear TV broadcast debut of HBO's new fantasy drama series House of the Dragon on M-Net (DStv 101) with 1 500 who were up at 3am to watch the episode at the same time as it was airing in the United States.

While 7 701 DStv Premium subscribers in South Africa watched the first episode of the new dragons and danger series on M-Net as a TV broadcast - the number most important to broadcasters and advertisers - there would also have been some more watching it online on DStv Catch Up who are not included in the official TV ratings tally, as well as people who started watching the pirate copy that leaked on torrent and download sharing sites a day before the show's TV debut.

TV ratings for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa are hard to come by or non-existent since many African countries don't have one but M-Net also showed House of the Dragon on its M-Net Africa channel feed elsewhere on the continent.

According to ratings compiled and provided by the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRCSA), M-Net lured 1 505 DStv Premium subscribers who watched on Monday morning at 3:00, with another 6 196 viewers who watched M-Net on Monday night at 21:30.

In the United Kingdom House of the Dragon pulled 1.39 million Sky subscribers to tune in to the Sky Atlantic channel with 394 000 who watched at 21:00. "Viewing over the last 24 hours for House of the Dragon across Sky and NOW has been as epic as the show itself," Sky said.

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) which didn't provide viewership numbers, said in a statement on Wednesday said that House of the Dragon had the largest ever collective viewership across 21 countries for a new TV show or movie in Europe on its HBO Max video streaming service, which is not available in Africa. 

"The platform saw unprecedented demand starting in the early hours which peaked on Monday evening. House of the Dragon is by far the biggest launch in the history of HBO and HBO Max in Europe, breaking previous records for a new title. The number of viewers for the first episode exceeded all expectations."

In America, WarnerMedia in a statement on Monday said "The premiere of House of the Dragon drew 9.986 million viewers across linear and HBO Max platforms in the United States on Sunday night, the largest audience for any new original series in the history of HBO".

Thursday, August 25, 2022

SuperSport's first-ever marathon broadcast of 13 hours of the 2022 Comrades Marathon on Sunday 28 August will use 36 cameras, 3 OB units, 6 motorbikes, a rig-car and a helicopter.

by Thinus Ferreira

After having secured and taken over the broadcasting rights from the SABC, SuperSport will be showing and covering South Africa's Comrades Marathon for the first time on Sunday 28 August as a marathon broadcast of its own, stretching 13 hours, using 36 cameras, 3 outside-broadcast units, a rig-car, 6 motorbikes and a helicopter.

SuperSport says it has been planning its 2022 Comrades Marathon broadcast production for four months and is using the expertise of 120 technical staff who will integrate with three outside broadcast facilities.

These OB units will be located at the start of Sunday's Comrades Marathon, at Cowies Hill and at the finish line in Durban. SuperSport will use 36 cameras to capture the success and failure that defines the race.

"Aware of the race's mighty history and traditions, SuperSport intends to capture the essence by devoting a massive production team, allied to innovation and technology, to its 13-hour broadcast that will begin in Pietermaritzburg at 05:00," SuperSport says.

SuperSport will have 5 multi-camera units along the route, along with a rig-car with a specially adapted low-light camera to be used before sunrise. Elsewhere, there will be 6 motorbikes with cameras covering the men, women and chasing packs, and a helicopter to give a bird's eye view of the action.

This will all be complemented with cutting-edge graphics.

SuperSport will use 6 commentators, among them nine-time Comrades winner Bruce Fordyce and former women's champion Helen Lucre.

Two on-route presenters will interact with participants.

SuperSport will show the race on the SS Variety 4, SS Variety 3 Africa and SS Grandstand channels on DStv in over 50 countries across sub-Saharan Africa for DStv subscribers on the DStv Premium, DStv Compact Plus and DStv Compact packages.

MultiChoice's video streaming service, Showmax will have the 2022 Comrades Marathon live for Showmax and Showmax Pro subscribers.

Outside of sub-Saharan Africa the 2022 Comrades Marathon will be shown in full on the Comrades Marathon YouTube channel.

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. How M-Net dropped the ball on PR for Survivor SA Return of the Outcasts and snuffed out publicity and media exposure for the ratings-tanked 9th season.

by Thinus Ferreira 

It's not just the bad closed-eyes publicity photos. The publicity team of M-Net (DStv 101) badly dropped the ball on Survivor South Africa: Return of the Outcasts - the 9th season of the localised Survivor SA version of the Banijay reality competition format produced by Afrokaans.

With the buzz-less, press coverage-poor, TV ratings-tanked and apathetic season of Survivor SA bowing out on Thursday evening which South Africa's media have largely deemed irrelevant and ignored, M-Net's PR team has a lot to answer for over its apparently failed communication strategy and mindboggling PR decisions that yielded worse results than ever before when it comes to media exposure, media relations and ratings.

For Survivor SA, as a local TV show, M-Net keeps doing less and less effort when it comes to interacting with the media but somehow apparently expects the same media-play outcome.

While M-Net for previous seasons had journalists and publications do set visits for a day or two on-location it was obviously not possible for seasons 8 and 9 filmed in South Africa's Eastern Cape due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The lack and impossibility of any set visits for Survivor SA this year and in 2021 is definitely not any fault of M-Net or Afrokaans, with the pay-TV channel's PR division and former M-Net head of publicity, Lani Lombard, who worked hard in seasons past, stretching budgets to fly some media worldwide to sample the show on-location and to do interviews with host and crew, and to observe the cast during challenges and tribal council.

The trouble M-Net has with getting proper media buy-in for Survivor SA, and that M-Net is and has been deliberately causing with its bad, inexplicable and apparently inexperienced PR decisions, however, start here:

Survivor SA media launch
In previous years, ever since the very first season Survivor SA season, M-Net has held a Survivor South Africa media launch event - and before some seasons even additional panel sessions with producers when M-Net did programming upfronts and allocated a slot to Survivor SA producers to talk to the media and to hype up the show. 

Don't forget the "Let's play Survivor SA" media events M-Net structured in the past for the country's media to compete against each other to see who would be guaranteed a set visit to whatever secret locale or island that the show would end up using.

Cue this year, where the underwhelming and hardly reported on Survivor South Africa media launch was held in the Eastern Cape and for only certain media - with M-Net, MultiChoice, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), Eastern Cape government officials, as well as Survivor SA producers and talent attending but not the journalists and publications which have supported the show and M-Net in the past and continue to try to cover it.

Cue M-Net's PR team (in the business of communicating) deciding to deliberately be cagey, secret and dishonest and to not tell a lot of journalists that there was a Survivor SA media launch happening, and actively executing decisions not to invite members of the media for whatever reasons.

Even after the Survivor SA media launch at the Mpekweni Beach Resort near Port Alfred where the season was filmed there was nothing - zero - from M-Net regarding any photos, any transcripts or recordings of what was said and happened there, and the only output from junior media who did attend, doing superficial reporting like asking host Nico Panagio three questions.

If you don't really want to work with media and journalists and publications and sites, communicate that and tell them - that's your actual job description. 

Also keep in mind that if you deliberately don't want to have them at your media launch you're disrespecting them, and signalling they don't matter to you. Just then don't somehow magically expect coverage from them, or the type of coverage you want, or complain about the type of coverage there is.

Castaway interviews
A basic Google search by anyone with a connected computer shows M-Net's horrific failure this season regarding exit interviews in the media. Where are they? 

While several media in previous seasons would talk to and do interviews with players who got voted out, you'll have to search hard for almost any interviews in the South African press with Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts outcasts. They simply didn't happen.

What exactly was M-Net's publicity strategy to get press and exposure for people voted out, and how exactly did M-Net think it was going to work harder and smarter to keep up, maintain and get placement for this season's voted-out castaways when there are multiple Survivor SA episodes per week? 

Making it harder for media to keep up, meant media checked out - and M-Net had no plan to keep media motivated to cover, or to keep covering the show.

Banal, badly done, generic, one-size fits all press releases
Something big went wrong with M-Net press releases for Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts with dull and generic e-mail blasts done to media (when they were done), and complete lack of interactive and dynamic engagement from M-Net's side with media on their specific needs, or M-Net asking how it could help them to cover Survivor SA this season.

While it's fine to send out basic information likely received from the show's production team, M-Net made no attempt to individually reach out during the course of the show to specific media, or to customise the information to the needs of specific media outlets and journalists in terms of what they need and how they require it to make it easier to engage with and use.

Some weeks: One Survivor SA e-mail blast as a press release summary. One week: Apparently a generic press release daily. Then: Nothing again. 

No rhyme or reason whatsoever, no communication about future planning, no phone calls or messages. 

Publicity photos could be added as its own damaging and disappointing subheader but let's bring that up here: The Survivor SA season 9 photography was badly done, and while it possibly was always bad, at least the media never knew about it, or received it. Photos were curated. 

This season nobody at M-Net could be bothered to apparently screen images. The media just got a photo dump of Survivor SA photos to wade through, often lacking photos of specific moments, and literally "Kiteo, his eyes closed".

Post-show media briefing
The Covid-19 pandemic is over and M-Net couldn't bother and doesn't want to return to doing the traditional post-finale in-person press conference for Survivor SA this year.

It could easily have been done after maybe a physical watch party or physical screening for Survivor SA.

It's apparently also too much effort for M-Net's PR team (or not worth the effort or too difficult?) to do a virtual press briefing on Zoom, and to get South Africa's media together that way.

This is, and has always been an important part of the play-by-play structure and media buy-in for a show like Survivor SA

While media found it functional, useful and beneficial, M-Net got exposure, the winner got exposure, fans and viewers got additional information, and show sponsors got exposure.

Yet M-Net doesn't deem it necessary or important to make the Survivor SA Afrokaans producers, the winner, the runner-up and M-Net executives available as a group for a collective post-show media briefing to the country's press at the conclusion of it.

Media are expected to start telling the beginning of the story, and must then struggle to try and tell the end (and the vast majority just don't bother).

South Africa's journalists covering television, now on almost a daily basis speak on the phone to publicists from London and America for overseas shows of international TV channels, as well as  streaming services and distributors, do Zoom interviews and attend virtual roundtable sessions with casts and crews.

Yet South African publicists like with Survivor SA are leisurely sitting back and just wasting away chances and opportunity after opportunity in which they could have engaged meaningfully with the media to unlock value and coverage for locally-produced, South African TV shows.

Why the laziness and lack of focus and energy to give South African TV shows like Survivor SA the PR support it needs to be successful? 

Broke what worked and forgot what came before
With the ongoing exit of talent from Randburg it is understandable that M-Net marketing and publicity people working on Survivor SA (or who've never worked on it) possibly forgot what came before it in terms of media liaison and how it worked and why it worked.

Or perhaps M-Net decided to deliberately broke things or stop certain things, without creating an effective replacement for what got taken away.

None of these are valid excuses. Read up, do past coverage searches, ask around. Phone people. Ask the media. To have a show like Survivor SA and not support it effectively in terms of publicity and well-informed, energy-added media relations is a real shame.

The level of non-support and low-support in terms of PR around an asset like Survivor SA is how the SABC's failed and often non-existent PR approach has often been for over a decade for television shows on the broken public broadcaster. 

It's not been M-Net's legacy and it's sad to see and experience in real-time how things have slipped, disappeared and are done worse, not better, as basic standards and expectations are not being maintained.

If a decision is made to cancel Survivor SA, with M-Net citing a lack of media interest, a lack of media coverage and a lack of buzz that will not be the South African media's fault. 

It would be M-Net's own "self-fulfilling prophecy" PR mistake of doing little or nothing, not properly liaising with the media, sitting back, and then complaining about there being little or nothing. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

South Africa's public broadcaster puts out open call for new TV content as the SABC looks to try and repair relationships with damaged production industry.

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's public broadcaster is making an open call for content, with the SABC once again asking production companies to make proposals for new shows for its SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 TV channels in the drama, entertainment and factual programming genres.

After many production companies have been put off from doing work with the struggling broadcaster following unprofessional treatment over the past decade, ranging from abrupt cancellation of multi-year contracts to non-payment for work produced and delivered, the SABC is trying to get producers to come back and submit ideas for new shows.

The SABC is increasingly getting hammered in the ratings with sagging viewership for long-running and stale content which is made worse by multiple cross-channel repeats, and low production values due to low per-minute spend.

South African production companies have been pushed to rather work for MultiChoice and the set of M-Net-run TV channels on DStv, with many looking to try and snag lucrative production deals with the influx of global video streaming services like Netflix Africa, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video's Amazon Studios all set to beef up their content creation and local production output from South Africa. 

The SABC Video Entertainment division is now inviting content creators to submit content and programme proposals until 16 September 2022 for 100%-commissions - shows in which the SABC will own the show and fully fund its development and production - as well as pre-sales, licensed shows and advertiser-funded programmes (AFPs).

The SABC Video Entertainment division will do a month-long provincial roadshow from 25 August to 26 September and visit Cape Town, Johannesburg, Mahikeng, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Polokwane, Nelspruit, Durban and East London to talk to various producers in these provinces.

M-Net dumps Survivor South Africa post-show press briefing for season 9's Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts.

by Thinus Ferreira

In another stark change from the way it used to be in the past, M-Net is dropping the Survivor South Africa post-show media briefing, with the upcoming finale of Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts which was also filmed months ago on-location in the Eastern Cape, and which will air without the usual live-in-studio audience.

M-Net is hosting no collective in-person or virtual group press conference with the winner after that.

M-Net (DStv 101) confirmed to TVwithThinus that the Thursday night finale of the 9th season, entitled Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts and produced by Afrokaans, won't have the usual off-screen press conference with the winner, producers and channel execs after the season's low-key conclusion this week.

For the previous 8th season finale of Survivor SA in August 2021, pre-recorded in a Cape Town studio, M-Net also scuttled the studio audience and in-person post-show media briefing but that was done since the season took place during the Covid 19-pandemic with stringent in-door restrictions limiting the number of people regarding studio attendance and making it impractical and unsafe. 

Nothing however prevents M-Net from doing a post-show media briefing this season in the way there was an in-person Survivor SA media launch held this season in the Eastern Cape, or bringing the country's press together for a virtual press conference following the conclusion of the season.

After journalists asked about how the media logistics for Thursday would work after hearing nothing and not getting any guidance from M-Net publicity, on Tuesday M-Net admitted to media that there won't be a post-show press conference like in the past anymore, and that the finale was pre-recorded, on-set in the Eastern Cape months ago.

Nadine Moonsamy, M-Net publicity manager, in response to a media query, confirmed to TVwithThinus that "there will be no formal press conference, as per last year, but additional questions may be directed to us for answering". It means that there won't be any group opportunity to ask questions collectively of the winner, producers or M-Net executives.

The finale of a largely buzz-less Survivor SA will cap a little-watched 9th season on M-Net that saw its viewership plunge by 43% for the season premiere compared to the previous season at the same time last year.

It following the show's shift to a much earlier timeslot and the decision to stack the Survivor SA season as multiple episodes weekly, making it hard for DStv subscribers and media to follow and keep up. 

In previous seasons, media from across South Africa would attend the Survivor SA season finale - originally held in Johannesburg with sand flown in and in Cape Town in later seasons - with journalists who were part of the live-in-studio audience, together with sponsors, lucky DStv subscribers and ticket winners, family members of contestants, as well as previous Survivor SA season alums.

At the post-finale Survivor SA press conference the winner and runner-up got their moment to shine and field questions from the press, while media also posed questions to M-Net content executives, sponsors and the Survivor SA producers. 

In previous seasons - also axed - there also used to be Survivor SA "pre-dinks" events hosted by M-Net for the media before the studio recording of the finale, as well as Survivor SA "after-parties" after season finales for the castaways.

These after-show celebrations ranged from modest to lavish over the years, where M-Net's event organising teams would lay out a Survivor SA-themed venue with a drinks and snacks buffet as Survivor SA contestants from several seasons, media, and sponsors mingled until midnight.

Thursday night's pre-recorded Survivor SA: Return of the Outcasts finale won't have any so-called "after-party" after its conclusion. 

"For the first time in Survivor SA history, the show's finale was filmed on Day 40 on the Sunshine Coast, with the castaways returning to share their journeys and vote for - and reveal - the redemption of one of their fellow former players," M-Net says.

"This means that the winner announcement will take place on location, for the first time ever."

Official trailer for Amazon Prime Video's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power reveals Middle-earth characters in peril during in a time of peace.

by Thinus Ferreira

Amazon Prime Video has released the official trailer for its upcoming new fantasy drama series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power releasing on the streamer on 2 September with a double-bill debut and weekly episodes after.

The new 2-and-a-half minute trailer gives a further glimpse into the Middle-earth of long ago, with the new Amazon Studios series, of which the second season is currently in production in the United Kingdom, set during the fabled Second Age thousands of years before the events depicted in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books.

Legendary and new characters will appear in locations ranging from the depths of the Misty Mountains, the elf capital of Lindon to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor which will get destroyed at some point during the series similar to Atlantis.

"Fates collide and disparate characters are tested in the face of impending evil," says Amazon Prime Video.

The trailer features Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) prominently, along with Elrond (Robert Aramayo), High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards); Harfoots Elanor "Nori" Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) as well as Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith).

Who and what exactly is The Stranger (Daniel Weyman)?

The Númenóreans Isildur (Maxim Baldry), Eärien (Ema Horvath), Elendil (Lloyd Owen), Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), and Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) also appear in the official trailer, along with Dwarves King Durin III (Peter Mullan), Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), and Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete).

The Southlanders are Halbrand (Charlie Vickers); Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi); and Silvan-elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova).

The series is led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay; Wayne Che Yip is co-executive producer and directs, along with J.A. Bayona and Charlotte Brändström.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Season 18 of Idols on Mzansi Magic narrows down the top group to 12 contestants for the live performances.

by Thinus Ferreira

For its current 18th season Idols has chosen a smaller top group, with only 12 instead of the usual 16 hopeful singers who will compete in the weekly live performances starting from Sunday 28 August, and with the top group including multiple musicians who can play instruments as well as gospel singers.

In Sunday's episode on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) the remaining top 32 contestants were culled to just 12 after the gruelling so-called "theatre week", and not 16 as in previous years.

In the group of 12 there are seven contestants who have entered Idols in previous seasons, and several who can play instruments and who have now made it through to the top group.

Ranging in age from 18 to 29, the top 12 contestants will now compete for votes from DStv subscribers in live performances taking place at Pretoria's Heartfelt Arena.

Here are the top 12:

Ceejay (24), Stranger
Third time lucky – that saying applies to Ceejay, the musician who didn't receive a golden ticket in season 16 before narrowly missing out on a place in the top 16 during season 17.
Growing up in a musical family (his parents were in a band together) he spends his time singing, making beats on his computer and playing instruments.

Hope (23), Pretoria
Having started singing at the age of five and participated in a lot of plays at school, Hope says joining the Midlands Youth Choir opened a new avenue of what music could sound like.
After years of thinking about entering, Hope decided that now was the perfect time. "I wasn't ready earlier than this," she says, having just completed studying musical theatre at Tshwane University of Technology. 
She says viewers can expect soul – and more – from her musical performances: “I know that the way I perform and translate music to people will leave a beautiful mark."

Kabelo (24), Pietermaritzburg
Kabelo is no stranger to the Idols stage, having previously entered in season 16. After being eliminated during the group stages, he says he is back to prove a point.
His musical journey began at 15 when he and his twin brother learned how to play the guitar and keyboard through YouTube videos.
During the live shows, he hopes to beat the nerves and articulate the emotions of each song without holding back. "I also want to connect with the crowd. My aim is to give it my all every Sunday and to have fun, too," he says.

Lerato (27), Johannesburg
It's been several years since Lerato first entered Idols, and after a period of losing confidence in her capabilities as a singer, she is back with a bang.
"This year, I had the courage and bravery to enter again," she says. She has found her second time on Idols to be a fun process that she’s grateful for.
"I want to inspire people to know that you shouldn't let your dreams die. Don't give up on your dreams. Even if it takes forever, it can actually happen for you one day."

Mpilwenhle (23), Johannesburg
After spending years honing her sound and gaining more understanding of herself as a musician, Mpilwenhle felt that now was finally the time to enter Idols.
About her Idols journey so far, she says "It's taught me to always be prepared for anything. You have to bring your A-game. It's showing us flames, but it's the flames that I like."
While she's nervous about the live performances, she's more thrilled than anything. "I am excited to get on the stage, pour my heart out and leave it on the stage."

Nandi (21), Johannesburg
"Music is my life. It is a part of me," says Nandi of her passion.
Her love of music began at an early age, thanks to her musical hero – her father – who is also a musician. It was through spending time with him in the studio that she initially found an appreciation for the art. 
Nandi is no stranger to the stage as she has been performing from a young age as part of her church choir, then later on at the Market Theatre. Describing herself as a fearless performer, she says viewers can expect to see "something different" when she takes the stage.

Noxolo (25), Durban
Noxolo began singing at age of five, playing music with her dad, and she cemented her relationship with music through church.
Humbled to have reached the top 12, she says she believes she has a gift that the world will finally get to see. She is most excited about the upcoming live performances and hopes the audience will get to connect with her.
Noxolo says viewers can expect her live performances to be unique, rare and spiritual.

Nozi (27), Durban
Nozi first entered Idols in 2016 but did not make it beyond the first cut. This year she is back on a mission and is looking forward to proving her talent. 
Nozi says viewers can expect "joy and excellence" when she hits the stage. She plans to set the stage alight, and hopes that the viewers will resonate with her performances.
Like her musical heroes, former American Idol contestants Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia, she hopes for the competition to catapult her to the top.

Tesmin-Robyn (23), Johannesburg
Tesmin's resilience has seen her enter Idols three times. Having made it as far as the top 16 previously, this year she hopes to make it all the way to the end.
Describing herself as an ambivert who comes alive on stage, music has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember – she's been singing since she was a toddler.
She hopes for the competition to help her build a firm foundation for her future, and the opportunity to network with other artists.

Thapelo (29), Pretoria
The self-confessed perfectionist Thapelo has spent the past few years honing his musical skills. In 2012, he joined a gospel group as a backing vocalist but is now ready to take the lead.  
After a few attempts at making a mark in the music business, he relishes being part of Idols, an experience he describes as the "biggest stage" he has been on.
While he is open to trying out different genres, his passion lies in soul music. One of his musical heroes is Michael Bolton. "I'm all about love, and his personality is all about love," he says.

Ty (21), Johannesburg
Ty had no idea he had entered Idols a second time until he received a phone call – turns out his girlfriend had secretly sent in a video "just to if the show would call back".
Describing himself as a woke dreamer who appreciates life, Ty’s musical journey started at a very young age – he comes from a very musical family. He realised he could sing in grade three, and it has been his passion since.
What can we expect when he hits the stage? "Viewers can expect a show. I will treat every performance as if it's a gig. I will give it my all."

Zee (18), Cape Town
This year's youngest live show contestant began singing in grade 2, after she joined the choir.
As an Idols fan, the teenager decided to enter this year after matriculating last year – her mother's conditions were that she could enter the show after finishing school and getting good grades.
When she is onstage, Zee says her voice takes over. She hopes to win the show but is relishing the overall opportunity to perform. She plans to give viewers her best. "It’s literally my heart that will be on that stage. I hope people feel that."

SABC1 adds local legal eagle drama with Pallance Dladla solving a murder mystery.

by Thinus Ferreira

SABC1 has commissioned a new locally produced legal eagle drama series Good Men from Ochre Media which will debut on the channel on 4 September in the competitive Sunday-night 20:00-timeslot.

Good Men - with Stan Joseph as executive producer and Portia Gumede as writer who is also showrunner - has 16 episodes broken into two seasons of eight episodes each, and starts when two men from different background come into direct opposition with each other in the court.

Zola (Tabile Tau), a 17-year old math genius with a temper and in his matric year, is accused of murder.

Pallance Dladla plays Jama, the brilliant but ruthless and materialistic criminal defence lawyer whose life takes a drastic turn when he must take on a pro-bono case. 

SABC1 says Good Men will show a "cross-section of real-life, from elite to underclass" with "both men who meet at a threatening point in their lives, each desperately wanting to save themselves".

Gugu Mbuyaze (Kamogelo Ndawo), a 17-year old girl, is connected to Zola and has "a potentially bright future and a big heart" whose whirlwind romance with Zola is cut short by his death.

Mbali Mlotshwa has the role of Betty, fiancé to Jama. She is a prosecutor and wants to see justice done, while Thabo Malema plays the role of Lwazi Nzimande, a civil litigator. He met his wife Ivy (Petronella Tshuma) at a law school, and she is the whisper in his ear telling him to fight to get his name on the door of the Meyiwa and Associates law firm. 

Dumisani Mbebe plays the role of Solezwe Blose who dreams of becoming president. The rest of the Good Men cast includes Marcus Mabusela, Zikhona Sodlaka, Sparky Xulu, Cedric Fourie, Lebogang Motaung, Lihle Ngubo and Mbali Mapumulo.

"Good Men touches on a socio-matter, as society turns a blind eye and reacts with passionate disgust when the tragedy strikes," Portia Gumede tells TVwithThinus. "In the heart of it, it's a human drama with the justice system having to play its part at the end of the day."