Channels and sources can’t stress enough that the new programming they’re working on is subject to negotiations and deals that in some cases have not been finalised. Exact dates and time slots have yet to be confirmed.
Here, therefore, is the rough guide to local content in 2009:
The channel with the lion’s share of national TV viewership is loading up big time on local content. Look out for “Society”, a 26-part new drama series which is a spin-off from the minidrama that aired in 2007. There is a third season of the drama “Home Affairs”; and “Quiz Me”, a game show focusing on the upcoming elections.
After a very successful season, there is more of the reality dance-off competition “So You Think You Can Dance”. “The Kids Are All Right” debuts later in the year – a game show where seven of the brightest kids in the country (between the ages of 9 and 15) take on four adults.
“Relate” takes a hard look at various troubled relationships. And the channel’s hopes are riding high on “Montana”, a brand-new drama series from Penguin Films set in Cape Town that will air once a week – secretly positioned as a possible new soap vehicle for SABC1, depending on how it fares in the ratings.
In September, the channel will feature a series called “Precious Africa” about a young woman who travels the continent in her quest to discover what it means to be African. The channel is the home of soccer with new episodes of “Countdown 2010” and, of course, the Confederations Cup matches.
Once jokingly referred to as the “funeral channel” by a previous channel head (while the slogan was “Come alive with us”) due to the multiple live crossings to funerals of political dignitaries, SABC2 is all but a dead channel now.
SABC2 is ready for a new season of the very popular “Strictly Come Dancing” a bit later in the year, although local celebs with an SABC connection are becoming harder to find. On the drama front the channel is very excited about a new series called “Shoreline”, set to debut later this year. “Askies” is on the schedule for April after being pushed out from mid-January. It’s a new 13-episode multilingual sitcom with director André Odendaal and similar in story to the 1970s British sitcom “Mind Your Language” about adult learners and the funny miscommunications that arise between them.
Another local property is the doccie series “Who Do You Think You Are?”. Based on the British show, it traces the family trees of local, well-known celebs (including Riaan Cruywagen) with surprising results and tears (and ancestors!).
The channel’s big investment for the year is “SA’s Got Talent”, which is set to rival M-Net’s “Idols”. It’s a local adaptation of the British/American series that keeps pulling big audiences.
Look out for new seasons in 2009 of “Erfsondes”, “90 Plein Street”, the second season of “I Want To Sing Gospel” and a new “Crazy Games” season, where universities are pitted against each other. There is the new drama series, “Hola Mpinki”; and “Jacob’s Cross”, which was bought from M-Net. Other interesting new programmes include “Songs We Want To Hear” (songs from “Sarie Marais” to “Shosholoza” that define us as a nation, aimed at 2010, but outside the ambit of FIFA) and “Thumbwars” (a mini-“Amazing Race” meets treasure hunt, but on cellphones).
The channel is looking for a comeback after shuffling the 2008 line-up several times because of ICASA local-content quotas and problems with advertiser-funded shows like “Model Millions”.
The commercial channel of the public broadcaster is looking at introducing a local talk show slot on Sundays later in the year. Will it be fronted by 5FM radio voice and current M-Net “Idols” judge Gareth Cliff, as industry insiders are speculating?
“Journey To The Core” is a local documentary set to air this month, while the channel’s big locally produced documentary hopes are pinned on “Oceans 3”, also set to debut later in the year. This Urban Brew production of 13 episodes follows Lintle Letele, Matt Rosmarin and Sthembile Mhlongo on board the MV Polar Star, an ice-breaker, through Antarctica. The production’s aim is to shed light on global climate change.
The popularity of Afrikaans language programming on SABC3 has been noticed in 2008 and the trend is set to continue. A new weekly Afrikaans magazine programme is in the works for later in 2009, provisionally titled “De Kat” (and linked to the magazine of the same name).
The channel wants to introduce a local magazine slot on Fridays. Also look out for Afrikaans dramas “Dryfsand” and “Dit Wat Stom Is”.
Although several international acquisitions will litter the schedule again this year, e.tv is keeping a lid on their local treasure chest, marked mostly by offerings that tend to lean towards the tabloid television side. Should viewers just get used to it and well, “Forgive & Forget”…
What insiders leaked as a “reality dating show” is on the cards for 2009, as is another sports-type show. The soccer drama “Shooting Stars” has more episodes in the can and a new season of the drama series could very well be rolled out to cash in on the build-up towards 2010’s soccer excitement.
The pay channel is placing a strong emphasis on local content for the rest of the year, as well as 2010 and beyond. For the first time since the channel’s “Front Row” bid farewell in the ’90s, M-Net is returning with a new weekly, local entertainment magazine show starting in June. The gossips whisper about Tammy-Anne Fortuin, already hosting “Roer!”, as the frontrunner to host it. The emphasis is on any form of entertainment on the local showbiz scene “but in classic M-Net style”.
Keep the eyes peeled for briefs going out soon, says the blue M, for “true South African comedy”. M-Net deliberately doesn’t want to be more specific about what kind of comedy, and is looking for wide-ranging suggestions from the industry to fulfil the briefs. The channel also has a comprehensive new drama strategy in place. The broadcaster is working on a new local drama on the schedule for September and set in the Cape. Another biggie to expect is the channel’s desire for a big local reality show – the brief will be out soon – planned for January 2010.
Supposed to start in April on the eNews Channel on DStv, is “The Style Report”. The half-hour magazine show, a spin-off from Nicky Greenwall’s still-going-strong “The Showbiz Report”, it features none other than Lindiwe Suttle, daughter of erstwhile local yapper Felicia Mabuza-Suttle (eNews has since announced that the programme will be hosted by Loryn Higginson and Lutho Somdyala – Ed.).
At least one new DStv channel is coming our way come June. The youth channel GO, which struggled in the ratings, is gone by the end of April and so is the other M-Net-supplied channel, K All Day.
GO gets a second go-round, however, when channel 123 on DStv re-launches in June with a new name, image and line-up, although the best international acquisitions like “Gossip Girl” that still fit the new mould will remain.
Also expect several new locally produced, youth-centered shows.
Thinus Ferreira is a freelance TV writer who loves to bask in the warm and comforting glow of any TV set that is switched on. He is the former news editor of local entertainment magazine TVPlus.
- This article first appeared in The Media magazine (March 2009).