Perhaps more than previous years, this Ramadan’s TV slate offers a humongous amount of star-studded dramas, talk shows and sitcoms competing for airtime and Egyptian viewers’ attention.
The success of “Tamer & Shawkeya and last year’s “Ragel we Sit Sitat (A Man and Six Women) encouraged studio executives to venture more into American-style sitcoms. This year sees four new sitcoms debuting next month.
The most anticipated of the bunch is “Al Eyada (The Clinic), directed by Amr Arafa and starring Edward and Basma. Set in a shabby little clinic, the series features guest appearances from the country’s biggest film stars, including Ahmed Ezz and Hany Ramzy, among others.
“Kwafeer Ashwaq (Ashwaq Beauty Salon) revolves around Ashwaq (Mimi Gamal), a beauty salon manager and her quirky customers. “Sherif we Nos (Sherif and a Half) tells the story of an Egyptian family forced to move abroad and the obstacles they face. Sherif Ramzy, Randa El Behiery, Dorra and Ahmed Rateb star.
“Café Techeeno is a straight “Cheers rip-off about a coffee shop owner (Khaled El Nabawy), his love interest (Donia Samir Ghanem) and his loyal, regular clients. Apart from “The Clinic, neither the premise of these sitcoms nor talent involved looks promising.
A host of new talk shows and celebrity programs will also premier in Ramadan. The most hyped program of the bunch is “El-Tagroba (The Experiment), produced by Tarek El Ganayni who brought you last year’s “El-Sha’a (The Apartment).
In “The Experiment, Egyptian and Arab stars choose a different profession to perform for an entire day. TV presenter Mahmoud Saad, for example, decides to assume the role of a garbage collector, while actor Ashraf Abdel Baky reprises his taxi driver character in “Ala Ganb Yasta in real life. “The Apartment was original and entertaining and “The Experiment is likely to follow suit.
Ezzat Abou Ouf presents “Wezara Matamet (An Unfinished Ministry), a talk show that offers a host of stars the chance to form a new ministry or head an existing one and discuss the changes they’d like to bring about. Appearing in nearly every film, TV serial, commercial and talk show out there, Egyptian viewers are seriously suffering from Abou Ouf fatigue, so beware of overdose symptoms.
The unlikely duo Hala Fakher and Ghada Abdel Razek team up for “Raya and Skeena where they assume the role of the country’s most notorious serial killers to interview the stars.
The number of sitcoms and entertainment programs however pale in comparison to drama serials. More than 25 large-scale productions will swarm Egyptian and Arabic screens, featuring the country’s most established veterans of the medium as well as several new players.
Following the massive success of last year’s controversial “Qadeyat Ra’i A’am (A Public Opinion Case), Youssra teams up again with Syrian helmer Mohammed Azizeya for “Fi Ayeden Amina (In Trustworthy Hands), which costars Hesham Selim and Samy El Adel.
Youssra plays a journalist who invades the world of child trafficking and illegal child labor following the abduction of her son.
Hot on the heels of last year’s hit comedy “Yetraba fi Ezzo (May He Be Raised in Prosperity), Yehia El Fakharany returns to serious drama with “Sharaf Fath El-Bab. El Fakharany plays an honest government employee who gets framed for a crime he didn’t commit after refusing to accept a bribe.
Nour El Sherif returns for the sequel of last year’s hit “El-Daly. The sequel continues to explore the dark, conspiracy-filled world of shifty cabinet minister and entrepreneur Saad El-Daly. The first part lost steam by the end and the sequel will need a serious reboot to bring viewers back.
Syrian actress Sulaf Fawakhergy stars in the biopic of Lebanese chanteuse “Asmahan. Directed by Tunisian director Shawky El Magry and starring Ahmed Shaker Abdel Latif, the serials chronicle the late singer’s rise to stardom, her relationship with her brother Farid El Attrash and her mysterious tragic death.
Hend Sabry lands her first TV serial role in “Baad El-Forak (After the Separation) costarring Khaled Saleh and directed by Shereen Adel (“Sarah ). The romantic drama revolves around a maid (Sabry) who moves to Cairo and falls in love with a journalist (Saleh) who rejects her.
Magdy Kamel stars as late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in “Nasser, the second major biopic of the season. The controversial drama has garnered heat after Egyptian TV refused to broadcast it on terrestrial channels. Makers of “Nasser claim the serials should be objective, highlighting the well-known accomplishments of his regime as well as its misgivings. Kamel, reprising his role from the TV serials “Halim in 2006, was nowhere as charismatic as Ahmed Zaki in the film “Nasser 56 and unless the serial takes bold steps in exploring the many controversies and atrocities of the Nasser regime, the series will fizzle quickly.
After the catastrophic failure of the Soad Hosni biopic “El Cinderella a couple of years ago, director Samir Sief bounces back with “Nassem El-Roh (Soul Breeze) starring Moustafa Shaaban, Nelly Karim and Ayman Zidan. The historical drama centers on Saad Aziz (Shaaban), an orphan brought up by a merciless, cruel man named “Osman Khalil in turn- of-the-century Cairo. His dysfunctional childhood propels him to abandon any morality he once adhered to as he begins to pursue wealth and power.
Director Nader Galal and scriptwriter Beshir El-Deek aspire to replicate the success of “Amaken fel Alb (Places in the Heart) with their latest political allegory “Zel El-Mohareb (Shadow of the Fighter), starring Hesham Selim and Ola Ghanem. The series is set in the fictional country of Chripstan, a small nation that rises to the forefront of world attention after geologists discover an enormous amount of petrol and uranium under in its shores.
When a global OPEC-like organization attempts to forge a deal with the country’s leader General Hadidy to provide drilling facilities in return forlarge profits, an insurgent group decides to unseat the administration.
Epic TV drama director Ismail Abdel Hafez joins forces with veteran scriptwriter Mohamed Safaa Amer for historical drama “Ada El-Nahar (The Morning Has Passed) starring Salah El-Saadany, Nicole Saba and Razan El-Maghraby. El-Saadany plays Shaarawy Pacha, an illustrious business tycoon during the monarchy, who attempts to transfer his illegally amassed wealth abroad after the revolution committee decides to sequester his property and freeze his financial transactions.
Dalia El Behiery and Bassem Samra star in “Bent Men El-Zaman Dah (A Girl of this Age). Set in an impoverished Cairo neighborhood, El Behiery plays a naïve young woman who makes a living out of selling roses at traffic stops. El Behiery’s character loses her innocence after she is raped. Consequently, she decides to take revenge and turns into a monster.
Sherif Mounir returns to the small screen with “Alb Mayet (Fearless Heart) directed by Magdy Abou Eimera and costarring Ghada Adel. Mounir plays Reda Abou Shama, an unemployed daredevil from a humble family who participates regularly in illegal car races. His life soon turns haywire when he accidentally kills a bystander.