Reviewing Ramadan sitcoms was every bit of the grueling task I’d expected it to be. While, in theory, the idea of switching off your brain and indulging in a 20-minute comedy show sounds appealing, Egyptian sitcoms beg to differ.
Watching episodes of the 8+ sitcoms on television this Ramadan, I found myself maintaining a straight face throughout, never cracking so much as a smile, counting down the slowest 20 minutes of each day.
And for the record, I’m a sitcom junkie.
In 2001, the first wave of Egyptian sitcoms emerged with “Shabab Online, (Teens Online), the local version of popular American series “Friends. Ever since, local sitcoms have failed to detach themselves from their foreign origins, continuously recycling their ideas.
Still, for several reasons, including the low production costs, more and more directors have been hopping on the sitcom bandwagon for the past four years, while a handful of others have managed to return with new seasons.
Today sitcoms are a dime a dozen, leaving viewers like myself spoilt for choice – what can we watch instead?
While every now and then the storylines seem to have potential in shows such as “Ragel wa Set Setat, (A Man and Six Women) “Tamer & Shawkeya, “6 Midan El Tahrir (6 Tahrir Square) and “Haramt ya Baba, (Never Again, Dad), the general thought left after these shows is that they surely can do better with further development. Most of them seem to always fall short of delivering the goods, not to mention that they’re very poorly executed.
The shows’ creators fail to utilize the most of the 20-minute spots they are given, with episodes sometimes ending abruptly with a rushed finish.
The main trend running through Egyptian sitcoms is their underestimation of the viewers’ sense of humor, banking on the most trivial punch-lines that may, or may not, appeal to a four-year-old at best.
A case in point is “El-Eyada (The Clinic) which relies on cartoonish sound effects to follow the less-than-weak punch lines.
Starring Basma, Edward and Khaled Sarhan, “The Clinic is now in its second season. While the main concept behind it has the blueprint for an entraining comedy, its excruciating punch-lines make the episodes difficult to sit through.
Overacting/bad acting seem to be a disease all the sitcoms’ stars have been inflicted with. Throw in exaggerated movements and facial expressions, coupled with eccentric outfits, loud and artificial voices and, according to their understanding, you have a winning combination. It seems to be their only way of getting a funny message across.
In the new sitcom “Fo’sh – whose own producer admittedly called it “appalling – Ahmed Rizk plays an overweight, Limby-like thug attempting to rehabilitate. Rizk sports a curly ginger wig and a beard to complement his character and speaks in an off-putting accent. None of that seems to help give the show any substance and ends up feeling forced.
Because laughter is known to be contagious, some Egyptian shows employ an irritatingly fake laugh track in hopes of tickling the viewers’ funny bone. Unfortunately, it does little to incite any reaction whatsoever.
The laugh track always feels unnatural, played at odd, random intervals throughout each episode, whereas their foreign counterparts are actually filmed in front of a live audience.
“A Man and Six Women is a veteran in embracing this abnormality. How this show is in its fifth season is beyond my comprehension.
However, I must admit I do enjoy the occasional episode of “Tamer & Shawkeya. This season, the show has been boosted by a variety of guest appearances (most of whom starred in the hit indie play “Ahwa Sada ) who add a fresh flavor to every episode. None of them though has succeeded in filling the void Ahmed Mekky left when he quit the show a couple of years ago.
Sitcoms must start employing that Egyptian wit and sense of humor we are famous for and stray away from the foreign sitcoms they follow blindly. Only then will they have a chance to offer real authentic comedy.