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Ramez Qalb Al Assad: Ramadan Prank Show
Celebrity TV prank shows have always been a regular mainstay of Ramadan. This year is no different, and there are plenty of candid-camera-style TV shows pulling the most elaborate pranks and practical jokes on Egyptian celebrities.
One such show is Ramez Qalb Al Assad (Ramez the Lionheart), which features actor Ramez Galal as the host of a prank/interview show that uses lions as a prop to scare his guests. Mostly known for his charm and adventurous nature, Galal has regularly hosted TV shows in the past few Ramadans, where he tours various locations in the world and uses his trademark quips and childish humor to cast commentary on exotic cultures and traditions.
However, in Ramez Qalb Al Assad, he abandons his globe-trotting for a much simpler (and low-budget) alternative. The concept is simple: guests are invited to tape an interview, and as they step into the studio elevator unaccompanied, the elevator breaks down suddenly, and once the doors open, the celebrities find themselves face to face with a caged lion.
Hidden cameras are placed inside the elevator to capture the guest’s reactions, and Ramez continues to survey his victim through camera monitors, often participating in the prank by answering the elevator’s emergency phone using a fake voice and giving nonsensical advice. Ramez eventually reveals himself to the guest by jumping on top of the lion’s cage, and both proceed for an interview recounting the guest’s frightful experience in front of a live studio audience.
The main highlight of the show is of course seeing how these celebrities react when faced with a live lion. Most guests' reactions usually range from a calm and reserved panic to resounding shrieks and screams (or in the case of action star Ahmed El Sakka; a laughing hysteria). Some may feel that a a few of the reactions might be exaggerated, as the lion seems heavily sedated and placed inside a cage within a considerable distance from the elevator doors, thereby limiting any chances of inflicting harm on the guests. It almost drives you to ask if the guests are genuinely frightened or are they just playing along.
The show has also raised concerns among animal rights activists, condemning the use of live lions under heavy sedation for entertainment purposes. As for Ramez Galal’s hosting capabilities; he’s no Ashton Kutcher but he employs what charisma he has to make the show work. Let’s just hope his next Ramadan show doesn’t involve dipping his guests into a shark tank or something.
The first half focuses far too much on Kelsey and Lynette and not enough on say, Rebecca Hall who plays Alan’s sister Mel. In fact, the film in general is pretty light on Hall and she just randomly drops out of the film without having her arc tied up, even though she’s the most magnetic performer in the whole thing. Canterbury, on the other hand, has far too big a part and while he’s decent as Kelsey, his pouting does become a bit one-note after a while.
The second half is, thankfully, far superior, mainly because Alan and Ben grow out of their immaturity and are forced to make some big decisions that shed some light on their relationship and back story. This is also where Sandvig and Ritter’s chemistry shines. They really nail the old friends dynamic and it stretches and warps as a wedge is driven between them, challenging their entire way of life.
While some may argue that originality is dead, no genre is more vulnerable to that notion than comedy, which has always been prevalent in Egyptian Ramadan TV. One only has to look to polarising TV personality and prankster, Ramez Galal.
Appearing for the fifth consecutive time on TV screens during Ramadan, Galal’s latest shenanigans present nothing new – in fact, one could argue that this year’s show, Ramez Wakel El Gaw, is one of the poorest yet; even the opening credits have come to be uniform. A grand orchestral intro makes way for nonsense music with nonsense lyrics. Galal – who lends his vocals to the opening credits – begins each episode in the same way, weaving in some banter at the expense of the celebrity that he’s about to prank.
The concept of the show is that each unsuspecting victim is summoned to a mystery business meeting in Dubai via plane. The prank? It's simple: convince the celebrity in question that the plane is experiencing engine failure and that they are about to die? Tasteless? Maybe. Unfunny? Almost certainly. Galal and co also pepper the celebrity’s ride with smaller, more infantile mini-pranks – serving strange-tasting coffee and spewing unpleasant odours in the plane.
As mentioned, the main prank itself is significantly weaker and cruder than that in previous series. In addition, episodes are shorter, while the show misses the opportunity in making the most of their guests – a sit-down and interview would give the show much more value, for examples. In fairness, however, the disguises and make-up that Galal uses during the pranks isn’t half-bad and there’s a certain guilty pleasure in seeing what he’ll look like in the next episode.
As always, the pay off in a show like this is how the celebrity responds to the revelation of the prank and this series has thus far seen some pretty angry and over-the-top reactions, with one particular episode featuring former belly-dancing star and actress, Lucy, requiring an inordinate amount of bleeping. Galal was even the victim of a pretty firm kicking at the hands of another unimpressed guest.
Galal shows have always received criticism, but viewing figures have always proven the popularity of them; like him or loathe him, people are always talking about him. This year, though, despite Paris Hilton featuring in an upcoming episode, there isn’t as much buzz; this is partly because of the emergence of other Ramadan prank shows, but could Egypt finally be tiring of his antics? Only time will tell.