Before Cairo became the city of ten million satellite dishes, families used to gather around the TV set every Ramadan to watch either of the state-run and ingeniously titled Channel 1 or Channel 2. This post-fetar ritual became a yearly television tradition. With the deluge of satellite channels, TV series and shows became dispersed among different satellite networks, and the programming itself was inconsistent to say the least. Gone was the unity of the experience that brought us all together.
Last year, advertising tycoon Tarek Nour and his agency Tarek Nour Communications (TNC for short) tapped into this vacuum and came up with a solution, Al Kahera Wal Nas (or Cairo Centric); the one-stop channel to end all perpetual channel surfing. This channel basically brought together the most popular Ramadan TV series and talk-shows under one umbrella. Plus, they produced their own edgy content as filler between the segments, which proved to be as entertaining and popular as the blockbuster TV shows.
TNC are no strangers to television programming themselves: the agency has been producing Ramadan TV shows for the last two decades. By the mid-2000s, TNC had bought the entire post-fetar time block on the biggest two local TV stations; so having their own channel seemed like the next step.
Al Kahera Wal Nas premiered in 2009, promising to air only the best in Egyptian TV and only for the month of Ramadan. Billing itself as 'the most daring channel in Ramadan' because of its unprecedented concept, the channel became arguably the most successful and popular TV channel in Egypt. It aired not only the best TV shows, but also interspersed the segments with commercials produced almost entirely by Tarek Nour's advertising agency; thus obtaining an enviable stronghold on Egyptian TV. And true to its word; the channel closed shop right after the end of Ramadan, promising to return in 2010.
How successful can a channel be if it only runs for one month? Well, committing to a seasonal schedule makes sense in terms of credibility, and it’s also economically viable: Ramadan advertising accounts for 60% of the TV industry’s revenues. Plus having only one month of content to produce allows for a higher budget and a better quality of production.
After gaining public attention last year with controversial and star-studded talk show interviews by Tony Khalife and Lamis El Hadidy, Al Kahera Wal Nas is back this year with an enviable line-up of all major TV series, such as Al Gamaa, Al Aar and Cleopatra.
Again, a buffet of exclusive talk shows (from gossipy to in-depth-interviews) will be aired throughout the night after fetar. The highlight is Tony Khalife’s show (now called Belesan Moaredek, or In Your Opponent’s Words) that interviews celebrities such as Ragheb Alama, Carol Samaha and actress Zeina, who will open up for the first time about her sister’s cocaine arrest – it’s ok, she got paid US$40,000 to ease the pain.
El Hadidy has been replaced by Wafaa El Kilany, another blunt hardball interviewer, who has already made waves with her controversial interview with Ghada Abdel Razeq. Last of all, renowned Lebanese journalist Nidal El Ahmadieh is set to interview much talked about figures such as Rami Ayash and Susan Tamim’s lawyer. All of the top-notch dramas will be aired after fetar, with re-runs at noon the following day. What makes Al Kahera Wel Nas a cut above the rest is its censorship-free airing. As it’s a private channel, it’s able to air Al Gamaa in its full, unedited version. The more controversial, the better, we say!
TV drama aside, the channel has produced its very own fawazeer series with the always-bubbly Myriam Fares in Fawazeer Myriam. One wonders how many costume designers suffered sleep deprivation as a direct result of working on this show. Each episode (or riddle) is divided into three segments. First, you get to guess what line of work Miss Fares got herself into. Second, Fares will bust a dance number and you have to guess which country the dance came from. Third– and this is the money right here – Fares recreates an old Tarek Nour commercial and you have to guess (more like remember) the name of the product.
As for comedy, Mekki’s Al Kebeer Awi and its pop-culture humour is your best bet for laughs, while the filler show Bahs Midan Zai El Assal has been attracting a lot of viewers this Ramadan. The short segment consists of a TV interviewer masked as a researcher asking random people on the street some hilarious questions. As Egyptians, we rarely admit to not knowing the answer to a question; and thanks to our amazing ability to make up stuff on the spot, hilarity ensues on this show.
Stay tuned for extensive reviews all through the month of shows airing on Al Kahera Wal Nas.