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Ramadan TV: Bahs Midani- Zay El Assal
Not quite the Punk’d school of prank shows, Bahs Midani-Zai El Assal (As Sweet as Honey) is more of a gentle take on the genre; where instead of deriving comedy out of making poor guests uncomfortable, the show’s hosts rely on their improvisation skills to come up with stupefying yet funny responses.
Airing every day on Al Kahera Wal Nas and hosted by George Samir, Zai El Assal also features four other actors who play average passers-by on the street. Masked as a social experiment, Samir and his crew analyse a typical Egyptian problem such as noise pollution and traffic. Then the show proposes three ridiculous scenarios to treat the dilemma. All this is in the first few minutes, accompanied by trendy animation for an extra punch.
Then Samir and co. take their cameras to the street and prey on gullible pedestrians. Armed with absurd scenarios and the knowledge of Egyptians’ability to form an opinion on anything, the wacky pack find outspoken individuals willing to play along with the show’s absurd suggestions. Most of the guests never question the outlandish options that they have to choose from; some out of politeness, others just due to the camera rush.
The interviews take multiple surreal turns as the quick host comes up with funny replies based on double-entendres as the other actors keep creeping over the guest’s personal space. No matter how outrages the host’s suggestions maybe; guests never call him on his idiocy; in fact, some outdo him in the department.
The show is produced by RealTime, composer Khaled Hammad’s (who also wrote the zany scenarios) post-production company. To its credit, Zai El Assal tries to rise above the bottom-of-the-barrel standards set by its Egyptian predecessors by having solid production values. Also, the show covers a wide range of Cairo’s landscape and features people from different classes and backgrounds united by their complacency.
The problem with the show’s set-up is that it wears thin fast. After watching a couple of episodes of Zai El Assal; you pretty much get the gist of it. Detractors of the show blame it for shedding light on the dumb side of Egyptians, a reality that most deny despite almost 58% of the adult population being illiterate. Zai El Assal is not exploitive; but it merely handles hefty issues with a sense of humour. It’s meant as light entertainment to air right after fetar when no blood is pumping to the brain.
Zai El Assal’s funny moments are mostly misses, and the rare hits end up the next day on Facebook and twitter feeds. The show is not as funny as last year’s offering from Cairo-Centric La Sosta Culturale, but at least it’s a lot more merciful than the chicken news show. Compared to that, Zai El Assal is death by laughter.
The local church choir in Pacashau, Georgia come in second at the regional competitions every single year. Luckily for them, though, their main rivals are disqualified and they get a chance to compete at the nationals. G.G. (Parton), the church’s main benefactor, and Vi Rose (Latifah), the choir leader, have to put aside their rivalry and turn their choir into a serious contender for the national title. Vi Rose wants to stick to their tried and tested choir staples, while Randy (Jordan), G.G.’s troublesome grandson who happens to have a thing for Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (Palmer), wants to freshen things up with some reworked pop songs and choreography.
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.