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.