Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—For once, the heated rivalry between Lebanese television channels during the holy month of Ramadan, set to begin at the end of June, seems to be absent, a direct result of its coinciding with the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this year.
Viewers in Lebanon, who were anticipating the usual full roster of Ramadan dramas this year, were left disappointed when many channels decided to reduce their output out of fear the shows would clash with the hugely popular World Cup matches. Since only one network, Samaa TV, has rights to broadcast the matches in Lebanon—of which there are 64 in total—this has resulted in an overall dearth in shows announced this year.
Networks such as Al-Jadeed, MTV Lebanon, and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) decided to air fewer dramas this year to save on costs. Future TV was the exception, however, deciding to air a number of entertainment shows this Ramadan in addition to its usual selection of soap operas, in order to attract more viewers.
Two of the dramas showing on Future TV this Ramadan are Words on Paper and Collar Girls. Words on Paper, directed by Mohamed Sami, stars Lebanese pop star and actress Haifa Wehbe and Egyptian actor Maged El-Masri. The plot revolves around a married woman who falls in love with another man who is later murdered, making her the primary suspect in the case.
Collar Girls, directed by Mohamed Zuhair Rajab, was the most expensive production of the season. Starring Mona Wassef, Rashid Assaf and Dima Kandalaft, it depicts a series of stories in which private and public affairs come together, combining themes of betrayal, love, freedom and injustice.
Future TV’s entertainment shows this Ramadan include Stand-Up Comedy, A Mood of Laughter and What’s Up?, all of which will be broadcast during the first half of the month. Stand-Up Comedy, hosted by actor Michel Suleiman, injects laughter in the form of imitations and dubbed-over scenes from Lebanese soap operas; Mood of Laughter is a live show in which an audience guest is hypnotized and encouraged to speak about their dreams—to humorous effect; while What’s Up? sees stylist Lama Lund and a team of beauty experts offer up solutions to people desiring a radical image change.
One of this year’s biggest productions, Al-Jadeed TV’s The Accusation, stars Lebanese pop star Myriam Fares. It tells the story a Lebanese woman who travels to Cairo to work in a cotton textile factory to support her family and then falls prey to a gang involved in drugs and prostitution. She is rescued and plots her revenge, but later discovers the leader of the gang is her lover’s father. Here she finds herself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea—between her own experience of injustice, which causes the death of her agonized mother, and her love for her abuser’s son.
Al-Jadeed will also screen three Syrian-produced soap operas: The Sieve, The Scream of a Soul, and Rings. The Sieve, directed by Naji Ta’ama, focuses on the struggle between good and evil and the miseries and the injustices that afflict others as a result; The Scream of a Soul, directed by Saifuddin Al-Sebei, is made up of six stories each consisting of five episodes, and centers upon an open discussion of marital infidelity.
The MTV drama What If? also tackles the subject of marital infidelity, examining this phenomenon in different cultures and societies. Another drama showing on MTV, Ten Young Slaves, is influenced by the work of British novelist Agatha Christie. It tells the story of 10 strangers lured to a remote island, but with a killer among them.
Unlike some of its rivals, television channel LBC made the firm decision this year not to enter the annual Ramadan rivalry between networks in Lebanon due to the clash with the World Cup this year. The network chose instead to continue its screening of The Brother, which first aired nearly a month ago. It will also screen the sixth season of the hugely popular soap Bab Al-Hara and a new series, Bride and Groom. Bab Al-Hara, set in Damascus, sheds light on the city’s values as well as the firmly established customs and traditions in Syria. In the series this year a number of Syrian actors, such as Ayman Zeidan, are expected to make a strong comeback.
So despite the relative shortage in shows this Ramadan, Lebanese viewers should have plenty to enjoy on television as they settle down on the couch with family and friends after breaking their fast to share some well-earned minty tea—and if that does not satisfy them, there is always the drama of the World Cup.