Candid Camera “terrorists” are joining “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” in this year’s Ramadan TV entertainment lineup in Egypt. The sked also includes four nightly Arabic soaps, four new historical-religious serials, made-for-TV movies, sitcoms, quizzes, special kiddie programs and numerous talkshows.
In short, a table of a TV feast for couch potatoes during the Islamic holy month is enjoined on Moslems and presented by the Egyptian Radio & Television Union (ERTU).
Ramadan this year falls Feb. 1 through March 2, according to the Islamic lunar calendar.
It is during Ramadan that the ERTU traditionally struts its new stuff and also rings up major program sales to other Arab and Islamic countries.
One of this year’s faves is “Ali Baba and the40 Thieves,” a nightly middle ages costume serial with lavish sets, song and dance routines and outdoor action scenes. The show is based on stories from the “A Thousand and One Nights” classic and stars popular TV and film actor Yehya el Fakhrani.
Another hit is a new and somewhat politicized edition of “Kamera Kaffeya” (Hidden Camera), inspired by the U.S. evergreen, “Candid Camera.”
At a time when Islamic militants are carrying on a terrorist campaign to overthrow Egypt’s secular government, “Hidden Camera” goes out of its way to ridicule extremists.
For example, in one segment a bearded and handcuffed man – looking for all the world like a stereotypical Mideast terrorist – jumps from behind a tree on a Cairo street and pleads with passers-by to help him out of his handcuffs so he can escape the police. Most of the aghast people either scurry away in horror or yell for a cop.
But if “Ali Baba” and “Kamera” are certified hits, this year’s array of soaps seems to be less successful with auds. In fact, all are continuations of previous serials. One of them, “The Nights of Helmeya,” is now in its fifth year – and getting somewhat stale, according to many viewers.
It’s from the soaps and historical and religious serials that ERTU generates most of its foreign TV sales. Last year’s Ramadan sales topped $5 mil.
Even if some of this year’s Ramadan output looks a little like re-runs of previous successes, the ERTU is not likely to be hurt financially – for the simple reason that it enjoys something of a captive market for its Arabic-lingo serials. No other Arab country has Egypt’s extensive TV production resources.
ERTU’s religious serials have found sales territories (in subtitled versions) in non-Arab but largely Moslem countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. This year’s religious serials include such titles as “Mohammed, God’s Messenger to the World,” “The Prophetic Birth” and “Men for All Times.”