Arab webs in ‘Tash’ match

MBC, LBC duke it out with dueling skeins

LONDON — With Ramadan barely a week old, the season’s first TV dispute has broken out as pan-Arab satcasters Middle East Broadcasting Center and Lebanon Broadcasting Corp. air dueling primetime versions of popular Saudi satirical laffer “Tash ma tash.” The double up, on MBC1 and LBCi, came after helmer Aamir Mahmoud split with lead actors Abdullah Al Sadhan and Nasser Al Gasabi following creative disagreements about the show, a series of stand-alone comedies that often highlight flaws in Saudi society.

However, both sides have rights to the name of the show.

Mahmoud took his version to LBC while Al Sadhan and Al Gasabi stayed with MBC, which has aired it every Ramadan for 13 years.

“It’s funny that we’re both going at the same time with the same show but so what,” says LBC CEO Pierre Daher.

“Tash ma tash” is one of the most watched programs during the Holy Month, particularly in the Gulf, with ad rates for a 30-second slot going for $20,000 and brand sponsorship of the series for as high as $1.2 million.

It’s no stranger to controversy.

Threats against Al Sadhan and Al Gasabi were recently posted on Islamist Web sites after a clip of their upcoming series lampooning Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was leaked on the Internet.

In previous years, the stars and helmer have been subjected to fatwas decreeing it sinful to watch the show. Not that it stopped local auds from tuning in in droves.

It’s too early to tell who will win the “Tash” war.

“At the end of the day, the only judgment that counts is that of the audience. Then we’ll know who’s right,” says Michel Costandi, MBC’s director of business development.

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