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Historical Hits Resurrecting Turkey’s TRT

It’s been years since Turkish government broadcaster TRT has had a chart-topping drama. The spread of satellite in the 1990s saw the government racing to catch up with de-facto privatization.

The countless channels that emerged in the era brought drama — first foreign, then gradually, domestic — that turned TRT into a byword for boring. Notoriously low production values have long been a sticking point for viewers and the absence of any true market impetus meant little incentive for change.

Recent years have seen a number of high-profile efforts to shift both image and content at TRT. While results have generally been middling, the second season of “Resurrection Ertugrul” marks a resounding success, with an audience share that rarely dips below 30% in the competitive Wednesday primetime slot once ruled by “Magnificent Century.”

The show partakes in the burgeoning neo-Ottomanism visible throughout Turkey today, as title character Ertugrul is the father of Ottoman dynasty founder Osman. Compared to previous Ottoman drama attempts on TRT, however, “Resurrection” is less hampered by history. TRT’s stringent government line on the sacredness of the Ottoman past mean that previous project “Mutiny,” which had three reboots, faced troubles for representing a sultan’s doubts, harem intrigues and social unrest.

Though Ertugrul is similarly revered, the character was virtually unknown before TRT penned the series, meaning there’s far more latitude for character development and drama. The compromise seems to have left viewers, execs and the government happy, as President Tayyip Erdogan, who once levied an attack on “Century,” took to welcoming foreign dignities last year with “Resurrection’s” theme song.

TRT will be offering “Resurrection” alongside its late-Ottoman detective story “Filinta” at Mip.Though it remains to be seen whether the mythical tale would resonate outside the country, the production values and acting clearly compete with anything on Turkish TV today.

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