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We deserve better trash TV

Who doesn’t love some guilty viewing pleasure after a long week? Africa is enjoying a glut of different reality TV products, from Showmax’s The Real Housewives franchise, to Netflix’s Young Famous & African. 

But while these shows have everyone talking, we’re…not impressed. 

The Real Housewives is originally an American franchise that follows a group of wealthy, up-and-coming women (widows, unmarried, married and some divorced) as they build their businesses and careers and climb the social ladder. When the franchise landed in SA in 2018 on M-Net’s 1Magic, African viewers showed up for it, with the show trending regularly on social media. The Durban edition of the franchise also made waves, breaking Showmax viewing records and establishing it as the streaming platform’s most popular show. 

However, the franchise has drawn scrutiny in SA for casting women whose wealth allegedly amounts to ill-gotten gains emanating from corruption. 😑Examples include:

🔷Sorisha Naidoo, married to Durban-based businessman Vivian Reddy, whose company has been accused of defrauding the government of more than R40 million.

🔷Nonkanyiso “LaConco” Conco, former fiancée of Jacob Zuma and mother of one of his youngest children. The corruption-accused former president is (endlessly) awaiting trial for the infamous arms deal.

🔷Tarina Patel, whose husband, Iqbal Sharma, was arrested and thrown in jail last year for state capture-related business. The NPA seized the R12 million mansion that Patel showed off on the Real Housewives franchise, as part of a larger order targeting Gupta associates.

What’s almost equally offensive is how bad African reality TV can be. In the battle of the streaming giants, content is being churned out apace to capture African audiences. But the storylines are monotonous and pretentious: there are only so many rented jets and fancy cars we can look at. Audiences are treated to inauthentic and poorly written conflict among cast members, some of whom are barely relevant. As City Press cultural writer Phumlani S Langa noted: “We have taught these [streaming platforms] that substandard writing and pointless shows are what we love.”

We all deserve better.  

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 11 April  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.