Many people would probably ask the question to this title with: So, why should I watch African TV shows? Well, for one thing, it’s always interesting to watch TV shows from countries you are planning to visit because you can often learn something about the culture through these. But even if you aren’t necessarily planning to visit Africa in the near future, you’d be surprised at both the variety and quality of African TV shows. And in today’s globalised world of high-speed internet streaming, where it’s getting easier to find even the rarest films and TV shows from across the globe, why not give some African shows a chance? From comedy to drama, to romance; there is literally a genre for everyone. So here is a ‘Top 10’ selection of a variety of TV shows from around the continent.
Uganda is a country where being gay or transgender is outlawed by the government, and LGBT people are hugely discriminated against. In 2014, Uganda’s president caused international outrage by calling homosexuals “disgusting” and “unnatural”, whilst passing tougher laws against LGBT people. It’s not surprising then how intense and emotionally moving the African TV show “The Pearl of Africa” is. Following Cleopatra Kambugu – who was born biologically male – a 27-year old transgender girl, the show follows her emotional journey as she openly – and courageously – transitions into a woman.
CNN and the BBC summed this up pretty well when they both described this series as “Africa’s answer to ‘Sex and the City’”. This African TV show follows five Ghanaian and Nigerian women who have recently returned to their home continent after forging successful careers and confide in one another about life in “An African City”. The show’s creator – Nicole Amarteifio – also sums it up in an interview with CNN in 2014: “I wanted something for African women, something for us, by us.” This is definitely one show that will appeal naturally to the girls out there, and undoubtedly ‘Sex and the City’ fans.
A comedy/mockumentary based on the development sector in Kenya, the African TV show follows the daily goings-on at a local field office for a fictional NGO “Aid for Aid”. Fans of the British comedy “The Office” starring Ricky Gervais will notice parallels between the two shows, with painfully awkward monologues from the NGO’s director, Scott, who hasn’t a clue what he is doing! This is guaranteed to entertain and amuse you, with the antics in the NGO’s office and the often ridiculous decisions they make creating a truly ‘laugh out loud’ comedy show.
According to the show’s co-creator, Lisa Lane Drennan, the concept of the show was initially going to be a parody about the lives of suburban white-culture in South Africa. However, as the show and script developed they realised it was not just about white people and the lives in the suburbs, but actually more about the ‘problems’ middle-class people around the world deal with in general. As such, it’s been compared to shows such as the US-hit series, “Modern Family”. What is especially great about this African TV show is that the first two seasons are available on YouTube, and the producers are working on the third season. So it’s highly-accessible with both it’s content and in practical terms.
So you have undoubtedly heard of ‘Big Brother’ if you come from North America or Europe, as almost every country now seems to have their own version of the show. However, the African version of this hugely successful reality TV show is interesting for the fact it features contestants from all over the African continent, from numerous countries. And it is arguably Africa’s most watched TV show. The season’s cash prize was increased recently from US$200,000 to $300,000. A must-see for reality TV fans.
From chief writer Mawuena Akyea – a Ghanian-American producer – “African Time” is a ‘talking head web series’ about what life is like for African American’s living overseas as part of the African diaspora. The African TV show tackles subjects such as parenting, stereotypes and other issues with a sense of humour but also with graceful intelligence. It’s definitely worth checking out to see what life is like for migrants living outside their native Africa and the issues they have to deal with.
Co-produced between multi-award winning director David Gitonga, and Tanzania’s producer and writer Abdu Simba, ‘The Nairobans’ is an intense crime-thriller based in Nairobi. Described as “dark and dramatic”, the African TV show follows a gang of highly skilled criminals committing various bank heists across the city. Definitely one for fans of shows such as ‘Breaking Bad’ and other crime-thrillers.
This is a political satire web series from Nigeria, with the whole series filmed with puppets. This might remind UK viewers of the hugely popular 1980’s/90’s political satire, “Spitting Image”, which also used puppets. Season two kicked off recently and focused on the Nigerian elections. Each episode runs at around 5-minutes, released each Friday. The show went viral with over 100,000 views and has been nominated for Best Online Video for last year’s Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice awards.
Another South African TV show – but one that couldn’t be absent from this list due to its sheer popularity across the continent – INkaba is a narrative exploring class divisions in South Africa. From the super-rich and powerful ruling elite to a hopeful and determined middle-class, and the struggles of the poor trapped in a cycle of poverty, INkaba depicts this whole social system and the factors and reasons which lock people into South Africa’s often striking social (and racial) divides. Definitely a show for those who are interested in socio-economic issues and those studying social sciences.
Finally on our list, Tinsel is a hugely popular and dramatic soap-opera, overflowing with a star-studded cast of actors and actresses. This has made the show addictive, keeping viewers hooked on the lives of the adults leading their dramatic lives of romance, betrayal, and passion. This will definitely appeal to those who are fans of soap-operas in the UK such as ‘Coronation Street’, or for North American fans of the hit soap-opera ‘Days of our Lives’.