Syrian TV shows continue to defy hardships in 2016

Damascus, SANA – Despite all the difficulties, hardships and the challenges that increase with each year since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, a total of 40 Syrian TV series have been completed in 2016, with these shows, along with the joint productions with other Arab countries, covering a range of genres including contemporary social drama, Damascene period shows, and comedies.

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In terms of quantity, Syrian TV production managed to make up for the decrease in number of shows that marked production since the crisis began, as some production companies either suspended operations or moved to work abroad, and this recovery is caused by the remaining companies’ ability to adapt and by the partnerships between multiple private companies or between private companies and the public sector’s General Establishment for Radio and TV Production.

Work conditions are no longer as convenient and diverse as they were, so now shows are adapting to the limited shooting locations, while some shows opted to work in somewhat dangerous locations that are close to areas where terrorist groups are active.

In terms of genre, contemporary social drama is the most prolific this year, with a total of 22 shows, 5 of them produced by the public sector: Where Do We Begin the Tale, I’m Not a Slave Woman, Without a Scabbard, Unforgettable Days, and Dissolution.

The other shows in this genre include Red, Regret, the 4th season of A Soul’s Cry, Domino, Half a Day, Innocent Wrongdoers, Crime of Passion, Wanderers in the Mist, the 3rd season of Kin of Love, School of Love, the Stranger, Neighbors of the Moon, Pain of Silence, and Women with a Past.

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A total of 8 Damascene period drama have been produced this year due to the popularity of this type of historical shows among Arab viewers, and at the lead comes the 8th season of Bab al-Hara (The Quarter’s Door), accompanied by the 3rd season of Girls’ Collar, Al-Mawaldi House, Fragrance of Damascus, Khatoun, and Sadr al-Baz.

Despite the crisis in Syria, comedy remains present in TV shows, with 10 shows this year including the 12th season of Spotlight, al-Tawarid (which a comedy set in the Bedouin community), Salimo and his Harem, What’s the Story, Familial Tension, Tenzeker w Ma Ten’ad (the title is an idiom used when a bad memory is mentioned which roughly means “let’s hope that’s the last time that happens”), We’ve Got This, and Fares and Five Spinsters.

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Sadly, marketing Syrian shows is a task that becomes ever more difficult, partly due to the hostile policies of some channels that are backed by states that are involved in the war on Syria and who want to exclude Syrian shows, in addition to the fact that a number of actors, writers, directors, and technical staff members have opted to work in other Arab countries, reducing the talent working in local shows, while another element is the presence of sub-par shows with lean content and weak production values that compete with better shows by being cheaper for channels than their more competent competitors.

It remains to be seen how the audience will react to this years’ lineup, and the feedback will hopefully provide insight into the strengths and weaknesses of shows which would help in developing shows and improving them in order to preserve this deep-rooted industry and art form.

Hazem Sabbagh

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