Is Rhythm City’s cancellation a sign of changing viewer taste?
It is official, e.tv’s Rhythm City will be ending in 2021 to make way for a new daily drama. Is this decision unique to Rhythm City or will this be a ripple effect not just reaching the rest of e.tv but all across multiple channels. Let’s look deeper into the reasons that cause e.tv and other channels to cancel or decommission multiple traditional soap operas. Times change and so do viewers’ taste so how will that change reflect onto our screens every night on prime time television?
What made soapie operas popular?
In order to understand the decline of soap opera we need to understand how they rose to popularity. What was so captivating about soapies? Well, they are filled with drama, sensationalism, and gorgeous looking people at that. Soapies provide a short window into another world, a world we can explore without any consequences. Ever wondered what it would be like to marry your high school sweetheart right after the death of your wife and in the midst of your sweetheart’s divorce? Well tune in at 1930 and find out. We humans have wild imaginations and some of the things that we think about cannot be expressed out loud. Maybe our ideas are morally and socially questionable or we don’t have the means to execute our wildest desires or perhaps we are just too reserved or conservative to do such a thing. Guess who doesn’t have those constraints? The characters in your favourite soapie. They are free to damage their lives as much as they can, after all, they are just actors. At the end of the day, Suffocate Ndlovu returns to being Mduduzi Mabaso.
Soapies also provide a certain escape. A chance to think about or be absorbed by the troubles of someone else and not your own. They provide a small window of time where can unabashedly judge someone else’s actions instead of feeling remorse of your own. You are free to occupy a world without responsibilities. When you watch a soap opera you’re not concerned about rent or whether or not your kids have eaten, you just want to know who killed David Genaro.
Soap operas give us the opportunity to look into the lives of others. We get to laugh at their mistakes, empathize with them or stare wide-eyed at the audacity of characters. It’s a way of gossiping without really hurting anyone in the process. You get to look and not feel shame, judge and not be judged in return. Soapies satisfy our curiosity of the lives that our neighbors, colleagues or church mates might live, after all the writers of these shows get their material from somewhere right?
If there are reasons why soap operas were popular then why do we see the decommissioning of soapies such as Isidingo and Rhythm City? Why have Skeem Saam’s ratings gone down? If soapies are so great what could possibly be better?
At some point, people get bored or tired of the same faces
That’s right, at some point people get bored or tired of the same faces. There are only so many times you want to see Ridge get married to Brooke. Only a few actors have the talent to get us wanting more and only a few writers are able to give us an engaging storyline Monday to Friday, January to December. You can only rebrand Generations so many times and no amount of new actors and stories can beat a classic cast.
After a while Khulekani gets boring and the audience is very quick to move on to Uzalo or The Queen. How long can an audience watch the same storyline or even worse what happens when writers rebrand a soap opera only for the viewers to hate it even more? There are many sopaies on air and online so the competition is stiff. There will be winners and there will be losers.
Drama and scandals now come in different forms
Remember when you watched soap operas to get a glimpse into the scandalous and messy lives of the supposed rich and famous? Well, you can do all that with the really rich and famous on reality television. Why should I watch the imagined life of a rich man when I can watch “Being Bonang” and see for myself the real life of a rich and successful person. Even though it is common knowledge that reality television is somewhat scripted at least I know for sure that Bonang Matheba is really launching House of Bonang.
One thing that a lot of people are catching on to is that it seems to be cheaper for production houses and channels to invest in reality television as opposed to traditional soap operas. For one they don’t need to construct a set, all they have to do is pitch up at the star’s house and follow them around the already constructed city. And let’s not forget that reality television does bring in the numbers. With the right personality, you’ll see that many people are willing to watch the daily life of Boity on her reality television show “Own You Throne”.
The love of soap operas might be in ICU but the views are still high
The traditional form of the soap opera may be a dying art form but if repackaged well our daily dramas will live on another day. This is when we bring in the concept of a telenovela. Apart from the original meaning of the word, telenovelas have come to be dramas or television soap operas which are miniseries. So each show is jam-packed with what we love about a series but at least we know it will end. A successful rendition of this is actually “Zone 14”. Zone 14 has 4 seasons and came to an end in 2012. The writers and producers of the show packaged the show in seasons and not a never ending show. They had breaks in production and a beginning and end to their seasons and plots. The formula was perfect. Bite-size yet filling.
Even though my example is eight years old the principle remains; sometime a different formula is what you need. Tried and tested can become tired and testing quick.
Let’s hope the cancellation of Rhythm City will not have a ripple effect on the landscape of South African prime time television as we know it. I have a feeling that if anything will be done it might be too little too late. Will more shows bite the dust or will the traditional soap opera stand its ground? Stay tuned to SavannaNews and we will update you on any highs and lows of South African prime time television
Is Rhythm City’s cancellation a sign of changing viewer taste? – SavannaNews