Egypt Today’s annual look at the season’s hottest serials
By Sherif Awad
Cinema’s loss is TV’s gain, as mosalsalat season returns with bigger, brighter and more star-studded serials. Film companies have put their production lines on hold as they invest in TV with film stars who said bye-bye to cinema amid the economic turmoil since 2011. And it’s hard to miss what’s on, with billboards wallpapering the big cities with stars of Ramadan serials, sitcoms and TV shows. Meanwhile, social media has been abuzz with the not-to-be missed premieres of the season’s newest talk shows and candid camera programs. With more than 110 serials lined up for 2014, we offer our picks for the post-iftar viewing.
Wether or not there are casting calls in films, these great stars moved to Ramadan TV permanently.
Airing on MBC Misr
Director: Shady al-Fakharany
C ast: Yehia al-Fakharany, Fathy Abdel-Wahab and Youssra al-Lozi
Plot: It just wouldn’t be Ramadan without Yehia al-Fakharany. This year, the veteran actor plays the head of a large Upper-Egyptian family who offers his fortune to his three daughters before he passes away. However, greed changes the lives of the daughters, who reject their father as they focus on getting all the money for themselves. Shot between Egyptian Media Production City and Dahshour Village, Dahsha features songs written by leading Egyptian poet Abdel-Rahman al-Abnoudi. The series is directed by al-Fakharany’s real-life son Shady, who also directed his father in the 2012 mosalsal Al-Khawaga Abdel-Kader.
-Saheb El-Saada (His Excellency)
Airing on MBC Misr
Director: Ramy Imam
Cast: Adel Imam, Lebleba and Edward
Plot: Adel Imam, one of the nation’s most iconic actors, returns to Ramadan TV for the third year in a row following the serials Nagi Atallah Squad (2012) and The Fortuneteller (2013). In His Excellency, Imam plays Bahgat, a retired government official who lives with his wife (Lebleba) and his five sons in a luxurious house. Family troubles arise when Bahgat falls in love with his Lebanese neighbor Madelyn, played by Madlyn Tabar. The serial is directed by Imam’s real-life son Ramy, who also directed the earlier serials starring his father. Armenian-born, Cairo-based belly dancer Safinaz, who recently attracted much media attention with her performances, will also make more than one appearance.
Airing on Alhayat
Director: Adel Abib
Cast: Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, May Selim and Wafaa Amer
Plot: After Abou-Hiba, a womanizing Upper-Egyptian millionaire, is attacked and kidnapped by a group of thugs while driving in the desert, he is left on Gabal al-Halal, the Sinai mountain where outlaws hide. Although the plot seems to be a cross between Dahsha and Saheb El-Saada, the serial should attract fans of Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz whose latest hit was the 2012 soap opera Bab al-Khalk
Comedians are recycling their early work for the small screen
El-Kebeer-Awy 4 (The Big One 4)
Airing on CBC
Director: Ahmed El-Gen
Cast: Ahmed Mekky, Donya Samir Ghanem and Hossam Dagher
Plot: The Big One returns for a fourth year with the same cast including Mekky, who plays his usual multiple characters like El-Kebeer-Awy, Hazlakom and Johnny. Additional special guest stars include Lebanese singer Haifaa Wahbe and Ghassan Matar. The daily sitcom revisits the year’s big events like the Egyptian elections and street violence.
Plot: A naïve man called Mehrez (singer Saad El-Soghayar) suddenly inherits a house, but after he moves in with his wife and mother, he discovers it is haunted by comic spirits. After directing eight seasons of A Man and Six Women, Lebanese director Assad Fouladkar has proven a great talent in generating laughs out of so-so scripts and production means. That’s why he relies on the supporting cast rather than special effects to pull this one off.
Relying on the popularity of his Lemby and Atata characters, comedian Mohamed Saad appear in this daily anthology featuring numerous plot lines and guest stars. The episodes are written by Sameh Ser al-Khetm, who co-wrote previous Saad films.
Airing on CBC
Director: Ahmed al-Manawishi
Cast: Ahmed Helmy, Boushra and Ezzat Abou-Ouf
A comic action-adventure heavily influenced by American films and shows, Operation Messy stars Ahmed Helmy as a talking ape called Mossaad or Messy who holds the secrets to a biological weapon, and thus has become the target of international forces. Not only does Helmy appear in ape-like makeup for the whole series, but Ezzat Abou-Ouf stars as a criminal mastermind locked in a cage à la Hannibal Lecter.
Characters and events better than your regular Bollywood production
Beginning last February, the production on this serial was rushed to wrap up by Ramadan, with filming at both Shabramant studio and Al-Qanater prison. As the title suggests, this is an ensemble drama focusing on the lives of women serving time for different crimes.
-Al-Sayeda Al-Oula (The First Lady)
Airing on Abu Dhabi TV and CBC
Director: Mohamed Bekir
Cast: Ghada Adbel-Razek, Anoushka and Abeer Sabry
Industry gossip has it that Ghada Adbel-Razek got LE 12 million pounds to play Miriam, the wife of presidential candidate Hashem (Mamdoh Abdel-Alim). After winning the elections, Hashem is assassinated and the First Lady finds herself facing the world of politics alone. It sounds like a twist on the 1995 Hollywood hit The American President, starring Michael Douglas.
Watch it if you don’t know the original
Airing on alHayat TV and Dubai TV
Director: Wael Abdallah
Cast: Ahmed Ezz, Nour and Salah Abdallah
A wealthy businessman, nicknamed L’Excellence, finds himself on the run from country to country in order to prove his innocence of a murder he did not commit. (Think The Fugitive with Harrison Ford.) Intrigue runs thick, with the trailer showing Ezz walking down the rainy streets of London and acting like he is being stalked, as gloved hands load a handgun. The producers seemed to be on the right track of channeling the latest season of the popular US TV program 24.
Youssef al-Sherif plays Seif who works as a covert operative until he is hurt in an accident and discharged from the spy service. However, being a master of technical skills and different disguises, his superiors still call on him to crack hard cases. Is it really taking place in Egypt? et
Doctor Nessa (The Gynecologist)
Mostapha Shaaban as a womanizing gynecologist and Horeya Farghaly as one of his clients
Ibn Halal (A Good Guy)
Mohamed Ramadan as an Upper-Egyptian coming to Cairo to make a living.
Ana Eshekt (I Fell in Love)
Dalia Mostapha is looking for her lover Amir Karara.
Dalaa El-Banat (Naughty Girls)
May Ezz el-Deen and Kinda Alloush are two sisters, one rich and the other raised among the poor.
El-Itiham (The Accusation)
Lebanese singer Myriam Fares faces a scandal when a sex tape surfaces across the media.
Kalam ala Waraq (Words on Paper)
Lebanese singer Haifaa Wahbe plays Habiba who is loved and chased by many con men. This is the last appearance by actor/music composer/TV presenter Hussein al-Imam, who passed away in May.
Historical drama Saraya Abdeen brings a big budget to the small screen
Some might see the Ramadan serial Saraya Abdeen as the Egyptian imitation of Harem al-Sultan, the Turkish drama that enthralled Middle East audiences when it was dubbed in Arabic and aired across the region. However, Saraya Abdeen’s stars and the makers see it as a big step towards a lavish Arab soap opera with some historical backdrop. Budgeted at more than LE 150 million, the serial, directed by Amr Arafa, features more than 250 Arab actors and actresses, including Syrian actor Qosaï Al-Khouly who plays Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt from 1863 to 1879.
Popular star Youssra plays Queen Hoshiar, Ismail’s mother and the third wife of the khedive’s father Ibrahim Pasha, who was the grandson of Muhammad Ali. The palace is ensnared in a complicated web of relationships, with a high-power cast featuring Ghada Adel, Nelly Karim, May Kassab and Lebanese actress Noor, Salah Abdullah and rising star Nabil Issa.
Heba Mashari Hamda, the Kuwaiti writer of the serial, doesn’t pretend that the serial follows history accurately, and Harem al-Sultan’s influence on her script is obvious. So TV addicts, sit back and brace yourselves for an imaginative mix of fiction and reality, offering that dose of dramatic tension and dangerous liaisons that we so love during Ramadan.