Comedy show satirizes TV series sector
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Murat Cemcir (L) and Ahmet Kural (M) worked at the TV show ‘Ramazan Güzeldir, which is currently aired on TRT Arabic channel. In addition to trio’s currentl show on TRT called ‘İşler Güçler,’ Sadi Celil Cengiz (R) is acting a part at TRT’s ‘Leyla ile Mecnun,’ which is also broadcast on TRT Arabic as well.Turkish TV series are widely appreciated at home and in neighboring countries, but audiences know little about the increasingly brutal nature of the TV show sector. A comedy series called “İşler Güçler,” however, is shedding light on the industry, providing viewers with a peek at the ugly reality behind the screen.
“We wanted to make a comedy out of what we or our friends have experienced in this sector and turn it into a satire of the whole TV show production system. It has worked very well so far,” said Selçuk Aydemir, the writer and director of the show, which became an immediate success after the airing of its first episode earlier in July on Star TV.
The lead characters, Ahmet Kural, Murat Cemcir and Sadi Celil Cengiz, perform in the show with their real names and their real career stories. “İşler Güçler” is aired on Star TV every Thursday, and the ratings have pleased the filmmakers. The general audience response, according to social media, has also been very positive, and it is more than likely that the show, which started as a summer series, will continue the next season.
“We are presenting a caricaturized version of our own career stories through which we are also making fun of ourselves, which is necessary for many reasons. First, if we told the audience what we have really gone through without any comical effects, they would not be able to watch the show without bursting out into hysterical tears,” said Kural, laughing before revealing the main reason, which was to sustain realism. “Had we started by criticizing the sector as fictional characters, it would have alienated the viewer in the long run because it would give them the false impression that we were out of this vicious circle. And unfortunately that is not true,” Kural said.
Dealing a death blow to Rambo
“İşler Güçler” takes its name from a colloquial phrase used to denote a hectic work schedule that is often not as busy as the speaker would have his listener believe. The title refers to the employment conditions in the sector, where the miscalculations of supply and demand might lead to the ruin of acting careers. An explosion in domestic and foreign demand for Turkish TV dramas has produced increased supply. In the last five years, Turkish TV viewers have been subjected to hundreds of new productions which repeatedly deal with the same topics and liberally employ recurrent themes with little imaginative effort due to confidence in their star casts.
Early critics of the abundant supply went to the trouble of counting the number of shows on domestic TV channels for one whole season, reaching three-digit numbers. The same critics complained about the declining cinematographic qualities as a result of pressing weekly schedules, which stemmed from the amount of competition. “In the U.S., a 22-minute comedy is shot within 28 days. In Turkey, we are urged to shoot a 100-minute episode in six days,” said Cemcir.
The story for “İşler Güçler” developed out of a documentary project director Aydemir was writing to cast the same three actors.
“I was planning a documentary series called ‘Meslek Hikayeleri’ [Professional Stories], in which we would pick three professions each week and interview a few people in that profession. I was also writing funny parts to connect each interview, because I wanted the documentary to have a degree of humor. In the long run, the project turned into the script for ‘İşler Güçler.’”
The show’s plot is the career story of three actors who get hired by an extremely unprofessional producer for the making of a documentary titled “Professional Stories.” As the three characters strive to do their job properly, despite a lack of funds and professional conditions, the show’s plot changes into a funny employment story about the TV business. The fictional documentary is of such desperately low quality that it never gets an airing, and the channel – which is named after the real broadcaster of the TV show, namely Star TV – repeatedly airs Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo” films in its place.
“In this episode, we’re getting our revenge on Rambo,” Aydemir said. In last week’s episode, the show opened with the opening scene of “Rambo 4” as a joke to the audience, and the full film followed the airing of the show. On being asked whether this yielded any copyright infringement issues, Aydemir said he had asked for the necessary permission.
Breaking free of the vicious circle
These four people have previously collaborated on a few TV shows, none of which continued past the middle of their first season. Aydemir and Cengiz know each other from a web portal where they used to upload their short films during their amateur years. They meet with Cemcir coincidentally while they were shooting “Kurban” (Sacrifice), which was later aired as a four-episode mini-series on state-run TRT during the Kurban Bayram Holiday.
Kural and Cemcir’s story is as funny as it can get. “While I was shooting ‘Gazi’ [Veteran] for ATV in 2007, [Cemcir] joined us as a guest actor. But we did not meet during filming because we never shared a scene. He played in only four episodes and then the show was withdrawn from the screen after the airing of the 19th episode,” Kural said.
Cemcir picked up telling the story of the duo’s collaborations where his friend left off. “In 2008, I started to work on another show called ‘Bir Bulut Olsam’ [If only I was a cloud] and [Kural] joined us as a guest actor. After the 16th episode was aired the channel cancelled the show,” Cemcir said.
The duo also shared the lead role in Aydemir’s 2011 movie “Çalgı Çengi.” That same year, Cengiz joined the trio in the shooting of another TV show titled “Üsküdar’a Giderken,” which was named after a Turkish classical music song, broadcast by Kanal D until only the 14th episode.
“While the shooting of the show continued I was offered a part on another show and to be able to do both of these [shows] I had to resign from my post as a civil servant. On the day my resignation was confirmed, I was told the show was being cancelled from the screen and the other project was cancelled before even being broadcast.” This chain of misfortune is the main inspiration behind their current project and where the plot derives its humor from. It is certain that with their final project they have broken free of the vicious circle.