TV drama season opens with suspense
Every year September and October are the most stressful and exciting months of entertainment for TV executives. It is the beginning of another ratings war, “sweeps” as they say in the U.S. And this year it promises to be a rollercoaster ride for all TV programmers.
As fans of Turkish soaps and drama series around the world continue to watch the epic “Magnificent Century” or “1001 Nights” from previous seasons, audiences in Turkey are signaling that they want something completely different this year.
Popular youth series “Medcezir,” the Turkish version of The O.C., is on a very tight rope. It has serious challengers like “Season for Cherries” (Kiraz Mevsimi) on Fox TV and “Cute Villager” (Güzel Koylu) on Star TV. Both dramas have very young and unknown casts that seem to appeal to a younger audience and their families. Both have a naïve and comic side to their stories. And sociologically they are very different from previous seasons.
Gone are the big mansions and expensive dresses. Gone is the richness of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. On TV, Turkey is watching middle class families with funny children trying to build a new life around friendships. There is hidden class struggle, but evil does not appeal to Turkish TV audiences anymore. Remember the remake of “Revenge”? It only survived for one season.
On the other side, there will be the clash of titans of political dramas. This year’s big surprise is the action-packed drama called “The Reaction” (Reaksiyon) on Star TV. While “The Valley of the Wolves” (Kurtların Vadisi) will be taking another chance on Kanal D, “The Reaction” will be appealing to a younger and hipper audience and women. Based on a story about the friendship and rivalry of a special operations captain and the bodyguard of a government minister, the story will evolve into a political drama hinting at the fight between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Gülen Movement. It has everything, and then some. The first episode even hinted at tension between Turkey and Israel after the PKK attacks a remote village garrison in the southeast.
“The Valley of the Wolves,” on the other hand, will stick to its core audience with the character of Polat Alemdar as its chief hero. As the producers of the original series departed for “The Reaction,” Alemdar himself, Necati Şaşmaz, is the only remaining figure from the original show this year. The first episode shows scenes of bombing a tent in a desert, Alemdar shooting an Arab, etc. So expect a lot of ISIL-related activity on the show this year.
What TV audiences will show us is that they look for a good story and a good plot. Historical dramas will be gone for a couple of seasons, as the real life around Turkey has become more dramatic and history-making. So “The Reaction” and “The Valley” are set to dominate the ratings as the weeks progress.
For the younger audience and women, there will be plenty of tears and heartbreaks, a lot of betrayal and mother-in-law bickering. And for comedy? The Turkish version of “The Leverage,” “Ulan Istanbul,” will keep you warm on Monday nights.