‘Survivor’ fails political survival

‘Survivor’ fails political survival

The recent visit of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Turkey is now behind us. And we are all looking forward to a de-escalation period as both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Tsipras promised us. The atmosphere in the first face-to-face encounter of the defense ministers of both countries in Brussels last week was cordial. This, however, did not stop some pessimists claiming that the only visible difference in the Hulusi Akar-Evangelos Apostolakis meeting was that “both men had shelved their uniforms in their cupboards.” So, no Turkey-Greece war for the moment.

But there is another war in full steam right now between Turkey and Greece.

I am talking about “Survivor,” the “ultimate survival TV game” whose third broadcasting season in Greece and Turkey was promoted as the most exciting TV product this season, which started at the beginning of February.

Everything changed this time. Acun Medya Global, the highly successful Turkish production company which holds the game’s broadcasting rights, decided to alter the game’s format and transform it into a battle platform between two teams of Greeks and Turks. Perhaps to give a nationalist excitement to the encounter, the teams were given a name pointing to the colors of their national flags, red and blue. The ultimate novelty was that the show was to be screened simultaneously on Greek and Turkish TV.

The Turkish production company and its owner were dead sure that to place Greeks and Turks on a virtual battlefront would be a total success. They were expecting record ratings as in the two previous years. But the reality turned out to be the opposite. The show which dominated primetime ratings in its traditional format, is now crumbling in both countries. The situation is quite worrying for the private Greek channel which paid a handsome broadcasting sum and is now trying to devise new tricks to win back its audience.

Media experts tried to explain the reasons for the falling ratings, and political analysts discover the roots of the problem of the historically problematic relationship between the two peoples.

For the Greek audience, things started on the wrong foot from the very first episode of the show. The Red team of Turkish players defeated the Blue team of the Greeks, and the owner of the company Acun Ilıcalı made sure that the audience saw him proudly congratulating the Turkish team while addressing the Greek team just with a polite greeting albeit in Greek.

Things got worse later with further Greek defeats, increasing the anger of the Greek viewers.

As to be expected, Greek defeats were followed by a variety of conspiratorial theories. And a deep suspicion among the Greek viewers over the fairness of the game was not helped by the fact that it was the producer’s Turkish company that made the selection of the Greek team.

Then came the political conspiracies. Ilıcalı is known for his close relationship with Erdoğan. He was introduced to a newly elected Tsipras back in November 2015 when the leftist Greek prime minister attended a friendly match of the Greek and Turkish national teams. The introduction to the new Greek prime minister was done by then Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu after the game, which unsurprisingly ended in a tie with no goals. Soon after that meeting, Ilıcalı started his very successful venture into the Greek TV market.

So how can you persuade a sensitive Greek audience that this year’s “Survivor” is only a game? And not a setup job to promote the Turks? In a year when nationalistic sentiments in Greece created a deep split in society over the settling of the name of Macedonia with the Skopje government, any hint of a national defeat cannot be accepted even if it is “just a game.”

But not all was attributed to a secret political ploy. TV experts were also pointing out that this much-promoted “Turkish-Greek Survivor” suffered from bad quality. It was a cheap hurried job with poor editing, bad picture and lousy sound. Could it be that the audience may have been merely bored after two seasons? Perhaps that is why locally-made serials are now topping their primetime TV entertainment.

Anyway, it is election time in both countries, where new TV sequels will capture our attention as we are all very curious to see who will be the winner of political survival — this time for real.