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18 Best South African TV Shows in 2018 (So Far)!

We are living in somewhat of a Television golden age, and South African TV content has just about everything for everyone to binge on! Here’s our list of the 18 Best local TV shows in 2018

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THE RIVER 

When you launch a Premium channel despite overwhelming opposition from subscribers who feel unimpressed by your current offerings for their coins, you’ve got to go in for the kill. And The River is one hell of a winner for 1Magic.

Best TV shows in South Africa

Photo Credit: IOL

The telenovela premiered in February this year, along with M-Net’s newest (or rebranded) baby. The channel’s flagship hit follows the lives of two families; the Khumalos and the Dlaminis. The Dlaminis are led by the fiercely ruthless Lindiwe (Sindi Dlathu), who’s married to Zweli (Hlomla Dandala), with whom she’s raising a beautiful family.

They lead a beautiful lavish life while the Khumalo’s struggle to make ends meet. The families may exist on different economic continuums, but a past with a diamond that built the Dlamini dynasty’s wealth binds them as much as Beauty, the Khumalo’s adoptive daughter, is in fact Lindiwe’s abandoned biological daughter!

ABOMAMA S1

An all female main cast is everything we keep asking for, but Abomama Bomthandazo is certainly that and so much more! The latest Parental Advisory Production sees them stepping beyond their love/dating show formula to bring forth a refreshing take on themes of sisterhood, survival and morality in South Africa.

Best TV Shows in South Africa 2018

The show follows four women who soon turn their stokvel into a money laundering scheme when they they find themselves plunged int o the dark crime underworld. The ladies soon find themselves having to straddle their old innocent worlds and their new roles as calculating participants in the dark worlds of illicit dealings. In order to survive, they must also play the game and topple old devils in their turf!

LOCKDOWN S3

The worst thing that can happen to a show you love is when it loses the plot, which typically takes somewhere between the second and third season. Fortunately, Lockdown S3 is arguably the show’s most gripping yet.

Best TV Shows in South Africa 2018

Hunger for power and revenge in prison. Image: Supplied

And the appearance of US actress, Tichina Arnolds, merely added to the working mix of perfect ingredients for this prison drama, which chronicles the lives of South African from different walks of life as they navigate the harsh and gritty realities of life in prison.

UNMARRIED S1

A breath of fresh air, this was! First of all, Thembisa Mdoda nails her character as a certain Thembi, unsatisfied with her ‘mediocre’ hubby and struggling with the chankuras as she is raising two kids with him. Then there’s Brenda (Renate Stuurman, what an actress. She cries on cue!), the embodiment of a successful, driven and fierce badass. But as it happens, her love life is a nightmare.

Best TV shows South Africa 2018

Unmarried follows the lives of three friends Brenda, Thembi and Lesego. Photo: Supplied

Slay Queen Lesego starts off being the girl who leading a lavish lifestyle financed by transactional relationships with men, until we step into a dark, traumatic past that informs her decisions now. And until season, boy will we miss Bodyguard Bae!

THE QUEEN  

The Queen has become that show where everything that can possibly happen actually does happen, just not how you thought and, certainly, not to who you thought! This year came with a few high profile deaths, bomb attacks, gun shoot downs and of course, that showdown between arch enemies Harriet and TGOM.

Best TV Shows South Africa 2018

If we could summarise this show, we’d say its a representation of how we are living right now. That’s what makes it work!

MUVHANGO

Long before the current wave of television shows centered on the portrayal of the unexplored traditional themes and realities in various South Africa cultural frameworks, Muvhango was already a refreshing thrill for viewers who sought something different. They did it first, they did it well. And they’ve been doing well enough to inspire a whole era of creative synergy focused on telling stories that take it back to basics.

Departing from popular mainstream narratives, the drama turned soapie started out chronicling the lives, relationships, family conflicts of vhavenda families. In it’s near two decades on air, the show has both sustained its position as the most authentic soapie – thanks to its transformative traditional anchor, explosive storylines and stellar direction – as well move things forward to reflect the life we are living right now.

ISIBAYA  

The critically acclaimed Mzansi Magic telenovela-turned-soapie is a beautiful portrait of South African life at its most exciting to watch. The award winning Mzansi Magic ratings smasher came in, blew up the game and shifted the whole landscape.

Best TV Shows South Africa 2018

Exploring family disputes, royal rifts, taxi violence and many other multi-layered themes central to the South African black experience, the BOMB production continues offering viewers a rare cinematic glimpse into the families behind the R90 billion a year taxi businesse, complete with feuds over taxi routes, royal squabbles, polygamy and more. Although admittedly, some of the soapie’s main storylines have become a bit malarkey, the show holds still as a solid fave. For now.

KHUMBULEKHAYA

This show can be on air for decades. Having already been on air for over ten years, the show is premised on the search of long lost family members and reuniting them with their loved ones.

It doesn’t matter how far apart they are, or how long the ties were cut, Andiswe Gaelesiw will travel to the ends of the world to reconnect loved ones. There’s obviously the fair share of drama because these are real people and real stories.

But the show’s focus has not been to exploit that trauma, but rather to act as a neutral platform for reuniting families, and sometimes a support system for those involved. Khumbul’EKhaya has also led to a surge in similar shows being commissioned

REAL HOUSEWIVES OF JOHANNESBURG 

The show aims to get viewers privy to the lives of Johannesburg’s most pampered housewives, and they’ve done so quite impressively! The NBC Universal franchise has already peaked in the US, and continues being popular with most of the Housewives shows now having been on air for almost and over ten years, depending on premiere dates.

Real Housewives of Johannesburg

The RHOSA production presents a lush picture of the most lavish lifestyles in this part of the world, along with a good dose of shade, enviable wardrobes and, from what we’ve seen so far, sufficient champagne for those dramatic dinners where the girls typically confront each other. The show features monied housewives Brinnette Seopela, Evodia and Mercy Mogale, Christall Kay, Lendy Ter-Mors, and DJ Naked’s wife Naledi Willers. Salute to Sonia Mbele for nailing the format.

PROJECT RUNWAY SOUTH AFRICA

If you’ve been following the American edition of this design competition since the first season, you will relate to how elated I was finding out it was being brought to South Africa! Although that excitement came with a dash of anxiety thanks to how we’ve tortured the design/fashion show format in a few botched attempts (except amongst other gems The Intern, though!), the fact that Khanyi Dlomo and her Ndalo Media had secured the rights to produce the show locally calmed my nerves and restored good chakra.

Best TV Shows South Africa 2018

Presented by Lerato Kganyago, judged by xxx with Gert Johan-Coetzee taking on Tim Gunn’s coach/mentor role for the aspirant designers, the show has been such a delight to watch! The production quality is through the roof and the level of talent in the building is mind blowing. The hallmarks of a fun competition show are all here – with the right hit of adrenaline in the mix because of the workroom pressure the faves must endure and surmount to get closer to those career launching prizes.

BEING BONANG 

The first season of Bonang’s reality television was yum, but barely went past entrée. The SA media Queen addresses this on the very last diary session, which she shares with her cousin Pinky Girl, saying “we were a bit nervous the first time.”

Best TV Shows in South Africa 2018

Photo Credit: Supplied

The second season delved a little bit deeper and we got so much more juice! Partnering with Legend Manqele to bring us the second chronicle of South Arica’s most powerful celebrity, Being Bonang distills her adventures, both professional and personal, in the most exciting and fun way.

There was barely a Sefiso this season and much less AKA, with whom she broke up in between the seasons, but there was more Lorna Maseko, more potent quotables, more PinkyGirl and her adorable personality. There were less photoshoots and more laughs and goofing around with the girls. More family, more glam and more splits… thanks to the acrobati Lorna Maseko, who kept the supply open in that flexibe department. We want a season 3.

LIVING THE DREAM WITH SOMIZI  

There’s absolutely nothing not to love about Somizi. He’s an energetic and infectious in real life as he is on television and elsewhere, by the way.

The much celebrated Media King, who has stood the test of time more than we’ve come to know to be possible in our show business, brings his larger than life personality to everything he does. Living The Dream with Somizi continues down this path and invites viewers to every aspect of Somgaga’s vibrant.

Best TV Shows in South Africa 2018

With his cute AF fiancé in tow this season (the two are said to have signed a multi million rand deal for a wedding special in the next season), things have gotten even realer. Less talked about is how his relationship with Mogale, and how navigates that with the hectic demands of the spotlight, really trails as the single most mainstream representation of queer romance on primetime television right now. We love ourselves Somgaga, who’s as unfettered on the show as he is unrelenting in being as loud about expressing himself as you can get!

IMBEWU: THE SEED

The Best Shows in South Africa 2018

Photo Credit: Supplied

One side of the Bhengu family has been keeping a secret from the other for many years, with treachery and tumult never more than a step away… is how the drama begins its plot line. One side of the Bhengu family has been keeping a secret from the other for many years, with treachery and tumult never more than a step away.

SURVIVOR SA 

It’s not easy nailing a format so popular already. Still one of the highest rated shows ever, with 35 seasons and counting, you are adapting for local audiences a turf that has become a playground for the most dedicated following there is! Yet Survivor SA is really holding its own.

Shot in the stunning Phillippines, the sixth season of Survivor South Africa saw 18 locals try to outplay, outwit and outsmart each other during this once in a lifetime opportunity. Blindsides, conniving, plenty of backstabbing, alliances and of course that breathataking scenery made this one bingeworthy. Oh, a couple of hotties in here and I think most of you know who we are talking about so let’s leave it there.

IDOLS SA

The original version of the show revived this year and still missed the mark. In Madiba land though, Idols SA is still very much alive with possibility!

Best Shows in South Africa

Idols SA judges Somizi, Unathi and Randall, as well as host ProVerb. Photo: Supplied

The singing competition has just about every right ingredient for a fun Sunday watch ahead of the new week. The judges critiques (or just laughs and, or tears) are just as entertaining as the many attempts at belting that open themselves for wide circulation in MEME streets.

It’s not just all laughs though, the show continues unearthing some pretty fine gems, with some pretty breathtaking vocal talent blowing audiences away during the live shows. There may be nothing exactly wow on the show anymore, but the little elements make for some super fun, family friendly viewing.

TAKE ME OUT MZANSI 

The dating game show returned with an elevated texture on VUZU AMP last year, wrapping up the season in February this year.

Best TV Shows in South Africa 2018

Hosted by the hilarious Phat Joe, who’s jubilant butt jiggles whenever someone gets a date are a dead give away that he really is a ‘Prince of Passion’, the revived show was a good for laughs as it was for some romantic, wishful thinking! Unlike other dating shows (there seems to be one of every channel, for every hour, now.), Take Me Out Mzansi was fun, cheerful and funny without having to humiliate anyone for it. Just saying.

UTHANDO NESTHEMBU S2

Two years ago, a reality show chronicling the worlds of spouses in a polygamous marriage blew up and became the highest rated show on Mzansi Magic! It also became the most talked about, trending at #1 for every episode.

Best TV Shows in South Africa

In 2018, the show kept its cool and gave us just the right in bites in every single that makes you want to grab popcorn. The show is about businessman Musa Mseleku and his four wives, namely MaCele, MaNgwabe, MaKhumalo and Mayeni (application for 5th which was shut down by the ladies this year). We get to see the dynamics of the marriages, the sisterhood of the wives and the reality of everything most aren’t expose to.

OUR PERFECT WEDDING 

Some people are tired of the wedding reality show, but there’s no turning away. A firm Sunday fave, Our Perfect Wedding distills the exciting journey into marriage, as each episode features a couple as they prepare for their traditional nuptial and white wedding ceremonies.

Along with the drama and hysteria that comes with this high pressure arrangement is plenty to chuckle about. A lot has happened on OPW; iconic moments involving everything from unforgettably ‘overwhelming’ kisses to dramatic cake topples, but the show still centres on love. We will be watching still, for a little while longer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reality Shows

‘The Man Cave’ Debuts on M-Net

Siv Ngesi, Jonathan Boyton-Lee, Jason Goliath and Warrick Stork

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Saturday, February 20th marks the premiere The Man Cave, returning for another season at 21:30 on channel 101.

The show presents ten all-new adrenaline-fuelled episodes with a panel of presenters. Bringing their testosterone to the table is returning favourite presenter Siv Ngesi, comedian Jason Goliath and radio jock come petrol-head Warrick Stock. Also joining the team this season is SA Style award winner and Cosmopolitan SA sexiest man 2014, Jonathan Boyton-Lee.

The series – offering insights into the multiple facets of the modern-day man – is guaranteed to entertain with its action-packed line-up of competitive challenges, adventures, casual conversations, engagements with local heroes and sporting stars, bucket-list adventures, supercars and classic rides.

Exclusive to this season, the guys actively address issues that plague today’s society, explore South Africa and its people, discover the mythical bond between man and machine and host casual non-scripted conversations with top South African personalities.

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Reality Shows

The Bachelorette SA: the Last Four Guys Revealed!

Qiniso’s got more to look at now

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WHAT WAS IN THE HUMMER LIMO? Well South Africa, The #BachelorretteSA gifted Qiniso Van Damme four more men to choose from. Her journey for love has gotten bigger and more complicated. These four men mean business and will add to her experience of romance. The second episode, on Thursday 18 February at 7.30 pm on M-Net 101, will feature thrills and drama, as the new addtions make a big impact.

A host of eligible young men will soon realise that The Bachelorette South Africa is not for the faint of heart as they compete to win the affection of the vivacious, model, actress and masters student.

The Bachelorette South Africa season 1 will be available on DStv Premium and Compact Plus.

In January, M-Net announced the first five men to #BachelorNation, this was followed by ten men and now M-Net channel 101 is excited to reveal the last four stunning eligible suitors vying for Qiniso’s love.

CAMERON SCOTT

Age: 25

Height: 183 cm

Town: Johannesburg

Cameron is a multi-disciplinary filmmaker – primarily an actor with experience in producing, writing and directing. He runs a production company with his friend and business partner Kagiso Rabada.

In 2021 they will debut their first exciting powerhouse story called “beast”  and launch an accessible podcast platform called Zapcast. Cameron is a modern man and immediately sucks you in with his cheeky charm and imagination. He is a straight shooter who knows exactly what he wants and will not allow anything to stop him. Keep an eye on this one.

He is open and communicative. He is an actor, so first instinct is that he would plug that – but that is common ground for him & Qiniso. He is a low-maintenance, talkative and a real guy.

CRAIG KHUMALO

Age: 31

Height: 168 cm

Town: Johannesburg

Craig was born in Addington hospital in Durban where he did his primary school years also and then moved to Newcastle for matric. His family roots come from KwaHlabisa in Northern of KZN.

He graduated from GIBS already in Social Entrepreneurship in 2020. The objective is about helping learners with learning disabilities reach optimal development.

Craig studied Child and Youth Development at the Durban University of Technology.

Craig enjoys swimming, gardening, taking walks and playing basketball impacting the youth through skills development.

He owns a social enterprise called Sizo Social Solutions which focuses on empowering young people through hands-on education.

He hates people who disrespect elders most and hypocrites with no backbone.

GARETH EHRET

Age: 27

Height: 188 cm

Town: Cape Town/Stellenbosch

Gareth thrives on adventure and loves making fun out of life. He has quiet confidence as well as a wonderful sensitive side. He is determined, ambitious and enjoys the beauty of a healthy lifestyle. Gareth is in digital marketing whilst also coaching people on how to live responsibly with body & mind…he believes a good balance in life is crucial.

After graduating from UCT and Stellenbosch University, he spent a few years abroad. Now, after his travels he is content with pursuing a life back home, no longer seeking a solo adventure…he now seeks a partner to journey through life with.

Gareth is sexy, confident and very competitive and considers his sense of humour unusual. He has a strong creative streak and loves writing, perhaps a reason him and Q might hit it off? He is open to the process and excited to see where this journey leads.

GREGORY BARKHUIZEN

Age: 28

Height: 181 cm

Town: Houtbay, Cape Town

Greg, born and lived in Johannesburg for most of his primary school years. After that, his family moved to Port Elizabeth for a few years and then Cape Town which has been his home for the past 7 years.

He is a barman, part-time hardcore guitarist, freelance scuba diver & enjoys old school motorbikes.   He is a gentle soul but is still figuring out where he will be in the next few years.

He aspires to be a self-sustained individual. He has never been in love, except for a teen romance in high school. Up until recently, he has been selfishly focusing on himself and now he is ready to look for love.

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Soapies & Telenovelas

The Rise and Fall of ‘Isibaya’

What no longer works.

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The signs were there.

Once the darling of South African television, winning every award, topping the ratings, and dominating social media conversations every night, Isibaya‘s last days have spelled a sad decline for the once critically lauded soapie.

The daily drama, which premiered on Mzansi Magic on March 18th, 2013, will be airing its final episode in the coming weeks. The announcement of the television show’s cancellation might have stung the more than 800 000 daily viewers who tune in to watch their favourite program, but most were not entirely surprised. Or moved.

By the time M-Net confirmed the news last month, speculation had already been rife. The high-profile departures by some of the show’s leading cast members didn’t help quell the fires. The likes of Siyabonga Thwala and Nomzamo Mbatha triggered chatter about the show’s potential canning by mid-2020.

The mass exodus from the show was an indication that folk had begun jumping ship.

Nomzamo Mbatha went on to pursue a Hollywood career, later landing a role on ‘Coming 2 America’. Thwala, on the other hand, joined the formidable cast of ‘Legacy’, picking off where he’d left off with popular daily dramas, which the local channels often call telenovelas.

By the time the likes of Jessica Nkosi and Menzi Ngubane, both previously on Isibaya, started to pursue other projects, at one point both tipped as cast addition on The Queen, it became obvious that Isibaya had been on its last leg.

As if the cast departures weren’t enough, the show’s ratings began taking a gradual dip. Once the highest-rated program across the DStv ecosystem, Isibaya slowly lost hundreds of thousands of viewers. By December 2021, its rating had just been above 800 000. That number pales when compared to the numbers the show once did, once peaking at more than 1,4 million viewers.

The ratings dip went along with storylines that could no longer be justified. Many times without a clear direction, sometimes trying too hard to reinvent the show while alienating its core audience, and other times delivering downright hideous plots. Things started to feel weird and forced.

That was not always the case for the series, however. At the peak of its reign, none of the local television shows could compete. In many ways, the Bomb Productions show played a central role in building up Mzansi Magic to become a leader in local storytelling and entertainment.

Between 2013 and around 2017, the show had sustained the rich portrayal of black life in South Africa from angles previously ignored. With compelling storytelling layered in complexity and nuance, a brilliant ensemble, well-written story arcs with satisfying peaks, and overall amazing production, Isibaya led the pack in all scores.

What could have gone wrong?

For M-Net, it’s all about the ever-changing times. The landscape is now different, and the channel had to adapt to these changes. The channel’s director, Nomsa Philiso, told Channel 24 that “It’s always sad when a show that was popular and loved ends. However, times change and television is about adapting.”

But while there’s no doubt that Isibaya suffered the fate of being outgrown by an ever-shifting audience whose taste eventually checked out, we can also think about the end of this era in other terms.

One take would be the general decline of long-running ‘telenovelas’ and soapies.

Uniquely, local TV channels have largely eliminated actual TV dramas and other traditional primetime formats with the long-running ‘daily dramas’/telenovelas/soapies.

The appeal is obvious. The formula has worked for the better part of the last decade. Daily social media trends are one way to gauge this, as local audiences have become quite immersed in the genre. Ratings have been another.

There’s also the bottom line; why go through the headache of commissioning new shows with different budgets and logistical realities, when you can just keep the one working and proven formula with a more or less stable forecast? The risk, for some, could prove to be scarier in an increasingly competitive landscape. Keep it rolling.

The end of Isibaya, Rhythm City and Isidingo, however, suggests the rise of a new era. Where in the late 1990s and early 2000s could go out with a bang, at their peak, therefore preserving their iconic status, the telenovelas seem to go on until no one can stand them anymore.

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