The youth?

Skeem Saam re­mains one of the SABC’s most watched shows. Although it has just com­pleted a deal to broad­cast in 20 French-speak­ing African coun­tries, Pre­cious Mavuso won­ders why this youth drama has never tack­led #FeesMustFall

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Skeem Saam SABC1 (DStv chan­nel 191) Mon­day to Fri­day, 8.30pm

Be­ing a TV show for young peo­ple has not stopped Skeem Saam from reaching for the stars. The drama-turned-soap opera was voted Most Pop­u­lar Soapie at the 2016 SA Film and Tele­vi­sion Awards, and has signed a li­cens­ing deal with French tele­vi­sion pro­gram­mer Canal+Afrique to broad­cast in 20 French­s­peak­ing African coun­tries.

It has be­tween 5 mil­lion and 6 mil­lion view­ers daily, and is the coun­try’s third most watched show.

Skeem Saam be­gan as a ra­dio drama for SABC Ed­u­ca­tion way back in 2005 af­ter cre­ator and pro­ducer Win­nie Serite felt that sto­ries around the boy child were be­ing ne­glected. Sea­son one pre­miered on SABC1 at 8.30pm as a weekly drama, then started air­ing as a daily drama at 6.30pm. In Oc­to­ber 2014, Skeem Saam took over the 8pm Gen­er­a­tions slot when the show went off air due to cast­ing dis­putes. The stand-in turned out very well for Skeem Saam. Its view­er­ship shot up and has re­mained higher than be­fore.

When it be­gan, Skeem Saam cen­tered around three high school boys go­ing through the dif­fi­cul­ties of life in Tur­floop. Last year, the trio had grown up and new faces emerged as they went to univer­sity in Joburg.

I’ve al­ways loved Skeem Saam for be­ing rel­e­vant not only to the youth but to their par­ents – it sheds light on what young peo­ple have to over­come in their daily lives. It’s a dar­ing soap that goes all out to re­veal our chal­lenges and re­minds me of when I was still a stu­dent. Which is why it’s dis­ap­point­ing that the writ­ers haven’t in­cor­po­rated the on­go­ing stu­dent fee protests into the story line. The #FeesMustFall move­ment is one of the big­gest is­sues in South Africa, and it would make sense to build it into a show about kids at univer­sity. Skeem Saam spokesper­son Percy Vi­lakazi told us: “The main rea­son we didn’t have a story around the protests was be­cause when they hap­pened, we had long writ­ten and shot our sto­ries, so we had to stick to our orig­i­nal scenes and not be re­ac­tive for the sake of seem­ing rel­e­vant. The story lines at the time were work­ing for us, and hav­ing some­thing as big as a protest prob­a­bly would have af­fected the sto­ries then.” While this makes sense, we can’t help but think that the show could have planned fu­ture episodes to in­clude th­ese protests. I won­der whether SABC’s “sun­shine” plan to de­pict good news and avoid show­ing violence and po­lit­i­cal con­flict might be rub­bing off on its dramas. Vi­lakazi says that the show is about to in­tro­duce a new world to its au­di­ence – one of the char­ac­ters, Kat, is go­ing to go to culi­nary school. This new di­rec­tion will re­ward fans of the show with new char­ac­ters and sto­ries.

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