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
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.