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Parental Guidance Suggested

January-23-2012

Years of shrewd preparation have conditioned Arabs to turn in unison to their television sets during Ramadan and consume somebody’s latest concoction of bright light, color, noise and movement. Experience has taught us to refer to these concoctions as ‘dramas’, ‘series’ and ‘shows’ – or in Arabic – mosalsalat. We anticipate them; we discuss them, we savor them and of course we take pleasure in criticizing them. But because we consume them with such relish, producers compete (to put it politely) with each other for television spots and consequently advertisers vie for the best shows.
Unfortunately, this deadly competition for viewers’ attention only accelerates the decline in quality of whatever floods our screens every Ramadan. And although we, the consumers, voice our opinions at gatherings – and more recently on Internet forums – we have no control over what is shown in our own homes.

Traditional drama series that run during the Ramadan season are usually of 30 episodes and primarily fall under the broad category of family drama. They sometimes, but not very successfully, focus on specific genres such as detective, medical, high school or political dramas. Unlike most popular American shows (like Grey’s Anatomy) that introduce
new complications within each episode and resolve them or provide some sort of closure, Arabic dramas tend to veer away from this systematic weave of introducing and resolving stories and stick to the more traditional story arc of a single immense climax and resolution. Subplots and complications start in the first episodes, quickly escalating and intertwining as they near the climax. The intense cliffhangers at the end of each episode are meant to drive the overall
plot. This choice is merely stylistic though, as shows in the Middle East don’t need to lock in viewers. They don’t fear the threat of cancellation; once a show is on the air, it is guaranteed the rest of the season.