Saudi youngsters slam ‘cringing’ quality of Ramadan TV shows

With access to Hollywood productions, Bollywood films and streaming services, the Saudi viewer is 50 years ahead of Saudi productions. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Saudi youngsters slam ‘cringing’ quality of Ramadan TV shows

  • Call for a better understanding and respect for audiences

JEDDAH: A popular Saudi YouTuber has slammed some of this year’s Ramadan TV shows for being “uncreative” and “cringing” to watch.

Actor Abdul Majeed Al-Kinani told fans he had been turned off by the “sorry state” of a number of TV offerings produced for the holy month of fasting.

In one of the latest episodes of his hit online show, “Luqaimat,” he singled out two Saudi productions for particular criticism.

Describing the poor standard of acting in the Saudi Broadcasting Authority’s “1 Billion” show, Al-Kinani said: “The worst moment that a human can undergo, is when you watch a scene unfold and cringe, when you’ve got nothing to do with it.”

Playing clips showing actors delivering their lines directly to camera, he added: “I feel offended that our official TV channel is being treated this way.”

Calling for a better understanding and respect for Saudi audiences, he said: “I have high hopes in the people at the authority and ministry to take action and follow up on how this work made it onto the screen in its sorry state.”

He also lambasted Ramadan series “Exit 7,” starring “Tash Ma Tash” actor Nasser Al-Qasabi, for being “uncreative and repetitive” in its plot.

Al-Kinani had pledged that 2019 would be the final season of “Luqaimat,” but due to popular demand he agreed to a return. The light entertainment show was launched in 2012 on the YouTube channel SceenTV covering topical issues in the Kingdom and throughout the Gulf region.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • ‘1 Billion’ show and ‘Exit 7’ have been described as ‘repetitive and uncreative.’
  • ‘Ureem,’ a comedy series about a young man who works for a ride-hailing company, received good response.
  • Call for more professional resources and tools such as talent agencies.

Reacting to Al-Kinani’s comments, Nora Al-Rifai, a 28-year-old TV show and movie fanatic, said: “People’s reaction and the trending hashtag (on Twitter) prove how aware the audience has become to the point where you can’t just present them (TV shows) with any content and call it comedy or drama.

“Because of streaming services and movies reopening, people have a lot to compare it to, and if it doesn’t live up to their expectations, then it has to go,” she added.

Dahlia Baeshen, a Saudi scriptwriter, said there was little to compare between international and local production standards. “We are a much younger industry. Some aspects of filming techniques are less visually appealing. The reopening of cinemas in the Kingdom will further change the taste of upcoming audiences.

“On the other hand, I do believe there is a shift regarding the subject matter of TV shows. Some topics in ‘Exit 7’ were bold and daring and would never have been discussed just a few years back. This leap is quite impressive.”

She noted that the Kingdom had numerous emerging talents with youth aspiring to be filmmakers, writers, and actors.

“Talent is crucial, of course, but I think more importantly, creatives need to find a platform to connect. We have a rich history and culture and a plethora of stories to tell. However, I think in order for TV to change, we need to have a better construction and structure within the industry, matching various talents with one another,” Baeshen added.

Professional resources and tools, such as talent agencies representing artists and writer and director guilds, were necessary, she said.

After witnessing the growth in YouTube TV series, she added: “I think we have come a long way, but there is a lot of room to do more. A lot of the content, especially on YouTube, is very male-oriented. I would love to see more content written by females to reveal the other side of the spectrum.”

Afnan Linjawi, a Saudi screenwriter and poet, said: “With access to Hollywood productions, Bollywood films, streaming services like Netflix, and Spanish, British and other productions, if we do the math, the Saudi viewer is 50 years ahead of Saudi productions.

“The Saudi viewer may know what good TV is, but sadly most don’t know what it takes to make good TV.”

She told Arab News that quality television required a stable and robust production industry with unwavering infrastructure and qualified personnel. “A good decade of failures, trials and errors, and successes is mandatory.”

Saudi producer, Jawaher Al-Mary, said TV in the Kingdom deserved a second chance. “With regard to recent works, I think the ideas in them are repetitive, and some go as far as being shameful. That is not due to a specific genre, be it drama or comedy, but the overall content.”

She felt that “Ureem,” a comedy series about a young man who works for a ride-hailing company, was the only Ramadan show worth noting.

Other social media users echoed Al-Kinani’s frustration about this year’s Ramadan TV content.

Ali Al-Saif said: “Those from his generation have witnessed great media exposure and followed countless massive international works that undoubtedly affected their tastes and the public’s as a result. The viewer can now differentiate between great and less-than-mediocre ones.”


Saudi Arabia issues protocols to ensure safety of pilgrims during Hajj

Updated 06 July 2020

Saudi Arabia issues protocols to ensure safety of pilgrims during Hajj

  • All rituals will be performed as per the rules set by the authorities to control the spread of coronavirus
  • From July 19, authorities will prohibit all entry into Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafat without permits

JEDDAH: With coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases still surging throughout the world, Saudi Arabia has limited the number of pilgrims to performing this year’s Hajj and put several protocols in place.

The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) has set the protocols to decrease the infection rate and ensure pilgrims’ safety. Saudi Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah announced earlier last month that the number of pilgrims would be limited this year.
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten said that the decision to limit numbers “aims to protect people above everything else, which has been the priority of the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic.”
The long list of protocols affects all workers and pilgrims this year. From July 19, authorities will prohibit all entry into Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafat without permits.
Guides and awareness signs must be placed in all areas and written in various languages that include COVID-19 infection warnings, hand washing protocols, sneezing and coughing etiquette, and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding while adhering to a 1.5-meter distance between each person. Organizers at the Holy Mosque must ensure that pilgrims are distributed on all floors of the Saee (ritual walking between Safa and Marwa) and place track lines to maintain social distancing while ensuring that the grounds around the Kaaba and Saee are sanitized by cleaning crews before and after each group performing Tawaf.
Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited, barriers will be set to prevent reaching the sites and the mosque’s carpets are to be removed to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs instead to decrease the chances of the spread of any infection.
Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.
All personnel, guides, pilgrims and workers’ temperatures must be checked throughout the pilgrimage; protective face masks and gear must be worn at all times. Floor signs must be placed in locations such as baggage claim areas, restaurants and bus stops with a meter-and-a-half distance between each floor sign.
Concerning the protocols for Arafat and Muzdalifa, pilgrims must adhere to social distancing at all times, wear masks and organizers must ensure that no more than 10 pilgrims are located in a tent of 50 square meters, ensuring a 1.5-meter distance between each pilgrim. Pilgrims must adhere to designated tracks and organizers must be vigilant and ensure that all pilgrims stay in line while adhering to social distancing rules.
Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group and disinfected and packaged pebbles will be provided for pilgrims as well.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding.

• Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.

• Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited. Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group.

Those suspected of carrying the infection will be allowed to perform their pilgrimage only after being evaluated and cleared by a physician. They will be allocated into specific groups of suspected cases, placed in designated accommodation, and in buses with designated tracks to accommodate their condition.
Weqaya’s protocols also advised that no personnel are allowed to work if they contract flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, a sore throat, or sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste) until symptoms disappear and are cleared by a physician.
Disinfecting and sanitization rounds must be scheduled and organized to ensure that surfaces such as door handles and tables in reception areas, public seating areas, and waiting areas are cleaned around the clock.
Sanitizers must be placed next to ATMs, touch-screen guides, and vending machines while all printed magazines and newspapers must be removed to decrease the possibility of transmission.
Workers at pilgrims’ accommodation must always wear face masks. Guests must wear masks when leaving their rooms and workers must disinfect and sanitize all luggage on arrival.
Weqaya also laid out protocols to decrease the rate of transmission at restaurants and rest stops. Water coolers must be discontinued in the Grand Mosque and holy sites and individual bottled Zamzam water will be available and distributed to pilgrims at all times.
Individual pre-packaged meals and food will be served to pilgrims. Workers distributing the meals must follow strict protocols that include washing hands for no less than 40 seconds using soap and water throughout their shifts and where they are not able to access these, alcohol-based sanitizers must be used instead for no less than 20 seconds.