If there is one thing South Africans have in common, it’s their love for soapies. Day of our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful were powerhouses in South African television.
That’s before we got tired of Brooke and Ridge’s rollercoaster of a relationship, and how Stefano Dimera’s immortality was never cleared up in the beginning – he just kept coming back!
Superficiality is something we do not identify with in Mzansi.
Topics that are much closer to home, like the dynamism in the relationships formed with people from different classes and race, are very relatable and that is what producers like Mfundi Mvundla use in creating soapies.
Soapies are the crown jewel of local and international TV. Advertisers like them better because that is when they can use their dark magic to sell us things we don’t need (we still have lots of love for our advertisers though <3).
The open-ended storyline that is designed to drag on for seasons is the catalyst in keeping audiences hooked on the soapie. The provocative plots that are made up of conflicts, intrigue and shock-factor are the cherry on top of the proverbial cake.
Audiences fall in love with the characters that are strategically designed to die out in a season or two.
The villains often survive the longest, and their betrayal, matched with their empathetic brokeness, takes the audience on a love-hate journey that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy.
A perfect example of this is how Connie Ferguson, who played Karabo Moroka on Generations, got smacked up at a grocery store by a fan for cheating on Tau Moroka (played by Rapulana Seiphemo).
This was way before she and her husband, Shona Ferguson dethroned Generations as South Africa’s hit soapie with their show, The Queen.
There has never been this much competition in South African soap operas than there is now. Uzalo and Skeem Saam have captured the young audience and Isibaya, with 7 de Laan, still persists at the top.
We have gathered data from the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRCSA), to determine what the top five most-watched soapies are so far in 2018. The list is not based on popularity or favouritism. The only metric that we considered is viewership counts.
The data that was observed ranges from January until June (the latest available data) 2018.
Where to watch: SABC 1
Schedule times: Monday – Friday @ 20:00
Say what you want about Mfundi Vundla but the man still maintains his position at the top of South African entertainment television. After much controversy surrounding actors not being paid their royalties by Mfundi, the soapie saw a mass overhaul of actors
People swore that this spelt the end of Mfundi’s reign at the top of South African soap operas. However, numbers don’t lie and according to BRCSA, Generations, The Legacy is the most-watched soapie on local TV.
According to the producers,
“Generations The Legacy is about stimulating a conversation on the transfer of wealth, knowledge and culture. Successive generations in African society have produced men and women of great intelligence, vision and the drive for excellence.”
Where to watch: SABC 1
Schedule times: Monday – Friday @ 20:30
This telenovela is one of the youngest in this list. It was produced by Stained Glasses Productions, a film company co-owned by Kobedi ‘Pepsi’ Pokane and HHP, South Africa’s legendary Hip-Hop artist.
The storyline of this soapie is set in Kwa-Mashu, a densely populated township in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The plot is centred around two families: the Mdletshes, who manage the Kwa-Mashu Kingdom Church, and the Xulus, the family that runs a car theft syndicate.
The inventiveness in how the plot takes on a new shape every week is what audiences appreciate about this soapie. August will probably be the most intense it has ever been, you can view this month’s teasers here.
Where to watch: SABC 1
Schedule times: Monday – Friday @ 18:30
If you are keen on seeing what the other side of Amanda du Pont is like, then watch Skeem Saam. Her performances in this drama set her in the spotlight and rightfully so because she stood out.
The show depicts the tough journey adolescents embark on to adulthood. It takes a closer look at the plight of today’s youth, the males in particular, and the challenges they face transitioning from boy to manhood.
According to the producers of the show,
“teenage boys naturally challenge themselves. They wish to find out what their limits are. Will they survive to see their 21st birthday? Who will grow into a healthy, responsible man? What are the responsibilities of close relations and neighbours towards shaping the next generation of men?”
Where to watch: SABC 2
Schedule times: Monday – Friday @ 21:00
At some point, the contest for the number one spot was between Generations and Muvhango, the soapie/drama that airs on SABC 2, 30 minutes after Mfundi’s show’s ended. The show is popular for casting the best-looking actors/actresses in Mzansi.
Muvhango is the only soapie that explores the traditional complexities of the Venda people in modern South Africa. Duma Ndlovu, the creator of the show, places a lot of emphasis on working with actors who have attained tertiary education in arts and drama.
Earlier in the year, he was quoted in the Daily Sun saying,
“I am very unlikely to hire someone who does not have an acting diploma or degree unless it is somebody who has been in the industry for a very long time. I feel very strongly about this and I talk about it all the time. If you want to be an actor go to school and study drama, that’s it. That is why there are universities. If you want to be a doctor go to medical school, a law school if you want to be a lawyer and so on,”
Where to watch: E-TV
Schedule times: Monday – Friday @ 19:30
Scandal has quietly gained ahead of popular telenovelas such as The Queen, Isibaya and Rhythm City. E-TV does not boast itself for its soapies but Scandal has played a vital role in producing the numbers for the channel.
The storyline is set on the daily interactions of the investigative reporters of The Voice. The lives of the photographers, reporters and editors cross paths and a lot of disturbing truths are uncovered, proving that one never really knows enough about a colleague.