Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming

In Morocco, as in the rest of the Islamic world, local and satellite TV stations showcase their best programming. This year, following on the steps of last year, Morocco’s two TV stations,TVM and 2M,  received dismal ratings for their Ramadan domestic productions.
I had the misfortune to watch an episode of the sitcom “Cool Center”. The sitcom was shot in nice studio with bright colors and fashionable furniture. However, once the viewer gets past the colors, the over all quality of the show is mediocre at best.  The dialogue was meaningless even by sitcom standers, the jokes were stale, and the story had no punch lines. To summarize the experience, “Cool Center” was boring and dreary.
Not to pick on one show, other similar types of sitcom broadcasted during Ramadan on 2M were as demeaning to the intelligence of the viewers as was “Cool Center”. 'Nssib Lhaj Azzouz' - the Father in Law of al-haj Azzouz- was another dreadful sitcom.  Sitting through an episode, trying to give the writers of the show the benefits of the doubt and hoping for a laugh, was a futile attempt to have fun. The show is absolutely boring and the stories are monotonous and without any “funny structure” that is key to directing a successful sitcom.
The lack of good quality home productions on Moroccan TV has been a persistent problem for both channels. But, why is it? And does Morocco, a country of more than 30 millions people, lack the talent and creativity needed for producing good quality television show? Are the Egyptians, Syrians and Lebanese directors and writers more talented than their Moroccan colleagues? I surly do not think so!
The absence of quality programming on Moroccan television is a symptom of a larger disease that has been ravaging the Moroccan society: the talented, smart and energetic youth lack of access to jobs and opportunities. It is quite remarkable the return this year of the same faces that were behind last Ramadan TV programming fiasco. Few new faces appeared this year.
A clear example of Officials disregard for talent is the case of Mr. Ahmed Snoussi (AKA Bziz- his stage name-). I had the luck and privilege to stay three days as a guest in Ahmed’s Casablanca apartment in 1996. During my visit with Mr. Snoussi, I got to witness the difficult and unfortunate life of Moroccans actors, comedians, artists and musicians.
Ahmed Snoussi was and - still is, if he is allowed to perform-the funniest face and voice of Moroccan comedy. Bziz’s humor is not the dull, mindless and pointless clowning Moroccan viewers have been witnessing on TVM and 2M, but rather the smart engaging wit that Moroccans are so much in need for. Ahmed is a true a political satirist in every sense of the word. And for this reason the Moroccan Government banned him from performing on all official media outlets, programs, or festivals.
Walking down Moulay Abdellah Avenue in Casa  with Ahmed,  was a true challenge as people  young and old, male and female, in skimpy cloths or covered from head to toe, kept coming up to him showing their support for his work and  showering him with praise and encouragements. And yet, as late as December 2008, Mr. Snoussi was not allowed to perform in The Marrakesh International Festival of Laughter.
Bziz’s quick wit captures the struggles of the average Moroccan and exposes the Government inefficiency in dealing with a variety of social and economic ailments plaguing the Moroccan society.  Bziz’s drive to political activism reaches beyond the Moroccan elites that reads the newspapers and fellow the news on TV, but goes to hart of the “useless” Morocco. This far reaching ability has been  bothering some elements in official circles, and thus the ban on Bziz’s shows. Currently, Mr. Snoussi writs a column on the popular Moroccan newspaper “Al-Massae”.
Ahmed’s activism landed him in the hospital in 1990s, after he was beating up by riot police for protesting in favor of Human Rights in Morocco. Spending time with the bright, gifted and funny Snoussi was a window into the neglect that our most talented artists and performers endure. During my visit, a member of the famous musical band Jil-Jilala, who happens to live in the same building as Ahmed, was gravely ill. It was heartbreaking to see a member if an iconic musical group die poor and unappreciated.
Without encouraging the young talent and taping into the experience of the experienced artists that can produce top notch programs, Moroccan TV stations are doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the last two Ramadans. By the way, a call to Mr. Snoussi and an invitation for Bziz to appear on 2M will most definitely boost the ratings and send the right signals to the new talents.

Comments (9)  

0 #1 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming Manisman 2009-09-22 04:40
Are the Egyptians, Syrians and Lebanese directors and writers more talented than their Moroccan colleagues?
YES ABSOLUTELY. Other than tayeb saddiki, Moroccan actors cannot form a simple phrase without mixing it up wit French, Moroccan cannot speak classical Arabic or even a darija.
Moroccan theater still stuck in the past and rely on klam zanqa for their humor.
Moroccan cinema is inexistant.
Moroccan theatre is considered taboo even in 2009
Morocco does not encourage Art nor Artists, they are considered dissents and trouble makers.
Morocco does not have any art infrastructure, One small US city can have more facilities than the entire country of Morocco.
Moroccan consider acting sissy due to prevalent ignorance.
Islamists consider acting and music HARAM, I was shocked to learn that my good friend at home no longer to listen to music. Very sad.
You can pursue Literature, Sciences ex, Sciences math after le lycee but there is nothing such an art option.
Basically, Morocco is a mess and no one is helping, We compalin too much as I am doing here but there is no one who says this is enough and does thing to change the stagnation in Morocco, and I think reason we are who we are is because we are not given a chance to shake things up.
and please don't compare the syriam egyptians and the lebanese wirth Moroccan, there is not comparaison, it's like day and night.
I agree tyhat bziz iz a TUO7fah!

0 #2 Please show me how to fishMacadamiaN 2009-09-22 05:37
When watching Moroccan programming this Ramadan, it took me less than 20 seconds to shove a piece of ka3b ghzel into my ear from the shear mediocrity and the utter staleness of this one show. And to the author’s point, one got to ask why?

I personally look beyond the poorness of what's on TV and start questioning the mediocrity in everything. I truly believe that our education system is the source behind the lack of creativity in the Moroccan mind. What Moroccan visionaries are creating any programs to offer promising opportunities for future generations? If you were to ask the kids in the elementary schools of the inner cities about what they want to be in the future, I wonder what they would say. I fear for them….

And speaking of the kids from the inner cities, the kids in the movie “Ali Zawa” with absolutely no acting experience or anything else for that matter were MILLION times better than any of those shows on TV in all the Ramadan shows of the last 10 years combined.

Morocco is a country of very small natural resources and it is about time that the government starts mining the minds of Moroccans. The plan of relying on tourism and remittance from Moroccans living abroad didn’t really get us very far. It only shut our minds and killed the creative spirit within us.

0 #3 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming Ash-lah 2009-09-22 06:39
Morocco is lacking in every field whether Sport, Art or scientific research. The scamp and rascals are running havoc in our beloved Morocco while the best and the brightest of minds are restricted inside or were pushed to voluntarily exile themselves and never to come back. A free and innovative mind cannot be restricted..
Morocco will never get ahead without his creative free Sons. Another artist and beautiful male vocalist who is banned in Morocco is Rachid Ghoulam. He performs in Egypt, Algeria, the Gulf, France and Europe and was given many awards . He is banned by the Moroccan government for his political affiliation to Al-Adel Wa Al Ihssan.
Even Nazi Germany spared the talented Jews from the Holocaust in order to use them in science and art. the Moroccan old guards are willing to sacrifice the future generations to come and waist the country's talents in order to teach a lesson to anyone having the guts to say: "Enough باراكا "
Ahmadi Jamal
0 #4 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming Ahmadi Jamal 2009-09-22 07:05
You are asking the government to do this and that and that, Where is the money to do all these great things??. Do you forget that Morocco is:
a poor country?
Unemployment in Morocco is over 30% or more?
we do not have oil?
Average Annual income is 2000 dollars or less
We are not the US, Europe, or even Libya.
Just because 0.0001 % of the population is driving Mercedes it does not mean that Morocco is a rich country.
Moroccan needs to stop thinking that things will get better if the government finances this or that project. That's wishful thinking my brother.
Let us be reasonable, If people can have something to eat at the table, we should be glad. A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.

1.4 billion people in this planet live under ONE DOLLAR PER DAY and Morocco belongs to this planet.

I want people to understand that it is not the government's fault that Art is not promoted in Morocco. The reason is: The money is not there.

We are not lucky, the Saudis woke up one morning and found oil field, we Moroccan woke because someone is fighting in the street, upstairs, or next door.
Marouane Zamama
0 #5 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming Marouane Zamama 2009-09-23 00:19
Mr Ahmadi,
You are absolutely right. John Kennedy said it best:

Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country

Moroccans are used to freebies and coffeshops.
0 #6 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming MacadamiaN 2009-09-23 01:16
I recognize that Morocco is a poor country by world standards. I understand that we don’t have any natural resources to rely on. Nevertheless, we have people, 30 million strong.

My argument is to at least entertain the idea that tourism alone is not enough. I am calling for a long term plan that allows Morocco to provide the world with brain power.

I see Morocco reforming its education system to create world class institutions in Medicine and Engineering.

Take India for example. With a country of no natural resources, Nehru’s government didn’t have anything to mine. It however, built several world class institutions in effort to mine the minds of Indians. It’s true that in the beginning it couldn’t hire all the graduates but at least these doctors and engineers were in high demand and could build very prosperous future in the west. Fast forward to the nineties, with the exponential growth in Information technology India found itself in the PERFECTEST position ever. Western companies couldn’t get enough of Indian minds. And when they couldn’t bring them to the US they followed them to India. Currently, the Indian Institutes of technology are among the best engineering schools in the world. I took classes taught by professors from IIT and I worked with IIT engineers. These guys know what they are doing. Further, big corporations flock to area where there are good schools. You can’t find IBM and Google research and development centers in the middle of Arkansas but surely by the Stanfords and the MITs of the world. This pattern applies to all industries in relation to the location where talent is best available.

India could have relied on its rich culture –much richer than morocco’s- and waited for tourists to come visit. But it didn’t. With a high on patriotism in the wake of its independence, it believed in its people and provided them with good education. Four decades later, India boasts: Eight Nobel Prize winners, Nuclear Technology, more than 20 billionaires, Billions of dollars of direct foreign investments year in and year out, World organizations economists, World class education, Movie stars, Musicians, Writers, etc. Most of all, India laid down a solid infrastructure for sustained growth and a potential ambition to becoming a major super power.

Cuba -an island country with no natural resources under stringent international sanctions- prides itself on having one of the best health care systems in the world. South American countries employ Cuban Doctors as if they are going out of style. Why couldn’t Morocco build few decent Medical Schools and make them available to all Moroccans based on merit rather than connections?

No need to go there.

The current system favors the elite in Morocco. They have all the power, built and monopolized the better schools, and reserve the right to access to information. And since they have no competition in the formation process, the final output turns out below average by world standards. The results are there for us to contemplate, the leadership of Mr Abass Elfassi and gang can’t make enough blunders. But on the personal level, they are making more money than ever, why change a good thing?

The not so lucky MIGHT have been systematically (education+medi a) kept oblivious. At best we turn out to be theorists who can solve a written equation, but have absolutely no idea how to translate a business problem into an equation. We were not educated to be creators and visionaries, we were rather taught to be imitators –hence the mediocrity on TV. In short, the not so lucky has no way to catch up to the elite and has no power to peacefully make a change.

The solution:
1.An altruistic, true patriotic Moroccan with more power than the elite and a vision for progressive Morocco. I have no doubt that our king is the man for the job.

2.A group from “The not so lucky” who believes in the previous person, and are ready to sacrifice short term petty Dirhams for long term gains. For example, stop bribing our way through the daily life to bring the system to a halt. We all know that the police officer is not only under-paid but he is also responsible for collecting a substantial amount of bribes for his superiors “the elite”.

3.Patriotism through hard work and integrity.

4.Justice system reform is already a VERY good step and I am so excited to know the ins and outs of it.

5. Get Rid off the sleezy people around the king. I blame them mainly for the results of the last 10 years.

5.Reform education, make it more Anglophone. offer a balanced program between arts and science. Stop deciding who is going to study science and who is going to study literature. Let the students choose.

6.Offer scholarships to outstanding students to pursue higher education in the top 25 universities in the world, preferably in the fields of 21 century technologies and Public administration.


I think I just beat the dead horse which happens to be the hundredth reincarnation. :-)

0 #7 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming MacadamiaN 2009-09-23 03:23
Si Zammama,

That quote applies to the US and western countries where liberties, freedoms, and opportunities are available to every one equally. In Morocco, major change must be initiated from the top and later sustained by the base. The base can't create change without chaos and god forbid we see chaos in our country.

In my limited understanding of our constitution, it puts the power of changing the laws of the land in the hands of the goverment at its highest level. Therefore, any attempt outside of this context will be considered as breaking the law.
Please correct me if I am wrong.

Karim CA
0 #8 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming Karim CA 2009-09-26 12:02
Another Ramadan with really really awful programs. Watching a whole episode of any of those programs (nsib el hajj azouz, Cool Center,...) is like absolute torture. As some of you have commented, do we not have any talent among those 30 millions+ people?
Are we allowing the likes of Said Naciri and abdelkhalek Fahid to continue insulting the viewers' intelligence because we have nobody else? (Those 2, by the way, should be banned from TV).
There is nothing to look forward to on the Moroccan TV in Ramadan anymore. I, like so many other viewer. flocked to other station to escape that mediocrity.
MacademiaN hit the nail on the head. Our educational system has gone down the toilet in the last decade or so. What we are witnessing, in my opinion, is a direct is a result an educational system that needs some serious revamping.
0 #9 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Behind The Moroccan Ramadan TV Dismal Proramming Forward 2009-09-26 23:25
You don't need to produce oil to develop arts within a country.
Tunisia is a small country having less resources than Morocco,yet its cinema can beat the Moroccan one anytime of the day. Lebanon has no oil, Saudi Arabia their art for yourself...All nations with high artistic output, have highly educated masses with a good taste. So the common denominator is Education (especially the one at home)

Iranian movie directors do amazing work using very modest material resources, but compensate that lack with imagination, creativity and actors with remarkable acting skills.

Morocco does not have good actors,much less brave ones.
Just old school faces calling themselves "assatida", and younger
actors who read from the paper and talk to the camera.

Art is not only about entertainment, its about developing "le savoir vivre" of a nation. The ugly shape of the Moroccan art reflects the fact that Moroccans, by large, are unable to accommodate art as part of their life ingredients; for them art is for the rich and wealthy who speaks french...they ignore that art existed throughout all nations and times.

To invest in artistic projects, Morocco needs educated entrepreneurs, unfortunately most are not,and they would not invest in something they can not touch. A large educated audience who knows what it deserves, is also lacking.

If you would visit a theater in the west, the audience keeps silent and seriously merges within the play. The actor is on stage to perform his job, and the spectators will judge his performance at the END. In Morocco on the other hand,
people clap their hands, each-time an actor throws a word in darija or for no reason (maybe that is due to the habit that Moroccans clap their hands when they laugh),and the actor in return talks directly to the audience, creating an interactive situation involving him and the spectators, just like during a concert, or "7al9a".

Awddi mashakil...GRRR ¤(%=#¤(%?#¤%?¤( #¤!!()#?"#¤


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