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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.