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Reality TV: popular reality in the Middle East

By October 15, 2010

Middle East (SAT7/MNN) — Reality
television has become as popular a genre in the Middle East as it has in the
United States and other parts of the world.

For some, it's the closest thing
to human interaction they will have. That's particularly true for some women in
the Middle East who may become very isolated in the context of their
marriages. 

TV reality shows are known for
competition, selfishness, greed, and immorality, but there's a new show in town
and it's sharing a different message. 

The show developed by SAT-7
ARABIC
is called "C707." SAT-7's Rex Rogers says, "You can speak to the audience about spiritual
truths and try to help them. It's a talent show, it's a TV reality show, it's a
drama, all wrapped into one. It's kind
of complicated, but it's classically Middle East."

The program is designed to "speak" to the audience about spiritual truths
without actually preaching. "The
question, if we can get it on the air, we get it on the air. Then, we respond carefully, and we always just
point back to the Scripture. Either the
scripture is quoted or someone talks about a real-life experience in a biblical
perspective in helping people understand how Christian people with Christian
values would respond."

Rogers goes on to say that such
programming is more exciting than standard shows, and it invites
participation. "What's really new to the
Middle East, at least new in SAT-7's terms, is 
the interactive part of that where [viewers] can call in, they can hear their
name, their question, they can hear their prayer request, they can hear their prayer shortly after
they've expressed it via the phone line."

Open auditions for the program
were held in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to identify young talent in the
region. The winners from each country were sent to Denmark for three weeks to
be trained as actors and to be built up socially and spiritually as a team.
During those three weeks, the first 11 episodes of the drama series were
filmed.

A total of 38 episodes, each 30 minutes long, have been produced to date. The first
ten episodes include the casting sessions; the next 17 reality episodes show
the interaction between the young talents when they first met; the last 11
episodes comprise the drama series itself. Final editing of all 38 episodes is
currently taking place, and the show is expected to go on the air toward the end
of 2010. One of SAT-7's partners, KKR-TV in Denmark, supplied the studio,
equipment and part of the technical crew.

The drama series focuses on a telephone company's call center and the relationships
between the people working there and the clients who call the center. The
underlying topic is the communication between persons and between man and God.
In one episode, for example, a young man has traveled away from his family and
now wants to return. He calls C707 to help him get in touch with his family
again. In another, a little girl is trying to call her mother who has died. In
a third episode, a man is trying to misuse C707 to get confidential information
about the company for which he is working.

Engaging characters are defined by their values and personalities as well as by
their various hobbies and interests, in order to appeal to as broad an audience
as possible. The owner of the company–although never actually seen on the
screen–clearly believes in putting people ahead of profit. His competitor, on
the other hand, uses stolen money and less-than-ethical means to get ahead.

The
counselor in the story is a 30-year-old bachelor and former athlete, portrayed
as highly emotional and a bit philosophical. He is an avid traveler and enjoys
collecting strange things in his journeys around the world. Other interesting
characters include a computer genius in his early twenties, a musician and an
aspiring actress who would gladly give up her dream to marry the right man.

C707's intriguing characters and relevant topics are designed to attract Arabic
youth between the ages of 16 and 28 -years -old by addressing the everyday life
situations that are most important to them.

The carefully-written scripts demonstrate how Christians work out the issues
they have with each other, both at home and at work. Solutions offered to the
characters' problems reflect mercy, forgiveness and the changed attitudes that
go along with new life in Christ. Rogers explains, "That's what's so absent in
some of these countries. There are no Bible colleges, there are no Christian
colleges, there's no churches, there's no Bibles. To hear any kind of Christian
dialogue is new, it's different. It's striking."

Interaction with the show is possible through a Web site, Facebook, and text messaging, and viewers are
encouraged to answer questions and share their opinions about the on-screen
characters and their situations.   

The launch is expensive, and
funding is needed. However, Rogers says
there's a bigger need. "Please pray that people would understand, not just the
words in their language, but that they understand Christian concepts."

 

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