The Queen herself, Harriet Khoza

The Queen Mzansi to be cancelled in 2023

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Mnet has officially announced that The Queen will be cancelled at the end of its seventh season in January 2023. At one point the most watched telenovela on DSTV, The Queen has held the 9pm time slot on channel 161, Mzansi Magic since 2016. But, like all good things, The Queen finally takes a bow on 13 January 2023.

Why The Queen is cancelled

A lot can be said about the Ferguson Films produced telenovela’s termination, but in the final analysis, the leading cause for cancellation of television shows is decline in viewership. Television channels depend on advertising revenue which is essentially determined by the number of people watching – the reach. Like any profit-making media business, Mnet keeps a close eye on viewership statistics because, ultimately, these are the numbers that prospective and existing advertisers want to see in order to determine the impact of their commercials.

What really went wrong on The Queen?

Every television show eventually suffers decline in viewership due to emergence of new and alternative content. Not only does The Queen compete with SABC and other DSTV shows for audience but the soapie also has to vie for attention with other portals such as Showmax, Netflix, Amazon Prime, among others which, it must be stated, have grown since August 2016 when the Khozas first appeared on our screens. But there are several other factors which impacted The Queen’s viewership numbers:

Departure of central actors

The mark of a good story is audience attachment to fictional characters. Think of any iconic film or television show, chances are you have a favourite character who remains close to your heart, years after you switched off the television. Viewers literally fall in love with the characters in their favourite television shows. So when a central character leaves the show for whatever reason, viewers feel a loss akin to breakup with a best friend. Over the last six seasons, The Queen has lost numerous key figures, most of whom were largely popular; Sthembiso Khoza (who played the hot-headed Shaka Khoza), Shona Ferguson (who was the no-nonsense top cop, Jerry Maake), Loyiso Macdonald (Kagiso Khoza), Slindile Nodangala and Brenda Mhlongo (who both played Ntombizodwa Khoza), Ntando Duma (Mpho Sebata), Molemo Tlali (Khumo Sebata), Cindy Mahlangu (Siyanda), Dineo Langa (Keabetswe Khoza), Robert Mpisi (Bhekumuzi Khoza), Mo Setumo (Mmabatho Khoza) Mlami Mangcala (police Captain Radebe), Khanya Mkangisa (Akhona Jola), Xolani Mayekiso (Thato Maake), Kabelo Moalusi (Roy Maake), Thandy Matlaila (Cleo Maake), Mara Louw (Boi Maake) (Dorothy Maake) Peter Mashigo (Jackal Mkhondo), Miranda Ntshangase (Joy) and Moshe Ndiki (Prince).

It goes without saying that no television show can run for six years and still manage to retain all its supporting cast. However, when key players (SK Khoza, Dineo Langa, Shona Ferguson, Loyiso Macdonald) are removed from the story, the whole mood of the show is completely transformed, and not necessarily for the better. The entire show is built around Jerry Maake’s single-minded pursuit of Harriet Khoza and her family and, to be frank, Harriet’s position as The Queen is diminished if she has literally nobody around her throne. Ferguson Films got away with changing actors, mid story, for the character of Zodwa Khoza but were lambasted by fans for the temporary and, one might argue, unavoidable, replacement of Zandile Msutwana by Thembisa Mdoda-Nxumalo, therefore replacing key characters Kea, Kagiso and Shaka Khoza was never going to work. This week on one episode, the Khoza dining table, once crowded with much loved faces, only had Harriet and Olerato (real name Lorraine Moropa). Several actors who occupy smaller roles have, in the recent past, been forced upon the audience as the writers had to improvise in the absence of key players. Patronella and Mjekejeke’s infuriating relationship drama and Olerato’s implausible repeat abductions immediately spring to mind.

Bad press

It is often said, in the show business, that even bad publicity is good publicity. For example, SK Khoza’s irresponsible outing which was filmed during the very first coronavirus lockdown may have dragged The Queen and Ferguson Films brand through mud but this probably depicted Khoza as the bad boy whom he portrays on television. SK Khoza was literally a walking billboard with commercial deals to promote different brands (clothing and automotive). Unfortunately, this has not always been the case with The Queen.

On social media, Ferguson Films have been repeatedly criticized for “sacking too many employees” some of whom aired the company’s unwashed laundry in public. In this writer’s opinion, there also appeared to be an orchestrated crusade against the owners of Ferguson Films. Perhaps the key mistake by Executive Directors, Connie and Shona Ferguson, was making themselves (intentionally or by accident) the face of their film company. Connie Ferguson as the face of her Connie Body Care range of skincare products was a master stroke because she successfully capitalized on her television fame and undeniably good looks. Stamping her face and name to her products indirectly sends the message “buy my products and you too can be as beautiful as I am.”

However, with their film company, the power couple, Connnie and Shona became the target of – some justified and some jealousy driven – social media hatred. It must be highlighted that literally every other film production company has at some point dismissed actors for inappropriate behaviour on and off set. Other production companies – such as Black Brain, producers of DiepCity and The Bomb Shelter, the makers of Isibaya – have had salary disputes with actors. Reports of poor treatment of actors on SABC’s Skeem Sam were forgotten as quickly as they had made it to the news.  Unlike Ferguson Films, SABC, Black Brain and Bomb are a faceless entities, without a glamour couple at their helm. Despite the problems of other film producers, “the Fergusons” were the only film makers somehow singled out for protracted criticism on social media. Perhaps, as stated earlier, their error was making themselves the face of their brand because, as everyone knows, success creates as many enemies as admirers.

Rejuvinating The Queen

Although The Queen will soon come to an end, the show still has 10 more months on air so, for cast and crew, everything continues as normal. Last month, casting director, Lesedi Motsunyane Ferguson announced the impending arrival of four new characters, Brutus Khoza’s sons, a sign that new life is being injected into The Queen. Until the curtain closes on The Queen, the Sho must go on.

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