Olerato crying

The Queen Mzansi on steady decline

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Once rated Mzansi Magic’s most watched telenovela, The Queen has been on a continual downhill slide this month. The Ferguson Films produced show lost its appeal during lead character Connie Ferguson’s compassionate leave. But once The Queen herself returned to the 9pm show, the soapie regained its zest on the back of Harriet and Hector’s secret love affair. It goes without saying that all long running TV shows go through peaks and troughs, but even the diehard fans of The Queen would not place a wager on the telenovela regaining its past glory.

Why The Queen sucks

I have been a top fan of The Queen since episode one, 2016. So understand, this is not inspired by hate.

It is normal that any television show will lose some of its appeal due to loss of “shock factor”, the decline in novelty. Think of Prison Break, one of the most watched shows world wide. We were in awe of Michael Scofield’s genius, his ink covered body, the map to his prison escape and the intensity of his love for big brother, Lincoln Burrows. But as the show stretched from life behind bars to life after the dramatic jail break, we are no longer shocked by his tattoos or his impossible planning skills. We become accustomed to it all. It is therefore normal for fans to lose interest in Shaka’s “balance me real quickly” or Jerry Maake’s open-and-shut ritual with his briefcase. But the decline in The Queen is not the expected wane caused by familiarity.

The major reason for the show’s decline is the loss of core cast members. Kagiso (real name Loyiso MacDonald), Keabetswe (real name Dineo Langa), Jerry Maake (played by the late great Shona Ferguson) and Shaka Khoza (real name Sthembiso “SK” Khoza) have all left the show for various reasons. Ferguson Films attempted to replace Shaka’s character with cousin Dingane (real name Ney Maps), but fictional stories, and the characters who inhabit them, literally grow and develop lives of their own. Ask any experienced writer and they will tell you that the creative is never fully in control of the story. If you watch the pilot episode of The Queen, you will notice a stark contrast between Brutus, Mzi Khoza’s lickspittle younger brother and Brutus, the second in command to Harriet. Kea Khoza went from spoilt little rich girl to a bad ass chick who knew how to load a gun when the war siren sounded. Domestic helpers, Dorcas and Antoinette have shifted from their silent roles to getting parts with dialogue. Also, the actors get better at portraying their characters with each passing episode. When Ferguson Films attempted to replace Shaka with Dingane, they hadn’t taken into account the growth of Brutus and Shaka as a pair so much that Dingane and Brutus had about as much chemistry as two tree stumps placed together. Consequently, Dingane was photoshopped out of the story and Shaka resurrected. Olerato (real name Lorraine Moropa) was brought in as Kea Khoza’s replacement., even though the actors play different roles. Unfortunately, as good an actress as Lorraine Moropa is, the sibling/rivalry between Kea and her brothers, or even the banter between Kea and Brutus can never be recreated. Harriet is making fake visits to Khaya, Brutus making equally fictional phone calls to Kagiso.

This is what happens as a story and its characters morph into something that the writers never quite expected. For this reason, The Queen has lost so much of its original scent that a bloodhound given the 2016 sample would not recognize the 2021 version of the show.

Patronella ruins The Queen

With Shaka Khoza no longer in the picture, the story has clearly been hurriedly redrafted. The script had been written with him in mind. This has thrust smaller characters into the spotlight, with disastrous consequences.

After Mjekejeke won R320,000 in the Lotto, he kept his winnings a secret but went on a shopping spree which puzzled his controlling wife Patronella. When Patronella finally knew about the Lotto cash, she took over his bank account and went on a spending spree of even greater proportion. But the joy of winning quickly gushed out of the Zulu household after Mjekejeke gave what was left of the cash to Siyanda whose Corner House stoves had broken down. While Mjekejeke thought he had done the decent thing in saving Siyanda’s business, Patronella took his generosity as a betrayal. She banished her husband to the spare bedroom and only cooked for herself. Worst of all, Sis Pat even chained and padlocked the refrigerator in order to starve Mjekejeke. But, for every hurtful thing his wife did, Mjekejeke received a warm meal and a smile from stand-in Corner House manager, Akhona Jola (real name Khanya Mkangisa).

Patronella’s character is best as a small part, purely for comical relief, nothing more. Now that she has been thrust into the limelight – to make up for the missing major players, to be blunt, I found myself tolerating her scenes. Thembsie Matu is no doubt a talented comedian, but lately I cannot stand her character, Patronella. Actors take it as a compliment when their character evokes strong feeling – whether love or hatred – but when I say I have had enough of Patronella, I don’t mean this to be an accolade.

Olerato takes centre stage

When Lorraine Moropa signed her contract to play Olerato on The Queen, I doubt very much she expected to be lead for two weeks running. After Olerato found love in Khumo Sebata (real name Molemo Tlali) their new romance soon turned sour. While out alone, Olerato was snatched by two thugs who delivered her to their boss. Once face to face with her kidnapper, Olerato let out a gasp of recognition. It was a reunion with a possessive and controlling ex sugar daddy who kept her afloat after her mother died. Darlington (real name Getmore Sithole) is a much older man who wants two things from Olerato; to Getmore conjugals – did you see what I did there? – and to use her as a link to the Khoza drug supply.

To force Olerato out of her new romance, Darlington arranged for two muggers to beat up Khumo. For the sake of Khumo’s safety, Olerato broke up with him. Now that Khumo is out of the way, Darlington is pressuring Olerato to sleep with him.

To be honest, I find this story absurd. Olerato is aware of the power her aunt Harriet possesses. She has seen the Khozas go to war. All she has to do is tell Harriet and Darlington will be found in a dumpster with a gaping  hole in his forehead.

But I suppose this is the result of desperation in the writing department. With Shaka Khoza yanked offstage with the long hook, the writers were pressed into finding new content and they did so without the benefit of bringing in new characters. If I am to once again be blunt as a hammer, I would say a less loyal viewer would have long stopped watching The Queen. My favourite show desperately needs saving.

Till next week

My pen is capped

The Queen airs weekdays at 9pm on Mzansi Magic.

 

Follow the writer on Twitter @RewindMzansi

Images frim Twitter

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