If you haven’t seen this episode yet, stop right now and go watch the episode. But if you’re like me and don’t mind spoilers, let’s get right to it.
Accelerate TV is bringing in the big guns for this show, partnering with the cable network Ebony Life TV for On The Real, their first real play for Ndani Tv title as the king of digital television.
Their flagship show On the Real draws heavily from the basic premise of the Lifetime America TV show UnReal. Basically, a scripted show that seeks to show us the ‘dark’ underbelly of Reality television and the drama that happens on the few precious seconds when the reality tv cameras stop rolling.
Reality TV as a concept isn’t all that rare in Nigeria. E! entertainment, the home of Kim Kardashian’s cash cow show is making some serious headway into Africa. They dropped some serious money on an African version of their hit series True Hollywood Story with A.K.A, Tiwa Savage, Rita Dominic scoring major screen time. Add Omotola Jolade Ekeinde and Jim Iyke’s multi-season reality shows to the mix, then you see why on paper, this seems like a good idea.
The proof however is in the pudding.
The first episode of On The Real starts quickly. I have to say I love the opening montage for the show, a pop art impression of Third Mainland Bridge, The National theatre and several other landmarks of Lagos. It’s gorgeous. It’s also pretty much ironic, considering from the very first scene I can tell this show will almost entirely revolve around Lekki Phase One and Victoria Island. But beggars can’t be choosers.
We are quickly introduced to the main characters. The episode starts with a lot of beeping phones.
We see B.J, a gruff shady type crashing on a living room sofa. Someone wakes him up with light slap and a grating nasal ‘British’ accent. The person turns out to be Wana, on whose couch B.J’s been crashing, and it seems Wana only let him because he brought a baggie of drugs (what kind we’re not sure). We also meet Amaka, who’s at a bar somewhere ordering around staff, she gets the message too and panics. Then we see Efosa (played by youtuber Akah Nnani) having breakfast at Samantha’s Bistro (this show’s version of the pivotal coffee shop Central Perk on the TV show Friends) when he gets the message. Shit has obvs hit the fan.
Last but not least we’re introduced to ‘Peanut’ an Australian silky terrier and his ‘mother’ Faridah (played by Ini Dima Okojie). Now before we move any further, I should point out that this is the same Ini Dima-Okojie who plays the vapid, vacuous Hadiza on Ndani’s Skinny Girl In Transit.
I used to think she was a decent actress crippled by one-dimensional writing, but from the very first ten seconds she has on screen on this show, it is obvious that she’s definitely a one trick pony. She is literally playing the exact same character on both shows, and her acting is atrocious enough to make you wonder why anyone would allow her headline a show. What helps her in On the Real is that we naturally expect reality TV stars to be vapid and borderline autistic. Either Okojie is just playing herself, or she is the world’s best method actor. Either way…
The entire team assembles at the office of their main employer Lolu (played by David Jones David). He is livid, understandably so. Efosa got snapped by the ‘paparazzi’ on a date with a mystery woman. Problem is, Efosa is the lead actor in the reality tv show and is supposed to be in a relationship with Hadiza. He admits to dating on the side, and asserts that he is ‘in love’ with Auta, his side chick. Getting papped with a side chick means damage control and a new story line. Nobody likes losing money.
Even though Efosa is the only one who messed up, Lolu drags the entire cast of the reality show to the meeting, ignores them all through all of it, then tries to kick them out when shit is about to get good?
Lolu forces Efosa and Faridah to stage a forced smooch and sends them off. Efosa tracks Faridah outside and apologizes to her about embarrassing her by getting caught with his real babe. And she reminds him, quite stringently that the show and by proxy their relationship is a job to her, and that she is ready and ruthless enough to spin his mess into PR gold.
Poor Efosa. He tells us what he really wants is to be a real actor (a little too close to home for Nnani?) and that he thought this reality show was a step in the right direction.
Wana, B.J and Amaka are shooting a scene for the reality show after getting kicked out the meeting. Afterwards they relax at Samantha’s bistro (product placement) and get to talking. Wana’s pretty ecstatic that Efosa has messed up cos that means his hold on the position of the male lead is shaky and if they can oust him, B.J can get promoted and get cut a bigger pay check.
She also thinks that Faridah can be ‘nudged’ into leaving the show too, if only they can find something dirty and use it as leverage against her, leaving the vacant spot of the Queen Bee wide open for a tussle between her and Amaka. Amaka a.k.a Faridah Lite, panics and exits stage left. B.J follows to calm Amaka down and convince her to not spill. He doubles over in obvious pain mid speech, and Amaka gets an unexpected text, is obviously agitated by it and flees.
B.J gets a call from Efosa, is visibly distraught from whatever he tells him, setting up episode two’s cliff hanger.
The episode ends with Lolu, pressing on his stress balls (metaphor anyone) and Faridah coming to ‘tell’ him something in nothing but lingerie. Cos you know, that’s what all female reality tv leads do to get and keep their jobs.
So here are my first impressions.
The person in charge of casting for this show should be flogged.
Akah Nnani (who got his start on Youtube and is still technically on Youtube, oh delicious irony) and Maurice Sam who is relatively an unknown, are actually the best actors on the show. I understand Nnani has more clout, but he simply isn’t believable as the romantic lead in any show let alone a Reality TV show. That should have been Maurice, who has already been portrayed as having loads of disposable income and no real job and chest muscles and a six pack, the perfect back-story for that kind of premise.
Just because we’re supposed to be watching from behind the scenes doesn’t mean the actual show doesn’t need to make sense.
Every second the Wana character is on screen, I have to fight the urge reach into my laptop and deliver a soul saving backhand. Her accent sounds she got it from a starter pack, she can’t act or deliver a line with any kind of authenticity and she makes Ini Dima-Okojie look like a great actress. Which is saying a lot considering that one’s track record.
David Jones David takes the stereotype of the neurotic film producer and drives it straight to the ground. I have never seen a performance so bad, not even in the Z-list Nollywood films. Every single thing he does is so heavy handed. He mouth breathes, he has a stress ball, he even has a long suffering assistant that is supposed to work as the show’s comic relief. Why did anyone think my eyeballs deserved to see acting this horrific?
Also Ini Dima-Okojie and Nancy Isime are literally the same person. Right down the mannerisms and the hair flip and jazz hands when they talk. What genius was in charge of casting, who made that colossal mistake?
And finally, I have to say, I’m starting to think that the ‘New Nollywood’ is a scam, at least when Patience Ozorkwor or Chiwetalu Agu gave a performance they were actually believable. These ones just prance around on screen and substitute impersonating stereotypes for method acting.
On the Real seems like a decent script let down by some seriously bad acting, but with only one episode, it’s too soon to tell.
Semira Bello is lacking in conscience and lives her life on Youtube. When she isn’t watching Iroko TV, she is writing ‘serious’ articles about fashion and pretending to apply make up.