It was exactly 12 noon, when the young mother left the comfort of her husband’s car, jumped on a commercial motorcycle popularly called ‘Okada’ and beckoned on the rider to ride her home.
She was rushing home to watch Tinsel, a popular soap on AfricaMagic slated for 12:30pm, and would not let the long traffic jam deter her.
That is just how popular the soap opera has become among many viewers on AfricaMagic who cherish the soap because of its quality production many across the continent doubt is produced in Nigeria.
Today, the soap has successfully aired four exciting seasons with over 500 episodes to its credit. The feat is besides the discovering and grooming of talents who come to global relevance, and are better empowered through the various platforms on M-Net, the right owner of Tinsel.
However, Tinsel is on the move again. The producers just finished audition for the Season 5 and viewers are in for another exciting programme. The new season comes with expanded roles, entirely new but connected roles, and also new actors (both major and minor) that will take on the new roles.
Toeing the lines of its originality, indigenous production and featuring of home-groomed characters (both from Nigeria and Ghana), the Season 5 will rather enhance the Nigerian appeal and originality of the storyline, characters and setting.
It will be recalled that in August 2008, M-Net, provider of pan-African content on the DStv platform, launched a multi-camera, multi-million naira studio-based soap opera in Nigeria. Since then, Tinsel has surpassed expectations from both producers and viewers. It has grown from once a week, later to thrice a week and now to daily with daily excitement for the viewers and challenge of churning out daily world-class quality on the screen.
Initially, the soap had a cast, which comprised actors from both Nigeria and Ghana, though Nigeria had over 90 percent of the cast and the crew. Tinsel started with a lot of expectations, and aside being a creative concept to entertain fun-loving Nigerians, it was creatively positioned as an economic agenda to keep hundreds of Nigerians gainfully employed while they entertain the viewers.
When the soap eventually caught the attention of the viewers, it did so with a bang. In no time, it became the number one programme on the entertainment menu of many homes. Arguably, Tinsel is about the number one soap in the country that airs daily, yet does not fall short in standards.
Tinsel was originally created by Yinka Ogun and produced by the trio of Femi Odugbemi, Jaiye Ojo and Lemmy Adebule. With over 80 cast and crew from Nigeria and Ghana, the soap was in pre-production for over 90 months. Its Season 1’s 65 episodes of 26 minutes each was shot in the Frame 24 Studio located in Ojota, Lagos, for over 100 days.
Tinsel aired on DStv Channel 102 for the very first time on Monday, September 1, 2008. Season 1 ran twice weekly. Season 2 delivered 156 episodes and aired thrice weekly, while Season 3 had 261 but aired daily. With a few more episodes in Season 4, the soap reached a watershed landmark of 500 episodes.
Tinsel’s synopsis at the beginning defined the soap with three thematic focuses: as a power struggle; as a tale of infidelity, and as a love story. These three themes wheeled the progress of the plot in the first season, creating a tension-soaked relationship between two leading film companies – Reel Studios and Odyssey Pictures – led by Fred Ade-Williams and Brenda Mensah, respectively.
As a tale of infidelity, Tinsel’s first season portrayed the story of Reginald Okoh, Reel Studios’ head of production, described as a creative genius, his wife – Amaka, Fred’s god-daughter, also a staff of Reel, and their triangular love tangle with Reginald’s beautiful and efficient personal assistant, Angela Dede.
As a love story, it’s first season introduced the viewers to a near impossible love story between a beauty queen and budding actress, Telema Duke, and a struggling photographer, Soji Bankole. Soji and Telema’s story portrayed a conflict between two young lovers from contrasting backgrounds drawn together by mutual love of the arts, painful secrets as well as the desire to be accepted on their own terms.
Season 2 sustained the intrigues of the previous season and added a few twists of its own. Fred was discovered to have fathered Brenda, whom he abandoned as a child. It was therefore logical that Brenda, having struggled to gain relevance, stand face-to-face in a fierce opposition to everything Fred symbolised. Viewers also gained insight into the level of betrayal one of Reel Studios’ employees was involved in and why.
In 2010, M-Net’s investment in Tinsel increased and subsequently the number of weekly episodes to be screened in Season 3 was increased to five, spanning Mondays through Fridays. There was also an omnibus edition, which re-aired all the weekly episodes, on Sundays for those who missed them during the week to catch up on the developments.
At the launch of Season 3, Biola Alabi, MD, M-Net Africa, said, “M-Net is delighted that Tinsel continues to be a popular series and is growing from strength to strength as Nigerian audiences positively react to its storylines and its characters. M-Net believes in investing in local talent, and with Tinsel, we are confident that our investment is reaping rewards by creating a series that is compelling, entertaining and dynamic.”
Driving some of the key storylines in Season 3 were these characters: Brenda (Fred’s estranged daughter desperate to undermine her father’s legacy with a rival company); producer Reginald (whose adulterous relationship has jeopardised his marriage) and charismatic Telema Duke (a gorgeous young woman who finds her love life taking unexpected turns).
There were also a host of memorable characters including promising and passionate young photographer Soji; overconfident twenty-something Chuks with big dreams, Fred’s ‘desperate-to-prove-himself’ son, Phillip; Reginald’s determined and career-driven wife, Amaka; go-getting Angela whose attraction to Reginald resulted in a messy love triangle; gangster turned bar owner Ziggy, and unhappy, troubled Kwame (Brenda’s brother) searching to define his life.
In Season 3, Monica, Fred’s daughter was involved in an accident and the circumstances surrounding her crash were questioned as speculation swirled, whispers of foul play abounded and a mysterious phone-call became central to the investigation.
Tinsel Season 4 has begun with new dynamics and a promise of more thrilling episodes to come. It still screens five times a week within the primetime belt. DStv viewers will see changes in the soap, which hitherto had been restricted to the studio. The first few episodes of Season 4 revealed Fred and his new wife Sheila on a honeymoon out of the country. Some of the sets, from the few episodes screened so far, have undergone a rigorous renovation.
The fusion of Tinsel and Jacob’s Cross – two M-Net’s soaps currently making waves across the continent – is another twist that will make M-Net a one-stop emporium for premium entertainment. Viewers can hope for a possibility that the plots of the two soaps might intertwine.
While the producers of Tinsel deserve all the plaudits coming their way for a slickly produced soap that has captured the imagination of a lot of Nigerians, it is important that the production continues to raise the bar on its production values and not relent on its oars. As the Tinsel juggernaut rolls on and the audience keeps being intrigued by the terrific tales woven in Season Five, M-Net continues to prove that it has indeed got the magic to keep viewers entertained and inspired.