(© Petra Roeder/Dreamstime)
SOME background: a hypothetical friend of mine happens to be one of the directors attached to TV5’s hit original series, Keramat. Aware of its succulent potential, he sent along an internal memo — addressed to the head writer of the series and unwisely carbon-copied to everyone else — so I could make jokes at our entertainment industry’s expense.
Of course, to pre-empt accusations of lazy or irresponsible journalism, I have blanked all the names out and tried to clean up the copy. But then I realised I needed to leave at least some of the shoddy syntax intact, otherwise nobody would believe it to be true. Here it is:
—– Original Message —–
From: Xxxxx Xxxx
To: ‘Xxxxx Xxx Xxxxx’
Sent: Friday, October 10, 2008 11:10 AM
Subject: KERAMAT OCTOBER UPDATE
Hello xxxxx and team seperjuangan:
Firstly, congratulations to everyone! As you all know, we’ve had the best week ever, with viewership for last week’s episode exceeding 30,000. Everyone said a serious, multi-lingual drama series about politics would not, COULD NOT work — and, now with four seasons under our belt and a prime-time slot, we definitely showed them. Nah, ambik kau!
And to everyone else, setting the rumours to rest: yes, that sms floating around is true. We ARE talking with the station about a dvd box set. (We’ll cetak rompak kalau terpaksa! Ok, joking joking, hahah, disregard.)
I know myself and Abang Xxx, at least, attribute much of Keramat‘s strength to its excellent writing. Specifically it’s the ability of our writing team to deliver compelling, topical and intelligent story arcs. Season 4’s election episodes, with that rousing menangis-at-the-bilik-gerakan finale, bila the calon yang tak pernah-pernah menang tiba-tiba menang, was Art with a capital A.
I’m sure everyone on the team has had at least one friend coming up to them saying: I wish that really happened to us. That’s the sort of response we’re gunning for.
Unfortunately, the Producers also feel it necessary, with reference to the last season, to caution the writing team. I must confess we are disturbed.
From the beginning, when the team was assembled, the vision for the series was very clear. We wanted to tell a gripping, but more importantly, BELIEVABLE story about Malaysians and their politicians, kan? What if the ruling coalition had an opposition nemesis, and a sitting prime minister at less-than-Mahathir strength? What would happen? What could happen?
And we all know the Producers have given you guys pretty much free-rein, so far. And you have done a GREAT job. There were some arcs in previous seasons which we felt wary about, like the C4 Mongolian. But the writing team managed to deliver on the seriousness of the issues, over several episodes, and it even put our ratings neck-and-neck with AF. (Everybody: AFUNDI MONGOLIA!)
And, of course, some zaniness is good. We all have to let the crazy that is Malaysia out. But season 5 is getting a bit over lah. Some of the stuff we’ve seen in the season 2nd half is just too OTT, just too mengada. Too throwaway! Too, let me say it, BAD WRITING. Some particular ones we need to highlight:
1. Sodomy Trial. Big Hero gets hit by the SAME thing he was taken down with, 10 yrs ago? Fine. I’m a little concerned, though Abang Xxx feels it is done well. But the escalating swearing on the Quran thing? Hell-looooo?
2. The Taiwan incident. Okay, you have Big Hero announcing he’s going to take over Govt via defections. Fine. What does the Govt do? They ship their MPs to Taiwan to study agriculture, because they couldn’t get visas to China in time. Fine. We’ve never really painted up Govt with the smarts anyway — okay, can accept. So Opposition delegation follows, right? But then a TYPHOON? Named “Sin”? Don’t you guys feel that’s a little overboard? Even God doesn’t ham that much.
3. Big Hero’s big billboard. I know it’s a point about feudal hero-worship, but honestly it’s been made throughout the series, and far more tastefully. This giant effigy thing, with muftis and accusations of idolatry, is a pedagogical sledgehammer. Come on, people. What happened to subtlety?
4. The orang-Cina-penumpang episode. How did you get from some small-fry in the party calling Chinese people “squatters” to the journalist reporting on it getting arrested? For her PROTECTION? And then being released within 24 hours? It shot our ratings through the roof, for sure, but it really stretched the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Jatuh credibility kita, you know?
5. YB Josephine’s detention arc. I’m not objecting to the general succession of events. We all know detention without trial, racism, and Govt-owned media are touchstone issues. But a Govt-owned Malay language daily publishing a badly written short story about a “YB Teresa” who is assassinated by a young martyr? This one even Abang Xxx agrees with me. Why so many death threats? In Episode 49 you guys already had violent protesters throwing Molotov cocktails into her backyard. And the EGG???
I know what’s going on: I, you and Xxxxxxx had that conversation about Amir Muhammad’s Politicians Say The Darndest Things book. And, at that meeting itself, I EXPLAINED to you guys why satire wouldn’t work! It’s a betrayal of vision. Remember, we want to take things seriously. These issues are serious topics that Malaysian democracy faces. Our audience watch us because we paint the problems well, and respect discourse. Let other people make fun. Making fun isn’t what Keramat set out to do.
I am cc-ing this to everyone else in the creative team. Sebab apa, this thing is also a betrayal of everyone else who’s pouring their heart and soul into the show: the cast, the directors. Me and Abang Xxx have decided that we have to sit down with the writing team and go through all the drafts of season 5 2nd half, one by one.
Guys: we REALLY need to talk about this.
T: xxx-xxxx xxxx
F: xxx-xxxx xxxx
(© Feng Yu/Dreamstime)
Zedeck Siew is switching to reality TV instead.