Tom Wolfe once said that a cult is a religion with no political power. If you are part of the 1% of the human population that never saw an episode of Game of Thrones, you’re preventing the series from becoming its own religion. Judging by the insatiable worldwide hypnosis viewers experienced during every season of the show, all it needs is for one of its multiple sets to be deemed a holy land by political authorities – a pilgrimage spot for its addicted worldwide viewer audience.
For many who face the pressures of the modern life hustle, whose degree of restoration falls solely in enjoying a much-loved series – past or present – it’s easy to understand why the grips of the games left people comfortably stationed in their own make-shift throne couches. Now that the series has given way to new shows to grab our attention in the foreseeable future, here is a look at the best in old-school tv series cult classics to warm up a winter night – shows that made us fall in love with television back in the day and renewed our love for the entertainment format in recent years.
Emzini Wezinsizwa (SABC Encore)
If you google this show, it emerges with an approval rating of 94%. From 1994 until 2004, for 9 seasons this iconic series featuring Roland Mqwebu, Jabulani Nkosi, Jerry Phele, Shadrack Ngema and Vusi Thanda hilariously showcased the silver lining in the grim reality of what it meant to be a black African man forced to move to the city in search of work and live with other men in a hostel – a tradition of the peri-urban areas in South Africa brought on decades before by the onset of migrant labour.
Any FRIENDS fan welcomed this show into their viewing space by singing “So no one told you life was gonna be this way [clap, clap, clap, clap] Your job’s a joke, you’re broke; Your love life’s D.O.A; It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear; When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, Or even your year, but I’ll be there for you (when the rain starts to pour), I’ll be there for you (like I’ve been there before), I’ll be there for you (‘Cause you’re there for me too’)”. Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, Ross and Phoebe made us all want to be there for someone at some stage of our lives.
Hlala Kwabafileyo (SABC Encore)
Featuring actors such as Tshepo Nzimande, Don Mlangeni Nawa and the late Ruth Cele and Daphney Hlomuka, Hlala Kwabafileyo, is a classic Zulu drama series unlike any other. The storyline was adapted from a Zulu novel titled Isithunzi Sikamufi (1987). At the heart of the plot is Zakhe Mhlongo, a wealthy prominent businessman who disappears on the day of his daughter’s wedding when all the entertaining drama begins. Where would social terms such as MaMgobhozi be without these types of shows?
The Oprah Winfrey Show (Box Set)
The talkshow that forever changed the landscape of television. For 25 years, Oprah Winfrey steered conversations that changed world perspectives, launched multi-million-dollar careers of lifestyle experts, popularized the notion of giving on a large scale through The Angel Network and introduced us to books that shaped our understanding of life’s most challenging concepts.
S’gudi Snayisi (SABC Encore)
In 1986, the late legendary Joe Mafela was cast as the unemployed lodger S’dumo in this comedy series. During all 78 episodes, viewers were left enthralled by the light-hearted humor which propelled Mafela to launch his own production company, Penguin Films.
Star Trek (Box Set)
As the original cult show which launched the very concept of what a cult show is, from 1966- 1969, this iconic sci-fi series began the spin-off phenomenon which reality shows especially utilize as a means of brand longevity. Star Trek aired for three seasons but spawned five TV spinoffs and 13 feature films to date – blockbuster hits which have launched the careers of Hollywood’s most sought-after directors and actors.
People of the South & The Felicia Show (SABC Encore)
No show has launched brand memorabilia (cushion and cap combo) in South Africa like Dali Tambo’s People of The South. Together with the queen of local talk, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, these two tackled conversations that got the nation talking. Needles to say, none such talkshows since have lived up to the standard these two set in their own unique ways.
Directed by William C. Faure, this 1986 television series is based on the life of Shaka Zulu who reigned from 1816 to 1828. During these 10 50-minute episodes, legendary actors such as the late great Henry Cele who played King Shaka. With an unforgettable theme song, “We Are Growing”, performed by Margaret Singana, it’s never too late to introduce oneself to the series which rightfully glorified the re-telling of history. A remake by Bomb Productions is currently in the pipeline.
Noot Vir Noot (SABC 2)
Before there was Pop Stars, Idols and The Voice, there was Noot Vir Noot, a family-oriented musical show hosted by the legendary Johan Stemmet. As a pillar of SABC 2’s home-centric brand positioning, for 43 seasons Afrikaans audiences revisited the unifying power of music through this show. The 44th season launches this August with a new host in Emo Adams.
Sex And The City (Box Set)
Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, together with her girlfriends set a new standard for what it means to be women in charge of defining their own destinies. With a series title that itself was a bold step in the right direction, Bradshaw together with Samantha Jones, Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbes, took to the streets of Manhattan and owned them during all seasons and the two spin-off feature films.
Khumbulekhaya (SABC 1)
Whatever family-centric the channels Mzansi Magic and Moja Love have had their fair share of success with, none of them would have garnered as much interest had it not been for this pioneer television format show which Andile Gaelesiwe hosts in a way that still today has it recognised as the “Truth & Reconciliation of The Heart”.
Game of Thrones (Box Set)
This HBO cult-classic of medieval fantasy glory depicted two powerful families who played an endless battle for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and to ultimately assume the Iron Throne. From April 2011 to May 2019, 73 episodes were filmed in Spain, Croatia, Malta and Northern Ireland across 8 seasons of long-format episodes. The spin-offs seem almost inevitable.
The Wild(Previously Mnet)
As one of the premier productions which showcased the landscape of South Africa in such a pristine way, this production which introduced us to the acting talents of the likes of Gail Mabelane showcased the next level of family dynamic power struggles.
Being Mary Jane (Box Set)
Gabrielle Union’s character Mary Jane, her successful career, perfectly imperfect family and whirlwind romantic life was one of the first shows to showcase the multi-faceted reality of successful black women trying to make sense of it all. Befittingly, the much-loved show ended in a movie-like finale with the culmination of wishes fulfilled in unexpected ways.
Being Bonang Seasons 1 and 2 (Re-runs: Mzansi Magic)
At no time in the history of South African television has an entire vocabulary been impacted by one reality tv show. From Bonang-isms such as “Moghel”, “Champopo”, “Give The People What They Want” and “Ha e Du” to name a few, Being Bonang season 1 and 2 launched the beginning of reality show cult-viewing in the country. With season 3 currently in production, South Africa’s queen who reigns supreme is set to draw more “isms” out of her unpredictable hat.
House of Cards (Box Set; Netflix)
From 2013 to 2018, this Netflix original production starring among others Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright unpacked the realities of politics as a typically dirty game where the one who applied the right timing to strategy would often emerge triumphantly…for the time being. Based on the book House of Cards by Michael Dobbs, this classic series offered 73 episodes of enthralling content.
Carte Blanche (MNet)
The only news-format show on the bill, one would think it wise to disappear if they saw the towering Derek Watts at their work or home premises. For years, this team of broadcast journalists have brought to light the dealings of criminal rings, triumphant stories of excelling South Africans and environmental issues we all need to be aware of.
The Fixer/Scandal (Box Set; Netflix)
The birth of Olivia Pope and the power she commanded launched a shift in the way women of colour were cast in tv & film and the way in which they were perceived in rooms that extended beyond the industry. With the type of wit, sharp tongue and wardrobe to boot that marked her presence, the character, seamlessly played by Kerry Washington and created by the sublime mind of Shonda Rhimes will forever go down in history as iconic.