Monday, August 30, 2010

El Dounya heik - such is (not) life

They don't make them like they used to!... After Jonas Brothers stealing Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" and the pityful faux-remake of Fame and many other instances, here is the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation doing an ugrade (or is it a downgrade?) of the classic "El Dounia Heik" which trnaslates into "Such is life" and was a major TV hit on TeleLiban in the 70s and early 80s.
The original followed the adventrues of Zmorrod (Feryal Karim) her husband Aziz Salamanki (Elias Abou Rizk), her friend Warde (Leyla Karam) her husband Belbol (Majed Afiouni) and her sun Coucou (from a previous marriage to Belbol). There is a mayor (who is the writer of the series Mohammad Chamel), and his son Alloush (his real son in life) who is enamored with Chwaykar (Amal Oufeich, who prior to being stuck in the stupid girl image that Chwaykar gave her showed exceptional dramatic potential in other series on TeleLiban).
The series started losing its sparkle when the writer began shifting the plot and the emphasis on his son leaving the two female leads (who probably had the character written for them so much they inhabited it) to just gravitate pointlessly around Alloush.
With Karim dying of a heart attack which she was on stage (she was Lebanon's first monologist), and Karam dying after a major stuggle with dementia, Abou rizk commiting suicide in the aftemath of the death of president elect Bachir Gemayel and Afiouni succumbing to natural causes, the only surving original cast are Alloush, Coucou and Chwaykar with none of them aging well.
One could accept slasptick from a young reckless man, but getting old and still remaining this silly is a sort of an impediment in front of Alloush and Chwaykar. Coucou, who in the original series was starting to show signs of acute effemination, now treats every scene as an audition to "la cage aux folles" - however, in the old and the new series he has been given a girlfriend mostly to indicate to the audiences that his mannerism is no way related to his character's sexuality.
In the new adaptation Layal Daou playing Zmorrod and Betty Tawtil Warde, while their male counterparts have been filled in by respectively Michel Abou Sleiman and singer-songwirter-producer Ghassan Rehbani (who brought with him the 4 Cats - a girl band which also includes his wife). Not even the immense talent of Tawtil manages to save the day!
Tawtil who performed a close role to this in terms of composition in the now long dead sitcom on Murr Television "tlet banet" (three girls) was playing opposite Julia Kassar at the time and managed to hold her own with flying colors. But with nothing making sense in this new series she is forgiven for trying her best and not making it!
The irony is that TeleLiban reruns the original on Saturday morning which even some two decades down the line still manages to be crisp, ironic, smart, and its female leads as much in character as one can be. A new adaptation of "El Dounya Heik" does not mean that such is life!