By now it’s well-known news that SABC is reducing 7de Laan episodes to three a week from 1 April 2021. For many people, it will be a hard pill to swallow, having become used to having their soapie on 5 days a week. I actually don’t know how SABC came to the conclusion to reduce 7de Laan’s episodes, seeing that it’s still the 5th most-watched programme on the channel. Spare a thought for Muvhango, which is the most viewed programme on the entire channel and is also getting chopped to 3 days a week. So I don’t think there’s logic to SABC’s reasoning. 7de Laan is the only SABC programme I watch at all, and I am not interested to start following a new show on that channel.
But anyway. We are here now, with only about four weeks of full five-day episodes of 7de Laan. And to be honest, I doubt that many of these storylines playing out now will make great viewing in a three-day week. The stories are far too detached and not focused enough. I’m not invested in any of the stories, other than maybe rooting for De Wet to take revenge on Chris and Mariaan Welman for taking his home and ruining him financially. Maybe stories are just starting? I know viewers are a huge problem when they don’t want to see their favourite characters do anything too risqué nor do they want them to make big mistakes. For example, Fikani having an affair with Lesedi would’ve been the soapie thing to do. But even I hated the idea. Now all that’s left for Fikani and Alexa is to have our (their 😉) dream wedding. And then one or both of them probably has to die. Because what stories can these characters tell that won’t upset viewers, other than to be secondary characters in other characters’ stories? If Altus and Paula couldn’t live happily ever after, how can viewers expect any characters to survive their soap opera?
Three-day a week 7de Laan will not have this luxury of slow-brewing stories. 7de Laan writers will have to tell maybe longer timeline stories but with short-term pay-offs along the way. No one that’s rooting for De Wet will want to wait from Wednesday to the following Monday for the next step in De Wet’s plan to take shape. But viewers might be more willing to tune in on Monday if Khethiwe and Shady are trapped in the storeroom with Romeo AND one of De Wet’s plans fail or succeed on a Wednesday. And Vanessa and Bonita find themselves in a love triangle with Denzil, who walks into the wrong bedroom and sleeps with the wrong person sort of thing. In other words, things will have to go down. And not just one thing at a time, but without losing too much of what 7de Laan has become.
I feel sorry for the cast because being a side-kick 3 days a week is just not going to work. The writers will have to be a lot clearer about who the main characters are and write stories for them. I doubt that storylines like the pole-dancing one or Valentine’s Day competition will work if there are just 3 episodes a week. Four days between episodes is a long time to wait.
Of course, 7de Laan started with just 2 episodes a week. It’s a long time ago, but what I do remember is that the stories were intense and shocking. We had Sandra Stutterheim arriving in Hillside with revenge in her heart for the Terblanche family. There was the family drama with Jan-Hendrik and Petra’s wedding and Tiaan being in love with Petra and getting her pregnant. And the car accident. And Christelle longing to have a baby. There was racist Oom Oubaas with heart problems having to go to Dr Thabile, the black female doctor, whose secretary was Hilda. Not forgetting Felicity getting pregnant by Vanessa’s boyfriend Aubrey. And Ivan, Vanessa’s jailbird father. Oppiekoffie and the waitresses Desi, Connie, and Wilmien, with mother hen Charmaine and Oom Francois, the bit of light in the darkness of 7de Laan. 7de Laan packed a lot of drama into those early days. Of the original cast, only Vanessa remains. I think the silliness only came when 7de Laan went to 5 episodes a week with Bart leading the charge.
So I guess that’s the blueprint for the new 7de Laan. Entertaining stories about relationships where people are hurt sometimes and happy other times. Unrequited love and misunderstandings and betrayals and romance. Just not people talking and talking and talking about nothing. Someone to root for and someone to root against so that people will want to watch 7de Laan 5 days a week again instead of the new telenovela growing from 2 days a week to 5 days a week and 7de Laan getting cancelled.