Turkish Soap Operas Take Balkans by Storm
Binbir Gece (“Thousand and one nights”) is a Turkish television series produced by TMC Film that was originally aired by Kanal D between 2006-2009. It stars Halit Ergenç, Bergüzar Korel, Tardu Flordun and Ceyda Düvenci.
The show was also aired in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia on RTL TV, Kuwait, in Romania on Kanal D, the Republic of Macedonia on A1, Serbia on Prva TV, Greece on Macedonia TV and ANT1, Montenegro on TV Vijesti, Hayat TV and Alternativna televizija in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia on Pink SI.
Show is aired in Kosovo as well. The story is about Şehrazat Evliyaoğlu, a talented architect who works in Binyapı, a construction company owned by Onur Aksal and Kerem İnceoğlu. She is the mother of a five-year old boy who suffers from leukemia and needs an urgent and very expensive surgery. Onur Aksal is a successful businessman and Şehrazat desperately tries to find ways to borrow the money she needs for her son’s very costly surgery, a bone marrow transplantation, because her little son’s life is in danger. Only her boss Onur, who is secretly attracted to her, accepts to give her the money on condition that she spends one night with him.
Turkish soap opera attracts regional audience
Currently Binbir Gece is being shown on one of Greece’s biggest TV networks, Ant1, and at prime time, 9 p.m.
The new Turkish mania has become so widespread in Greece that even in the first day of football’s World Cup Binbir Gece captured 30.5 percent of viewers while the match between Uruguay and France caught just 28.2 percent. It is the first time that a soap beat the ratings of a soccer match in Greece.
The two leading actors of Binbir Gece plan to visit the Greek island of Santorini for their summer holiday, reported Espresso, a Greek daily. Last month, the two leading actors were on the front pages of the two most prominent gossip magazines of Greece.
Binbir Gece is also the talk of the town among Greeks who try to overcome the consequences of the financial crisis. “To Vima” leading commentator Kosmas Vidos said in his weekend article that not only the model of soap opera between the two countries is similar but also that Binbir Gece is a good solution for TV networks hit by the crisis.
George Pleios, professor of media at the University of Athens, had a different explanation for soap opera’s success. He said the soap Binbir Gece was not a sign that Greek society realized that the two cultures have a lot in common.
“I think the success of this soap opera shows the growing fear and compassion that the Greek media as well as the society have for the Turkish government and Turkish society,” said Pleios.
“For the Greek public and the media, Turkey is tough to deal with in foreign relations and is full of emotion,” he said. “This emotional aspect is what differentiates Turkey from Europe. Greece has always wanted to be European, even though it has had more in common with non-European societies.
“As a result of Turkey’s leading position in the region, this dichotomy is what leads to the Greek public watching Turkish soap operas to replace the loss of Greek identity in the international arena,” Pleios said.
The Bulgarian Nova Televizia channel broke the record for viewer numbers when it started broadcasting the Turkish soap opera “Binbir Gece.” The channel then decided to broadcast another Turkish show, “Dudaktan Kalbe.”
Executives at Nova Televizia believe the success of the Turkish programs in Bulgaria is due to similarities in the social culture and lifestyle of the two countries.
In Serbia, soap operas have had a faithful audience since the 1990s. Until just recently, 1,001 Nights, aired on weekdays in primetime on Prva Srpska TV and reigned supreme.
Its run ended on December 10th. After broadcasting the final episode, Korel and Ergenc were guests in the TV studio, where audience members waved banners and had a chance to meet them.
When the Turkish stars took a stroll in downtown Belgrade, fans were surprised and delighted.
Certain travel agencies, determined to cash in on the show’s popularity, are offering trips to Turkey dubbed Down Shahrazad’s paths.
On Prva Srpska’s website, viewers seem to have a real connection with the programme. “Beautiful Onur. The show is great! I hope Onur will finally find happiness,” writes a woman named Ivana.
Author Zoran Kesic hosts of one of the most popular talk shows in Serbia, “The Closing Time Republic”, which airs on the same channel as 1,001 Nights did. “People get into soaps because they deal with simple, everyday topics and problems that everyone can understand. People are attracted to tales of heartache, deception and betrayal,”
Turkologist Jana Jelyazkova said Bulgarians had different opinions about Turkish people before watching Turkish TV series but that “they have now seen the truth.”
The documentary argues that Turkish TV series have affected Bulgarians’ domestic relations and even name traditions. There are reports that newborn babies were given the names of characters from the series and that Bulgarians’ travel destinations had even changed as well.
“The number of Bulgarian tourists traveling to Turkey has increased by 40 percent. They want to visit the places where TV series are made,” Jelyazkova said.
Turkish soap operas continue to rule the roost of programming in Balkans, with more on the way.
Retailers, tour operators and language schools are cashing in on Croatia’s obsession with the romantic affair between gorgeous architect Scheherazade and her boss, Onur. The two protagonists have the nation glued to their TV sets every night of the week at 8pm.
Zagreb school of foreign languages “Sjajna zvijezda” has registered a large interest in the Turkish language. In the last week or two, 50 people signed up to learn; demand has never been so high.
“Our new clients are mainly young women below 30 who are not afraid to admit being motivated by their favourite the TV series. They come having picked up a few words from the show, like “merhaba” (good day) or “iyi geceler” (good evening),” says the school’s director Jasmin Selihovic.
And the Kompas travel agency said that the charter flight from Split to Istanbul on 7th of October has been sold out partly thanks to the popularity of the soap.