Long-running soap opera reflects change in Saudi society

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The Saudi soap opera, the “Legacy,” tells the story of a Saudi family embroiled in a battle over inheritance. (mbc website)

Saudi TV series “Legacy” is the first of its kind. A long-running soap opera reflecting ongoing changes in Saudi society, the drama has aired over 90 continuous episodes since it first broadcast last March on MBC.

“Legacy” explores Saudi customs and values in a different dramatic framework, with producers taking into account the new, urgent changes taking place in society. The series focuses on the wealthy family of  Abdul Mohsen Al-Bahitani (played by actor Rashid Al-Shamrani) who died leaving behind a large inheritance.

His heirs are eager to share his significant wealth, but they are surprised to learn about the contents of his will, which leaves the inheritance to a previously unknown son who lives in Kuwait. The other family members are angry and refuse to accept the will’s contents.

The son, having heard about his father’s passing, travels from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, where he meets a young man at the airport. But when the son arrives at his father’s palace, viewers are surprised to see that the strange young man from the airport replaces him as the son of Al-Bahitani.

Many questions arise about the disappearance of the real son from the plotline, and how the fake son assumes his role.

While the series focuses on the main storyline, it also keeps pace with and incorporates real events, like the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Episode 52, one character is infected with the novel virus. Episodes aired during the fasting month of Ramadan also depicted the atmosphere of the holy month and the exceptional measures to combat COVID-19.

Another new feature of the series is the screenwriting, which was assigned to a workshop led by Britain’s Tony Jordan and including Giscard Lahoud from Lebanon and Mazen Taha, Nour Al-Shishakli and Thaer Al-Aql from Syria.

Poster of The Saudi series “Legacy” broadcast on the MBC1 channel. (mbc website)

The series was directed by a working group made up of Egyptian director Tamer Bassiouni, Emirati Abdullah Al-Junaibi and British Christine Melek and Andra Bose.

Some critics have taken issue with the reliance on foreign directors in the Saudi work, viewing it as unfair to Saudi writers and directors.

Others, however, said that the international cast pumps new blood into the dramatic work. They added that the exchange of experiences and cadres is common in the drama and cinema industry, not only in the Arab region, but throughout the world.

Critics point out that events in many episodes pass slowly, with no significant plot change occurring. This is perhaps due to efforts to increase the number of episodes, the 97th of which aired Thursday.

Nahid Khazem is an Egyptian writer.

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