Whilst we've binged on our fair share of Nigerian web series, this month's blog post was written by a real expert Precious Oyelade. Her dissertation on Nollywood and the Changing Representations of Nigerian Identity was awarded a first class from the University of Cambridge before she went on to guest lecture at SOAS University on the Nigerian film industry. There's not much about Nigeria and the screen she doesn't know as she strives to become the first Dr of Nollywood, so here's her top 5 Nigerian shows.
Nigeria is known as a giant in many respects. With this in mind, there is no wonder that its large and thriving population have often turned to homegrown entertainment to fill their leisure time. However, while much of the wider world’s attention has been on Nollywood and the big screen. Nigeria’s creatives are turning to smaller screens and snackable drama series in order to capture the attention of a much wider and younger audience. The rise of web series on the continent has led to a wealth of content that is available to all, and we think it’s time the rest of the world got in on the act. So here are 5 Nigerian web-series to whet your appetite.
Taking its inspiration from the popular Lagos nickname ‘Las Gidi’, Gidi Up focuses on the lives of four young adults doing what Lagos’ young population does best, hustling and trying to achieve their dreams. While the narratives explored certainly are not new, this was one of the first web-series to come out of Nigeria that could be praised for its incredibly high production values. From fashion, to television, to tech, the characters provided audiences with characters whose lives in Lagos are far from leisurely. The initial web series was so successful that it was picked up for a second season which was broadcast on cable TV. Fear not, the second season is also available on YouTube.
Kind of like: The OC with a healthy dose of Desperate Housewives villainy.
Bella Naija (the Nigerian online magazine and blog) often gives the impression that most successful relationships culminate in the great event that is a wedding. For women especially, the dress (or dresses), the hair, makeup and the groom must be on point. But what happens after? This Is It tries to demonstrate just that. It follows the first-year journey of newlyweds Dede and Tomide. The show doesn’t only focus on their relationship, but how they navigate bringing their two lives together, professionally and socially as well as romantically. The great thing about this series is that they aren’t a traditional Nigerian couple. Tomide (played by Shuga’s Nick Mutuma) is half-Kenyan, adding a layer of cultural conflict to their newly-wed struggles.
Nothing like: Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica
First brought to us from the streets of South Africa, MTV Shuga Naija not only brought us tales of ‘”sex, friendship & despair”, it was also part of a multimedia campaign to educate young people on safe sex, tackling issues such as teen pregnancy and HIV. The storylines are well done, confronting brash and dated attitudes to delicately tackle incredibly personal subject matter. The original Naija series boasts a whole host of popular Nigerian talent, from Nigerian pop songstress Tiwa Savage to Adesua Etomi, star of The Wedding Party, the record-breaking Nollywood hit. And the great news is that MTV Shuga Naija season 4 touched down earlier this year and the storylines have only gotten juicier as the production continues to educate while inviting debate.
Kind of like: A cross between 90210 and Gilmore Girls with a few healthy doses of stereotypical Nollywood-esque moralising commentary.
Advertised as a ‘crime comedy’ Inspector K bravely breaks the mould of your traditional Lagos Island drama. The series begins with a murder at a Lagos house party and Inspector K’s arrival on a motorcycle sets the tone for this five-part whodunnit web series. This series is certainly worth a watch for Inspector K’s outbursts and interruptions, the one liner’s delivered by Koye Kekere-Ekun can leave you winded. The inspector withholds respect from everyone but takes respect where it is not offered, beginning one interrogation with “Do you know I hate you? I hate your life, I hate your homeless look...I hate your videos”. Accompanied by a duo of pidgin speaking sergeants, these loveable fools remain unserious and yet manage to wrap up this whodunnit comedy series. Let it be noted, the storyline indisputably needs work and the big reveal will definitely leave you scratching your head, but it will make you laugh and sometimes that’s all you need.
Kind of like: Monk meets the Mentalist with Osuofia in London
There are numerous reasons to love this show from the plus-sized female lead Tiwalade (Tiwa), to the predominantly female season regulars who are (mostly) there for each other more than anyone else. SGIT is a comedy webseries which focuses on the life of Tiwa, a 20-something single female radio host looking for love. As the title suggests, Tiwa isn’t your average female protagonist, and what is even more exciting is the way the series evolves. Tiwa does not lose sight of her healthy living goals, but she also doesn’t let them hold her back in the world of work or romance, and through four seasons we catch glimpses of her and her traditionally attractive sister Shalewa’s wild rollercoaster ride in these departments. An introduction to the series would not be complete without mentioning Tiwa’s over-involved, over-dramatic and loudly religious mother. Special mention must be made about the soundtrack to this show (especially season 4). The producers manage to weave the perfect tracks into emotionally charged scenes which give viewers all of the feels.
Kind of like: Bridget Jones’ drama with House of Cards-esque asides.
An Honourable Mention: An African City
Confession time - this is not a Nigerian web series but to not mention An African City would be a crime against good quality web content coming out of the continent. A Ghanaian creation, an African City has been coined as the African version Sex and the City. The series focuses on five women who have made the decision to build their lives in Accra after having lived abroad for many years. It shines a much-needed light on the realities of moving ‘back home’ when the creature comforts of living in the West have numbed diasporic senses to the realities of living on the continent. But of course, the difficulties faced in regard to infrastructure and hospitality pale in comparison to the struggles that out main character Nana Yaa faces when it comes to the world of dating and establishing herself within Ghanaian society.
Kind of like: Sex in the City – but better.