Monday, December 03, 2007


It's been a while since I last did a review. Too tired and busy to blog. However yesterday, there I was too lazy to move to get my remote. I painfully subjected myself to the local drama that is COBRA SQUAD. Written, produced and directed by Alfred Mutua- a fellow couch tato, as he claims. Actually I've seen him plenty of times at the Junction catching a movie. So one couch tato to the other, this critique will be of utmost respect and cut to the point.

I have hated local drama since way back, simply for many reasons:
- bad acting
- bad casting
- bad dialogue-thats the screenplay
- bad storyline
- limited budgets

Now, Cobra Squad looks like it has a massive budget with numerous sponsors. They have managed to shoot in excellent locations. Which is about the only good thing this show has.

1. Writing!! Writing!! Writing!!

Any real Tato knows that the secret to a good show is the writing. Writing writing writing. Writing has two components story and screenplay.Plot and words.

-What people dont realise that for good writing you need more than one writer. You may have one head writer, but a successful show has tens of writers. Too many cooks are needed for this kind of broth. As much as Alfred is trying I think he needs to recruit a whole army of writers to salvage this show.

-dialogue is so poor. Why do people not write as normal as they talk. Whats the difference between real life and tv? Theatrical talk should be eliminated. One word or one sentence lines should be removed. I don't know how to put it but...when writing you should actually verbalise your writing to see if it even makes sense. People don't talk in sentences. Many people interrupt...keep talking...stammer...speak incoherently...mumble...mix and match that dialogue.

an example of common talk on Kenyan TV

"Goodmorning Mr Tato?"
"Goodmorning Sir."
"How are you doing?"
"I am doing fine."
"That is good to hear."
"How are you doing"
"I am also doing fine"

-story line. It is adviseable to have many running storylines at a go. Not one basic storyline that drags on incessantly. Characters should have a past present and a future. So should the multiple storylines.

2. Advertising.

Shameless and blatant advertising is present on this show. Surely is it a drama feature or a running advertisement. Just because a certain product sponsors the show its endorsement should in no way interfere or be inclusive of the plot or dialogue. I think merely being in an LG shop itself is mere marketting but for a salesman to actually unleash the advantages of an LG fridge or TV is outright uncouth.

3. Editing.

This is supposed to be a fast paced drama. So why do we still have useless footage like a 2 minute chase scene that has no baring on the plot whatsoever. Priorities have not been determined obviously as a result of poor writing. Poor wriing ends up with poor editing.

4. Casting and Acting

I won't criticise acting...because of the bad writing. Good writing sells itself you dont even need good actors when you have great writing. Heck writing creates the actors. So we have a case of bad writing reflecting out as bad acting.

But casting. I am tired of seeing the same faces on Kenyan TV. Especially those who do TV commercials.

Take a fresh cast and make celebrities out of them. Take a fresh cast and make a unique brand from your product.

5. Action Sequences

-Fight scenes: my God the obvious choreography in this scenes is almost embarrasing. If one cannot have right camera angles or editing skills or computer no-how I suggest omitting such scenes entirely. TV is fiction as it is...we need not be reminded of this fact. There is a fine line between ridiculous and lack of technology.

Gunshot scenes are laugh out loud horrendous.

In a nutshell COBRA SQUAD ends up being bad/crap simply as a result of bad writing.

So one day this Couch Tato will create his own TV show and will show you what makes a good drama-supersaturation of good writing with an unknown cast

Shows like West Wing. OZ that had an unknown cast. Sopranos. Friends made it big simply cause of good writing. Sisters...E.R... all these shows started with unknown actors.

Until Kenyan TV producers realise this, Kenyan shows will always be substandard, an viewers will be dissatisfied left wanting.

A show that actually comes close is Tahidi High. Watch an episode and see the difference. It's probably the best thing we have so far...but it too needs oxygen but not a complete rescusitation in the I.C.U.


Anonymous said...

I agree with like 98% of what you are saying. The writer makes the actor... you are way off on that one.

The best lines, if not properly executing, become useless. Facial expression says double what the words say... etc.

But nice piece though... keep pushing the industry to grow... accept nothing less.

Anonymous said...

The tato is back!! Yeeeeei!!

Ok i so agree with you, the show is so ludicrous at times i think that they went out of their way to make it so. But they are making the effort. As you say more writers are needed to inject plot, dialogue and special effects into the mix. I love Tahidi High since it blends drama and some comedy.

tato, dare you stop posting i shall hunt you down and hold my knuckles up to your head and force you to post!!

Farmgal said...

And the tato has spoken!

Anonymous said...

Hey Cutie, out here being counted. How u doing?
Have not watched the show so cannot comment, but I know when I was in KE was frustrated with the local content and cast of said shows - but then who am I to critique?

Agree with ur analysis tho
Seen His 'unmentionables' lately?

Anonymous said...

on their website there is a contact form - a better way to get the message across
. That aside that this series is beyond awful . It simply looks like an extended Nakumatt/Celtel/LG advert.The big budget with a measly storyline doesn't do any good . Perhaps Mutua should take some time off with well written cop shows The Wire , The Shield and The Closer - so that he gets a good grip of how to do a decent cop show .

bankelele said...

psymost shows require you have to suepend belief, but this one requires you to supsend common sense.

watching the last two espisodes I jumped off the couch and ran into the bathroom when the show crossed the line of common sense (&jumped the shark in each episode)

- two weeks ago - when the two guys escaped from a psrion truck (as their guard bragged about his gun, while the driver was distracted by some girls)
- last week - when the two cops chased off after a decoy leaving thousands of dollars in a park!

is this the image we want to potray about our cops - that they can't think, shoot, or fight?

Celtel and LG may be happy about their promos here, but NTV and the Kenya Police should be crying.

Anonymous said...

@ Don,
I have to (painfully) agree with Tato on this one.The writers do make the actor. The current writers strike in the US has brought the industry to a stand still (like they did in the early 90s).Why?.....because there is nothing as pitiful as an actor without a script.
All good actors/actresses have one thing in common........Great Scripts! Case in point John Travolta in Battle field earth (Painful!) and John Travolta in Face off/Phenomenon/Pulp Fiction (excellent story lines, plots and scripts....award winning acting). They don't give best screenplays awards for nothing and some writers earn quite a bit (you never hear about that, but the best of them earn millions).In short, writing makes the shows and the actors.(Watch HEROS, and you will see unknown actors/actress are being turned into superstars by great scripts and story lines).

So Tato Head, I mean couch tato,:) when can we do a collabo script?

Oh yeah and the WIRE is back Jan 24th. I was right!

Daud El Rude (Keeping it script-less)

Unknown said...

I would really like to support local productions but I should be able to do it without exerting too much effort or suspending my common sense as Bankelele puts it.
I think the show is redeemable if they seriously seek honest feedback and make the corrections they definately seem to have the resources for once which is what most local productions lack.

Anonymous said...

AMEN! ungekuwa unasimamia kura ningekuoa yote.

that programme makes me sick. thank goodness i only watched one...

i agree, they need writers, new faces, the works.

Don, good writing may not make the actor but it inspires a great performance...

Anonymous said...

oh and welcome back!

Blue said...

I think Dr(??) Mutua should stick to things he does best, like coming across as a complete ass in the screenplay " Government Spokesman".


egm said...

Welcome back. What is Cobra Squad? :) I jest, but as I don't do tv, I really can't relate to this post. Hicho kipindi sijakiona bado.

Anonymous said...

egm how dont you know cobra was on every bill board before it was launced anyway let me help a brother out...its on sunday 7.30 in the PP..NTV.

now cobra squad...i wached the first two episodes and couldnt bring myself back..i really felt hoaxed all that hype halafu thekipindi is not even watchable*

there is this time a bad guy was told by a cop to surrender and kneel down..then as he is in the act,he onaz that its all cement (the floor) he runs to the patch of grass next with the cop just was that?kwani motua doest have editors...sometimes i watch local productions and feel like asking to direct for free ,for real:)

egm said...

Bryjoe, I do know what Cobra Squad is. I'd have to have been living under a rock not to know! I just wrote that (thus the "I jest" comment afterwards) to show how disinterested I am in the show.

Anonymous said...

Amen!Is what i have 2 say 2 this!Kenyans need to learn how to seperate screen acting from stage performance,and the dialogue...*speechless* hope to someday watch ur productions...

Mo said...

I was like yeah, yeah, yeah, hmmm....yeah, yeah and then you completely lost me when you actually complimented Tahidi High.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tato, I never there was a blogger who could tell me what was going on at home and make me feel it. Men I feel the yuk! in that thing the way you describe it, and men it sickens me when the productions that have a generous budget cannot do so in terms of taking care of the backbone of a production, the script, writers are the most important element in a production and as such a story well done means the whole thing is well done.
If Alfie ever gets close to this blog it will be really nice of him to take heed, look for writers and work with a team, a credible team for that matter.
Na wasituchokeshe na sura za waliopendwa, fresh talent is badly needed to erase the bad muth taste that has become of our local screen productions.
God help us! is how I can sum it up.

Anonymous said...

If you thought Kenyan TV couldn't get any worse... IT JUST DID!
Mutua and Co. had the audacity to bring back Cobra Squad...

Anonymous said...

you are right tato. as much as i appreciate local drama, cobra squad IS a pain to watch, especially the action scenes where there is excessive rolling on the ground when a shot is fired or at any excuse.

hey guys, m not trying to advertise any prog, but take a leaf from tahidi high, beba beba, even older programs like vituko and see how the dialogue FLOWS.

Snowy said...

I feel u totally. I am doin a critic on the program and if i had the guts ad send it to Alfred Mutua to see wat bogus work he does

Gi-jee said...

As for me, I used to watch the COBRA SQUAD at the time when I totally knew nothing about film production. I was too young and unknowledgeable to judge whether the story, acting, screenplay was poor or not.. It was indeed one of my best Tv programs then.. I wish I could rewatch it today.