by Onoshe Nwabuikwu
The above headline may give the wrong impression because if taken literally one might imagine it to be like falling from ‘grace to grass’. But Palace and The Valley Between are both soaps from same director – Tunji Bamishigbin. While Palace aired sometime on AIT in the 90s, The Valley Between currently airs on AIT (7 pm, Sundays) and has been on air for at least six months.
Figuring out how to review The Valley Between has been hard. Ordinarily, there’s only one of two possibilities: I like or I don’t like, broadly speaking. Well, there’s also one other possibility which has longsuffering as companion. You could call it an occupational hazard. After all, one needs to endure many ‘things’ on TV just to form an opinion. And in the case of a soap or film, in the final analysis, you just want to find out how the story ends, really.
However, The Valley Between wasn’t just some soap hoping to catch viewers’ attention. The promotional adverts for The Valley Between not only reminded viewers of the Palace-Bamishigbin connection but promised that the streets were going to go empty again on its account. So, I was as expectant as the next viewer. Why wouldn’t Bamishigbin deliver again?
At this point I’m sure you’re almost impatient to hear my verdict and it’s not a simple case of good or bad. Although if anyone had asked me after the first few episodes of The Valley Between, my verdict unequivocally would have been ‘Underwhelming’ if not ‘Very Bad’. Beyond sharing actors like Liz Benson, Tunji Bamishigbin and Dan Imoudu, the similarities between TVB and Palace weren’t that obvious. Yes, the stories are somewhat similar: rich families, spoilt rich girl and all the intrigues associated with them. But The Valley Between began tepidly with copious amount of time devoted to ponderous Olabode Damazio (Taiwo Obileye) and Philip Oruma (Dejumo Lewis); friends turned rivals.
Are the streets emptying yet? The biggest challenge faced by The Valley Between, especially at the beginning, in achieving the cult like status of Palace was the unavailability of the kind of actors Palace paraded. You needed a Funlola Aofiyebi (Raimi) to pull off the spoilt rich girl to perfection. Now you have Labake (Titi Osinowo) as the preferred girl from the right background favoured by Mrs Agnes Damazio (Lillian Amah Aluko) who harassed her son Raymond (Ajibola Ojesola) to stop seeing Kate (Sola Kosoko) because she isn’t from the same wealthy background. Meanwhile, Labake looked anything but…
More than six months later, she still looks wrong for the part. I’ve seen a few of her pictures outside of The Valley Between and she looks okay. Unfortunately, in The Valley Between, it seems as if someone is bent on dressing her like a street walker and I say that with all sense of decency. In one particular episode, she was indecently exposed and when you consider her ample proportions, little was left to the imagination but not in a good way. Then there’s the garish makeup. But if Titi is overdone as Labake, Ajibola as Raymond the rich man’s son needs better grooming. For one, he could do with a better or perhaps trendier haircut. There are also a few other actors who seem above their talent. It’s good to give new actors a break, etc but when they start out with big roles with average talent, how will they grow?
The soap appears to be caught in something of a time warp. Who is going to say this: Times have changed! Or why would a rich man’s son like Raymond come out of a bathroom (the episode he travelled to Abuja with Labake) dressed in boxers and singlet and be towelling his arms and hair? That looks like a ‘face-me-I-face-you’ behaviour. Why is his room so cheap looking? The tiny depressed pillows are a no-no. And why would DMD-elect (as Kate was) be overjoyed about a car being sent to pick her up from home? It wasn’t a limousine, mind you. I could go on. And whose job is it to cut out actors’ grammatical errors?
Nonetheless after many more weeks of watching, while The Valley Between may not be Palace, there’s a story there somewhere. God knows we need a Nigerian TV blockbuster to get viewers hooked like they are to the Brazilian/Mexican tele-novellas. If a lot of effort is devoted to delivering a good story, viewers may just focus on the intrigues between the Damazios and Orumas. And with better casting, who knows, The Valley Between could yet be as successful as, if not surpass, Palace.
On the bright side, there have been some pleasant surprises by way of new faces. There’s fashion designer Funmi Ajila Ladipo (Amina Tomori), Namure Edoimioya (minister of state) who are holding their own. I’m particularly impressed with Namure’s acting. Seun Akindele as Francis Oruma is good considering what he has to work with. As is Kiki Omeli (Nikky). If The Valley Between were a federal cabinet I’d recommend a swapping of characters as there are a few actors who’d perform better in other roles. I mustn’t forget to say I like Tunji Bamishigbin as Loco even though like salt his introduction has to be with a pinch.
AIT now in Sierra Leone
When I first heard about AIT (Africa Independent Television) setting up in Sierra Leone, I wasn’t sure what to believe mainly because I’m not so sure if we’ve sufficiently ‘conquered’ the nation-TV-wise, yet. I also couldn’t immediately see how AIT Sierra Leone was going to affect my life one way or another.
However, watching the station’s coverage of the presidential elections in Sierra Leone has opened my mind. If nothing, the Sierra Leonean elections and debates are good distractions. They also afford one an opportunity to compare/contrast our electoral process. During the first in the series of televised presidential debates, one candidate promised to build a ‘state house’ in every region. Wonder why in our geopolitical-crazy country, no one has thought of this wonderful idea. He also promised a ‘national’ stadium in every region, state or whatever it is they call their zones. I’m not so sure of that idea though considering that it took a national ‘scream’ for the grass in the Abuja National to be cut. Imagine if we chose to replicate that in 36 states!
In the end, the viewer can choose what to make of the Sierra Leonean elections. I chose to see most of the activities as some form of comic relief. Not that it’s a laughing matter. Sierra Leone is diamond rich among other natural resources. Ordinarily, minus the ‘African man’ disease of underdevelopment, not to mention the wars, their election promises should have by now evolved. But as in Nigeria, ‘giant’ of Africa, they’re still dealing with the basics. Come to think of it, although I missed some other debates, I didn’t hear anyone promise better roads or better supply of water or electricity.
But let’s not forget AIT’s role. AIT appears focused on forging ahead to be truly Africa’s independent television network. There’s no other medium that deliver the African perspective. Almost every race/nationality has a good medium presenting/ representing its views. Africa or I should clarify that to Black Africa still has no such voice. Will that come from Nigeria? And is that medium going to be AIT?
The race to clinch the ultimate prize: N9m cash plus a brand new SUV plus N500, 000 ‘swagger allowance’ has got fiercer. Not in terms of warriors pulling out fellow warriors’ hair but just in the way the initial group of 12 to Usaka Hills (Akwa Ibom) is contracting. From last week, two more contenders have been evicted. Twenty-two year old Patience Bornford, from Bayelsa and an undergraduate of Linguistics and Communication Studies, University of Port Harcourt became the fourth evictee after failing a puzzle task.
Michael Ogbuefi, 24 and a Uniport graduate of Human Physiology from Anambra State was the 5th evictee to leave Usaka. His case was simply that of bad luck as his eviction had more to do with what others did to him than his failure at a task. They were required in the game-‘Pot of Life’ to aim axes at pots-each warrior had three labelled with his/her name. The warrior who had the most pots smashed automatically lost. Unluckily for Michael, Iniobong Ifet swung the final blow. Earlier Priscillia Ezeh had broken one of Michael’s pots. Not to mention the fact that Michael in a kind of ‘own goal’ situation or what some would call a bad case of HT (‘home trouble’) also broke one of his own pots!
Of course, as always, by the time you’re reading this the number of warriors could have reduced further.
Onyinye’s hair of many colours
It shouldn’t be important or should it? I mean Onyinye Priscillia Udodi’s hair. But I can’t look away from this hair that reminds one of some carvings in an African museum. Done with what looks like wool, Onyinye’s hair comes in many colours with purple, black and golden blonde being predominant. Every time she appears, I wonder how she manages that kind of hair in a jungle devoid of bare necessities not to mention the luxury of keeping hair like that smelling fresh and clean.