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Local series, soaps and telenovelas with more episodes than you can count, just waiting to be binged
Sandton housewife Thathi gets the shock of her life — not that her hubby Mbongeni is murdered next to her in a hijacking gone wrong, but rather that the bank he owns isn’t just bankrupt, he’s been using client money to fund their lifestyle. It’s bye-bye to diamonds, Bentleys, Louis Vuitton handbags, and hello to moving back in with her gangster mother Mam’Sonto in Alex, with her teens in tow.
But moving to Alex with her tail between her legs is just the start of Thathi’s problems: she’s got to deal with her jealous sister Beauty who wants Mam’Sonto’s business for herself; her ex-lover Melusi still has feelings and she’s hiding a secret from him; and it was Mam’Sonto’s goons who killed Mbongeni ... 2021 Safta nominee.
The River (920+ episodes)
Lindiwe is as cruel as she is stylish ... and she’s never dressed in anything but the best. So, you know how bad this businesswoman is. She’s headed up multimillion rand mines for years, taking advantage of the residents from Refilwe township to line her own pockets. Then, just when things are looking like they’re about to crumble (in episode 1, nogal), Lindiwe gets the break she was praying for: a diamond the size of a tennis ball that will reignite her failing business.
The only obstacle in her way is the man with the diamond — but he’s soon dispatched with a rock to the head. Dramatic for a first episode and introduction to this killer woman, but it gets better because as the episodes roll past, more of her secrets come creeping out the cupboard, including the child she gave up for adoption and the gay son she doesn’t want embarrassing her. 2021 Safta nominee.
The Queen (1,200+ episodes)
What’s a telenovela without scandal and a criminal genius? In this one, Harriet Khoza (the incredible Connie Ferguson) seizes control of her husband’s drug empire by having him offed just before the show begins. Now in full control, she quickly discovers that she needs a much thicker skin than she’d expected: her family are quickly turned into targets and she needs to be prepared to do very, very bad and horrible things to her enemies to protect them.
Unfortunately for Harriet, her children are as troublesome as the rivals she’s facing as a drug lord. Everything from dating a “cursed” albino, to murdering siblings, to betraying the family code will test Harriet to her core. 2021 Safta nominee.
Isibaya (2,000+ episodes)
Taxi violence isn’t just for the real world, it’s the central theme in this telenovela that wrapped up in April 2021 — and the action is explosive. The Zungus and Ndlovus have been engaged in brutal, bitter warfare for more than 100 years, and the transport business is just the latest version of their struggles and strife. Throw in the fight for chieftaincy of the Bubesini region and you’ve got enough drama to last eight seasons ... but there’s more: zombies, affairs, second wives, betrayals in the royal hallways and even kidnappings add to the adrenaline of this telenovela.
Did we mention it’s also got late SA acting icon Menzi Ngubane as the brilliantly bad taxi lord Judas Ngwenya, who will try everything in the books to maintain some form of control, including dressing up as a woman named Judith? 2021 Safta nominee.
Isithembiso (700+ episodes)
While the story centres on two young lovers, it goes further and involves far more people — including a criminal genius who runs a housing slum for varsity students and controls the drug trade in the area. It’s got everything from drama and comedy — like when said crime lord wakes from a coma as a changed man and repents for his sins as a pastor — to romance with the two lead characters and thrilling chases like when two rivals go hand-to-hand in mortal combat.
The more you watch, the more you’ll be rooting for the baddies to get their dues... and you’ll keep tuning in to find out what happens to the Romeo and Juliet couple. You’ll be surprised in the end, because it’s not what it seems ...
Binnelanders (3,400+ episodes)
Set in the hallways of the Binneland Kliniek in Pretoria, the day-to-day dealings of everyone from nurses and patients, to surgeons and hospital board members, comes under the microscope. It’s a bit like having a defibrillator cranked up to full charge and pressed against your chest to bring you back to life.
With the amount of drama taking place in the characters’ lives — from falling in love with their patients, to defending the hospital against a hostile takeover or even industrial espionage — it’s a surprise that there’s time to do any actual medical work. 2021 Safta nominee.
Arendsvlei (440+ episodes)
This community-focused telenovela takes place in a fictional town on the Cape Flats where the Arendsvlei High School is the centre of the action. It’s not just about the adults and their personal dramas, though — the schoolchildren paint an accurate image of what the real world’s teenagers go through, from peer pressure with sex and drugs, to just trying to navigate through life with the constant pressures of fitting in and being given freedom to grow.
When it comes to their parents and educators, though, there’s more going on than you’d expect to find in a US soapie — everything from murder secrets and secret love affairs, to buried secrets, dealing drugs and a whole lot more.
Suidooster (1,200+ episodes)
Set in the fictional Cape suburb of Ruiterbosch, the telenovela focuses on three families who interact on a daily basis, whether it be personal as friends, or professional via their businesses at the Oos-Wes mall. But one thing’s clear: the Octobers, the Samsodiens and the Du Plooys are never short of drama. The main theme of the show is love and acceptance and there’s always counsel from the sage old tannie or the wise uncle, more often than not that ends up being married couple Mymoena and AB Samsodien.
Getroud Met Rugby (1120+ episodes)
Sport is big business in the real world and showbiz — but it’s more than just running onto a field for 80 minutes every week. This show goes behind the scenes at the fictional Stryders team and looks at how the franchise is run as a business and a rugby team.
Plus, it’s not just the players’ lives who’re affected by the decisions, their family and friends — including their WAGs — are affected by everything going on behind the scenes for the club too. There’s added skinner en skandal to add to the drama, including gay players, lost loves and corporate betrayals. 2021 Safta nominee.
PLUS binge the original drama-series format with 63 episodes
Egoli: Place of Gold (4,500+ episodes)
The granddaddy of SA soapies is going strong on Showmax — you can zoom in on the Voster family’s shenanigans as the city’s biggest business family and everyone else who’s dragged into the chaos that is their lives. Have a bout of nostalgia for big hair and even bigger baddies.
This article was paid for by Showmax.