A scene from Dalam Mihrab Cinta (In the Pulpit of Love)
While expecting some snacks and thirst-quenching beverages to break the fast, many Muslims usually gather with their families and friends or do a Koran recital. Sometimes they arrange a get-together with friends in restaurants, while those who happen to be lucky enough to be at home usually switch on their TV.
Some TV stations still rely on the same old formulas in their efforts to gain high ratings during Ramadhan: Religious-themed soap operas, comedy shows, religious lectures and religious music programs are still the highlights.
“We are trying to present top in-house programs such as Gelap Terang and Kampung Sahur. This year, Kampung Sahur does not only rely on Komeng as the spear head, but we will also have other comedians such as Eko Patrio, Melanie Ricardo and Vincent,” said RCTI’s operational manager Untung Pranoto.
Kampung Sahur is a comedy program aired before the pre-dawn meal. It presents interactions among comedians who live in a housing complex and features dozens of kampung (villages) that have decorated their areas with Ramadhan and the TV station adornment.
Meanwhile, Gelap Terang (Dark and Light) is an Islamic preaching program adorned with comedy presented by two characters with upside down personalities.
Last year, comedian Komeng, whose real name is Alfiansyah, became the main host of a similar program called Sahur Semua Sahur (Come Sahur y’all) on RCTI. The program received a warning letter from the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) last year for some comments it made that were considered impolite.
Untung said he did not want to place any restrictions on comedians, believing that they were all professionals.
“If we set too many boundaries in comedy, I am afraid it will lose its appeal.
I believe Komeng and friends know what is appropriate for on-air events,” he said.
He said securing the list of ensembles for the program required chemistry among the comedians. Instead of picking those who would be involved in the show, Untung said he followed the recommendation of existing comedians.
“It’s not about the fee but about soul. They feel comfortable to perform with their friends. Eko Patrio, for example, previously refused to appear in all sahur programs on all TV stations, but he liked to be paired with Komeng,” he said.
Another scene from Dalam Mihrab Cinta
This year, the TV station brings Dalam Mihrab Cinta (In the Pulpit of Love),
a soap opera that has been developed based on a book with the same title that is written by Muslim author Habiburrahman El Shirazy. Last year, it aired another religious soap opera based on a book from the same writer, Dari Sujud ke Sujud (From Prayer to Prayer). Both books have been adapted for the screen.
Another highlighted program is Ngabuburit Bareng Ayu Ting Ting (Waiting for iftar with Dangdut singer Ayu Ting Ting). Ngabuburit is a Sundanese term for sunset fast breaking.
Meanwhile, another private TV station, SCTV, is still relying on the religious soap opera Para Pencari Tuhan (The God Seekers) that has entered its sixth episode this year. They air the soap opera on their sahur program and rerun it in the afternoon.
The TV station also brings back Smash Ngabuburit Season 2, a program with members of boy band Smash, Sabar Tingkat 2 (Patience Level 2), which refers to a sahur program with comedian Tukul Arwana and Mutiara Hati, a discussion about Islam hosted by Islamic scholar Quraish Shihab.
“We’ve maintained our successful programs from last year and have some new ones,” Harsiwi Achmad, SCTV’s programming and production director told The Jakarta Post over the telephone.
The new programs include Insya Allah Ada Jalan (If God Is Willing, There Is a Way), a soap opera that is starred in by singer Maher Zain, and Pengen Jadi Orang Bener (Wanna Be A Good Person), a preaching program in the form of informal dialogues in a coffee stall featuring Ustad Subkhi Al-Bughury and actor Dicky Chandra.
Harsiwi said that this year, the TV station promised to present the audience with numerous celebrities. She also promised five religious local films that will be aired on TV for the first time during the Idul Fitri celebration.
“In Insya Allah Ada Jalan alone, we have some 120 local celebrities,” she said.
She added that every Sunday, many singers would perform live from various locations around Jakarta in a program that blended music performance and Islamic preaching called Gema Ramadhan (Vibes of Ramadhan).
She believed the TV station was not one of those criticized by Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who recently urged TV stations to limit comedy shows that could weaken the religious essence of viewing.
“Our comedy programs also have an ustad [religious Islamic teacher] who will give some religious explanations, while our soap operas, TTP and Inya Allah Ada Jalan, have many religious values,” Harsiwi said.
Trans TV has also given a dose of comedy to some of its new Ramadhan programs. It presents Waktunya Kita Sahur (Time for Us to Sahur), a comedy program highlighting funny things that happen between people from different cultures.
The TV station will also present Tabligh Akbar, a music concert that has some Islamic songs and Islamic preaching, every Friday starting from Aug. 3. Besides offering some new viewing, it also infuses Ramadhan nuances in some of its regular programs.
— Photos courtesy of RCTI