Long-running South African soap opera 7de Laan recently celebrated the broadcast of its 5000th episode. The multilingual, multicultural series has been airing since 2000 and, in recent years, has made an effort to be more relevant to contemporary audiences in South Africa.
In 2017, the series had its first appearance of a queer couple, and a number of interracial couples feature in the show. Recently, a number of young actors and actresses have been added to the cast in an attempt to draw younger viewers.
Set in Hillside, a fictional suburb in Johannesburg, the show centres its storylines around South African life, with characters celebrating South African public holidays such as Freedom Day, Mandela Day, and Heritage Day. The lives of the characters are meant to mirror the lives of South African citizens by dealing with issues that are common in our society, ranging from love, parenting, and divorce, to running a small business, living with HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence.
“The lives of the characters are meant to mirror the lives of South African citizens“
It is important to remember that 7de Laan is a soap opera, and between all the real-life struggles there are moments of absurd dramatics (think surprise evil twins or the we-thought-you-were-dead-but-you-are-not-and-now-you’re-here-to-take-revenge tropes we have seen in The Days of Our Lives or The Bold and The Beautiful). But, as it turns out, there is such a thing as too dramatic. Over the past few years, the show has experienced a steady decline in viewership as a number of iconic characters have departed from the show in quick succession, but what bothers some viewers is how the content of the show has changed. Viewers have expressed concerns over the immorality and murder which forms the basis of a number of storylines as well as the depictions of varying forms of violence and themes of rape.
The SABC, which broadcasts the show, seems to be cutting its losses with 7de Laan as it recently announced the show’s running time was being cut down from two and a half hours a week, to one and a half hours. Starting on Monday 5 April 2021, 7de Laan will air only on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.