You must be familiar with the 2003 rom-com “How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days”. In this well loved movie the protagonists have opposite goals in mind. While the journalist Andie is trying to make her colleague Ben breakup with her, he on the other hand is trying to make her fall in love with him.
These two without knowing each others’ secret agenda, end up “falling in love” which is what we are expecting from a rom-com. What we are not expecting from a rom-com is what we’re getting from Sen Çal Kapımı(SÇK). With 30 episodes under its belt now, the show has become unpredictable but in a negative way. While we wonder if it will ever return to its roots, let’s take a look at the 10 things that caused this disaster and try to meditate on some possible solutions.
1. Change the Genre Midway and Come Up with Something Unheard of!
The producer Asena Bülbüloğlu of MF Yapim has become a well known name, thanks to the SÇK fandom mentioning and tagging her often in their tweets. It’s not usual for fans to care about or know so much about who the producer of a Turkish TV show is, unless he/she has produced something remarkable in the past. This fame has given Asena Hanım a visibility she probably never had before. How did she use it? By inventing a genre that nobody cares to know more about. She called it “dramedy” which clearly demonstrates she wanted the show to include more drama. The problem with this new genre is that the dramatic factors are being created without any foundation. They seem to come out of meeting rooms filled with powerless writers who are being forced to come up with reasons that in their hearts even they don’t seem convinced. I can almost hear Asena say, “find something, we need more conflict”.
Don’t get me wrong, drama when it’s powerful makes a great watch, like the new show “Maraşlı” for example. In Maraşlı we see that the show is built on a believable and mysterious storyline that will tie the protagonists together. In SÇK however the wall that killed Eda’s parents was merely a reason to tear them apart and then like everything else it was put aside. Dramedy sucks and it’s because it’s not well executed. You Asena Hanım and your writers haven’t studied this well because the show was supposed to be a rom-com. Drama+comedy doesn’t go well together and in the meantime you forgot to add romance to the mix.
What could be done?: There is a misunderstanding between Asena+ the writers and the fandom. Taking the show to its golden days is not copying the fan favorite scenes. Give us the strong and well carved out characters and the romance and the comedy back. If it can’t be done, give us a lovely ending and end the show while we still love it.
2. Let the Writing Room Become Dingo’s Barn
In Turkish we have a saying, when lots of people come and go to a place with no particular reason to be there or when a place gets too crowded we say, “well, this place has become Dingo’s barn”. Historically Dingo was taking care of the horses that once pulled the Taksim funicular that goes up and down Istiklal street. SÇK’ s initial writing team is the OG according to some of the fans. Ayşe Üner Kutlu who also wrote the story of the series has resigned at the end of 24th episode with her team and a new writing team took their place.
At the end of episode 30 another change of writers has been announced by the media, although it hasn’t been made official by the production yet. It’s not unusual for TV shows to have a change of writers, it’s very common. Some foreign shows have a different writer for each episode. These are mostly comedy, action or crime shows. SÇK however has suffered from this change of writers. It would be okay to have different writers if there was a solid story they could follow along, but obviously after Ayşe left there is none so the writers are probably making it up as they go along. This has resulted in a lot of stupid things happening and a lot of the characters recently are not making any sense with what they say or do.
What could be done?: Decide on a solid storyline and stop making things up as you go along. Show us more realistic things, life is full of drama, show us day-to-day problems, school problems, couple problems. The characters on the show have become so empty. Give us a chance to get to know them more, show us how their friendships and relationships have been formed. Let us get to know them better.
3. Butcher the Tokens of Love!
Ayşe Üner Kutlu who created the story of SÇK masterfully used symbols and metaphors in her storytelling. This was one of the reasons the show was such a success. However lately all these symbols are slowly being revisited only to be destroyed not in a phsyical sense but in an emotional POV. Beginning from episode 29 Asena’s promise was to give the show a reset to go back to its romantic roots. Unfortunately this didn’t result well. One of the most important tokens was handcuffs and they haven’t been used in a way that brought back good memories. Someone who hadn’t seen episode 1 and 9 (like episode 29 Serkan with amnesia) wouldn’t be able to guess the power the handcuffs held in bringing Serkan and Eda together.
Another token was the flower ring which Eda gave back to Serkan on episode 30 after he asked Selin to marry him. Now in the fragman of episode 31 he gives it back to her as a necklace to somehow say he’s sorry about all this. No matter how this results this is again the destruction of a symbol which was very meaningful for all the fans. All these scenes are as if some notes were taken to show us the new writers have seen the previous episodes. But they haven’t really “seen” them as the fans did. This is nothing but lack of creativity and a cruel destruction of the tokens of love that Serkan and Eda shared.
What could be done?: I’m not against re-using the objects and the symbolism from the beginning of the love story of EdSer. When it’s done well like the fireplace scene on episode 30, it can be lovely and romantic. The problem is that these scenes lead nowhere. The episode 30 looks like a bunch of clips combined. The writers are forgetting that each episode also should tell a cohesive story. It’s not enough that the show has a story (which by the way it doesn’t anymore or we don’t get it). To this day I’ve only written scripts for ad videos but even though that’s different, I know that a story must have a beginning a middle and an end. If we’re still in the middle, we still need to have a clear vision about how we’re gonna get to the end. At this point the writers must work on clarifying this roadmap.
4. Forget that the Customer is Always Right!
TV is entertainment for the masses and whoever is watching is the customer. Maybe I’m not paying directly but I’m the one who has to watch all the ads aren’t I? I’m the one all those brands are targeting to sell their products which let’s be honest many of them I have no need for. We sit through the ads but it’s harder to sit through a bad episode. It’s hard to endure a watching experience that lasts over 2 hours and leaves you tired and disappointed.
It gets worse. You are up against a production that doesn’t care what the fans think or like (although at times it may seem like it). A production company that isn’t capable of finding the right people to manage their social accounts. I mean it shouldn’t be harder than casting actors right?
As a marketing professional I’m shocked by some of the response given to the fans by the Twitter admin. The attitude is felt, and although I get the frustration of having to deal with such a crowded fandom, it’s so obvious that the admin is left to her/his own wits(balloons) although professionally the account also needs to be managed according to a plan. A well thought out plan. A weekly plan where she/he knows what’s she’s talking about.
What could be done?: Establish a social media plan (which includes valuable content) and hire people who are capable of engagement even at stressful times. Stop relying on the actors to create content. Appreciate and highlight the content fans are producing (which is much better than the content created by the production). Get in touch with your audience daily and creatively. Maybe increase the social media budget which on the long run will return your investment.
5. Nevermind the Side Characters!
As the audience, we have been served so much bitter soup lately. We suffered and I don’t mean Edser I mean WE because they are fictional characters but we’re real people and we do get frustrated the least. How many of us know the pain of scrolling through Twitter trying to make sense of the episode or the fragman in the hopes that maybe we misunderstood. How many of us feel like we need to be assured that things will get better. At this point we’re not frustrated with the characters, we’re mad at the writers. This is because the characters are not written in a realistic way. If they were written with better dialogue and plot we would still be angry but not at the writer but with the characters.
The writers keep us in the dark at the wrong times. That is why we don’t understand why the characters are acting in a certain way. Smooth writing is when you believe the story and almost forget someone has written it. What‘s’ happening here is, the writing is so bad that it’s like an amateur high school play. For instance Ceren’s behaviour on episode 30, did that feel authentic in any way? Aydan’s behaviour about Alex, does that feel authentic in any way? No because they were not created to be this shallow, they never were like this. Aydan was a charismatic woman who even when she couldn’t get out of her house never seemed this weak, just because she started to love Eda wouldn’t make her a less intelligent and less snob person. Yes Ceren sucked at relationships from the beginning but as we saw her behaviour with Engin and Ferit, she has/had self respect, she wouldn’t run after a man who clearly stated he doesn’t see her that way.
What could be done?: A thorough character study by the new writers is a must. Maybe convince Ayşe to explain each character to them. This is a story that leans a lot on side characters so they’re really important. They’re not just there to fill time.
6. Underappreciate the International Success of the Show!
It’s not enough to once in a while make a post appreciating the amount of tweets or the countries the show has been trending. +2 million tweets is something other TV shows would only dream of at this point. As an insider, as someone who has never before participated in something like that, I was shocked and amazed at the power this fandom holds. This kind of thing is so rare in the social media world. Unfortunately as the fandom has reached its highest point as far as communication, collaboration and organization goes, the show is at its lowest point plot and storytelling wise. So we ended up giving the show a record for one of its worse episodes. I feel bitter and angered is all I have to say.
What could be done?: The show’s engagement with the international fans is mediocre at its best. The amount of things that could be done are endless. Just by collaborating with some of the bigger Twitter accounts of the fandom so much could have been done. In every live Hande and Kerem are looking for someone to include or they are looking for some smart questions to answer. All the production has to do is make a short search on twitter and give them a list. I mean, I have so many ideas, they should have too.
7. Underestimate the Intelligence of Your Audience
We know that this is a rom-com and not Netflix’s Dark but we still want the show to respect our intelligence. The show’s script recently is full of dialogues that have no meaning. The script kind of has the “because I said so” attitude. After Serkan’s return with amnesia, why wouldn’t he be more curious about the whole year he doesn’t remember. Why would no one around him, sit with him to tell him how Selin had behaved before her departure?
Why wouldn’t a smart girl like Eda inform herself about amnesia before handcuffing Serkan or slapping him? Why in the face of Selin and Serkan showing up at the presentation with the engagement ring he bought her would she think faking her engagement to Deniz would make sense? The client who just a few days ago witnessed Eda and Serkan together as a couple (with the handcuffs hidden under the table) and then came to the presentation to say congrats to Serkan and Selin without finding it weird? Did I misunderstand that part? I mean all of this on paper maybe makes sense but on the screen didn’t and whoever approved this should be fired.
What could be done?: Obviously the writers need a filter. In marketing there are focus groups where brands test products and services before presenting them to the masses. These focus groups sometimes are used for Tv shows as well. They could test drive some ideas they come up with to see if the fans will like them. If they did a test drive of Selin and Serkan holding hands we wouldn’t feel like having been electrocuted.
8. Start As Feminists Only To End Up Misogynists
One of the reasons I started watching SÇK is because I loved its attitude about women empowerment. The “kizlar” reminded me of my own best friends. Never letting men come between them, always being there for their girls. I loved that Eda was confident and self sufficient never weak in front of Serkan, unapologetic about who she was.
Look at Eda now, and I know our girl is in love but hey just because she’s in love doesn’t make her a completely different person. The night she went to Serkan’s house on episode 29 wasn’t realistic. If she begged him in the office I would understand but knowing that he truly doesn’t remember and still going to his house to cry and beg wasn’t Eda’s style. I know desperate times= desperate measures but still that scene didn’t sit right with me.
I was hopeful when the morning after he asked Selin to marry him, Eda gave him the ring back and said she will be gone for a while, I was hopeful that she “would” go away. That would give both of them time and space. But like many missed opportunities the writers wasted it to take them all to Şile and create more drama.
Aydan and Ayfer in the beginning, were both strong in their own ways. Aydan after Aytekin’s betrayal and Ayfer after her mother’s arrival, both changed and started being portrayed less tough. When they also started participating in a love triangle with Alex their narratives became too shallow to enjoy. They’re now only caricatures of what they used to be.
What could be done?: In the beginning Eda’s priority was her education, now it’s Serkan. If she was my friend, and I feel like she is and we share the same name, I would remind her of this. Please graduate from your school and focus on your career. In the meantime that dumb ass will remember you and come back to you running. As for Ceren, Aydan, Ayfer just refer to the first episodes and bring our powerful women back.
9. Make The Show Sexy But Stupid
Remember in the first episodes Eda and Serkan were kissing behind curtains or disappearing in hot steam. After Ayşe we were left with writers who did one thing right which was to do justice to the sexual tension between Eda and Serkan.
However simultaneously the show’s plot got sloppy. They decided to get married in a rush. Although the marriage proposals and all that were cute, it was rushed unnecessarily just to turn it all into tragedy with the plane crash and later amnesia. This kind of cliche can only be pulled of with a sense of humor which the show doesn’t have anymore. The supposedly funny scenes are not funny unless they’re improvised by the actors.
Ok give us sexy Edser we love it but please make it also intelligent again. The only reason fans get excited about sexual tension scenes is because #HanKer have great chemistry and because #EdSer has a great love story. If you keep giving sexual tension scenes out of context we are not buying it. Please don’t write scenes like, in Şile when Eda goes to find some firewood and they run into each other on that bridge and when he picks her up because she sprained her ankle, if you won’t make use of their chemistry don’t include that scene at all.
As I’m writing this I just read that RTÜK fined SÇK for the scene above and also the massage scene which lasted like 50 seconds in total. This scene was one of the highlights of the episode but still the first 14 episodes are proof that if you give us a good plot and dialogue you don’t really need to undress them or have them having imaginary sex to keep us watching.
What could be done?: At this point just fix the plot, both #EdSer and #HanKer are effortlessly sexy. But without the plot even they lose their appeal. Who thinks the instagram live #HanKer did on last Saturday was better than the episode? Is it just me?
10. Don’t Listen To Anyone, What Do They Know?
SÇK’s greatest chance is a huge social media following with fans who continuously contribute to the content. Just like me writing and sharing this. I may not be right about everything, these are just my opinions and things I noticed. I have never produced a show. I have consulted brands on their social media but have never worked as an admin myself. I have never acted or written a script longer than 2 pages. Still my opinion and everyone’s opinion should count because everyone is unique and can offer a different perspective.
I doubt that our tweets or opinions are taken into much consideration. What I believe is they are just being filtered to find risks or problems. At the end of the day what matters to the production and channel is the ad revenue. The rest is just social media engagement and the possibility of selling the show to more countries. This is disappointing because nothing is just what it is. A direct communication with a fandom would give a production power to promote future projects. The only way to shoot more episodes of a show is not creating senseless drama with a stupid plot. Are they listening, reading, trying to learn from us? I don’t think so.
What can be done?: The 3rd set of writers will show us their props on the 31st episode. I’m preparing myself for the worst as the 2 fragmans were not giving me much hope. The fact that I know #EdSer will come together in the very end doesn’t console me one bit. All the opportunities that have been wasted make my heart heavy. I will try to keep an open mind for this new chapter which could be the final chapter of the show. As fans of the show I would love the next X million tweets to be a message of our own to show them what we want and how much we want it. #MFGiveUsEdserBack or something like that for 3 million, that would be my dream.
Dear reader, thank you for reading so far, I know this piece has almost been as long as our journey with SÇK. :) I will not give up, no matter how terrible and sloppy the plot gets, I will stick with SÇK until the end, sometimes cursing MF Yapim, sometimes cursing myself for being so stubborn. I will occasionally curse the writers too but I know they don’t have enough freedom. I may be angry with the characters but I will never be angry with any of the lovely cast. I will forever be grateful for the hardworking crew who works tirelessly in what I imagine to be long working hours and risky Covid 19 conditions. This show like everything else has a life span of its own. We’ll see where it takes us.
I have never shared my sentiments about a TV show on Twitter before SÇK. That’s why it will always have a special place in my heart because it introduced me to a whole new kind of interaction, and to the SÇK family. We have been here from the beginning and we will be here until it ends. Have a great day wherever you are in the world, sending you love from Istanbul. Let’s meet Saturday night to drag our favorite dizi. :)