TV: Until lobola do us part

2014-04-23 14:00

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OpenView HD’s first locally produced sitcom premiered last week. Siyabonga Sithole gives it two thumbs up.

Finally, a funny South African sitcom!

Lashings of quick-witted gags are unleashed from the tongue of stand-up comedian Trevor Gumbi right from the moment the first episode of Vat ’n Sit begins.

He plays Thomas, a zany but modest brother who has nothing but love to offer his well-off girlfriend Mpho (Liopelo Maphathe).

When we meet him, Thomas is just a charming waiter who has big plans to run a baking empire one day.

But his main mission in life right now is to prove he’s the man for Mpho.

As the show’s title suggests, the head over heels couple are shacked up out of wedlock.

The elephant in the room is lobola: negotiations with her family go wrong right from the get-go.

This is one for the youth. The sitcom speaks the language of modern South Africa, where living together has become the norm despite protestations from parents.

And who doesn’t understand how tight times are – and what a burden lobola can be? In fact, many youngsters are refusing to honour the tradition.

Which is why lobola is brilliant subject matter for a sitcom: it gets people talking and we can identify.

More cunning is the subtle theme of masculinity under pressure – is Thomas man enough to provide for Mpho?

And then there’s family. Thomas isn’t just marrying Mpho – who couldn’t care less about the money – but also her wealthy, overprotective father, a Bafokeng royal.

The gorgeous Maphathe is not the world’s greatest comedy actress, but Gumbi more than makes up for it.

You’d think this role was created for him, but the funnyman revealed last week at the launch of the show he had to audition for it a record four times.

Sadly, the format of the show breaks no new ground for local TV. Like almost all local sitcoms before it, it borrows from the popular US recipe – frightfully safe and politically correct, reminiscent of shows like Martin.

In fact, as is the case with Martin, Thomas has a love-hate relationship with his fiancée’s best friend, played by Chumisa Cosa.

But the similarities end there. Gumbi doesn’t employ physical comedy like Martin Lawrence does. He’s a thinking man’s hero who keeps it local and visceral – though he does do that bulging eye thing to excellent effect.

The ensemble – rounded out by Christopher Kubheka, Bexta

Ndabalime and veteran Nyembezi Kunene – has signs of chemistry but hasn’t yet sparked. For the most part, Gumbi carries the show.

I’ll definitely be tuning in to catch him for each of the next 38 episodes of Vat ’n Sit.

» Vat ’n Sit is on eKasi+ (Channel 105) Wednesdays at 9pm

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