Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161)
Monday to Thursday, 9pm
Husband and wife producer-actor team Connie and Shona Ferguson are the darlings of local TV drama and can do no wrong.
And so it is too with their latest offering, The Queen, a telenovela set in present-day Joburg about a filthy-rich black family that witnesses the brutal murder of their patriarch.
The queen in the series appears to be the widow Harriet Khoza, played by Connie decked out in grade-A weaves and wardrobe, as befitting a true queen in Gautengland. But nothing is what it seems.
The drama starts with a pastiche of scenes borrowed from iconic American films.
Harriet is driving a bright-yellow Lamborghini to collect her son from an airbase that seems to come straight out of a Fast & Furious film or Top Gun.
She could have just ordered him an Uber, but I guess the writers had to find a way to signify the momentous wealth of this family.
We learn that they are preparing for a wedding, a portent of bad things – weddings at the start of dramas are never good.
The wedding scenes introduce all the main characters, but also seem to borrow from the opener of The Godfather. Just like Don Corleone, Mzi Khoza is the head of a drug cartel and is using the occasion of his daughter’s wedding to close deals.
None of his business partners corrects him when he spouts nonsense, not even the hulking Nigerian, with his heavy, identifying accent.
But the wedding is delayed because Don Khoza must leave with his son Shaka for their offices, where we find a group of nubile girls in their underwear slicing up large amounts of cocaine.
Which takes us right back to American Gangster, New Jack City and The Mack. Why are they in their underwear, you ask?
To ensure that no one steals any of the merchandise, silly. Now, I think a local cocaine dealership in the middle of Tembisa is a little far-fetched; I would have found a nyaope or tik operation more believable.
But an addiction to either drug is not a good look on anyone and the cast of The Queen is very pretty.
Episode 1 ends with its very own red wedding (shades of Game of Thrones) when Mzi is butchered in front of his daughter, whose wedding dress is ruined. Harriet was the mastermind – but why?
The dramatic question in the telenovela is: Who is the queen? Who will inherit and rule the Khoza dynasty?
The writers are leaving quite a few clues. The use of colour shows us that things are not what they seem.
Shaka is a violent man always in black, which could mean he is evil. But then Harriet and Kgosietsile are the masterminds behind Mzi’s murder, and they wear a lot of white.
Rich and poor also have upside down meanings – in this drama, the rich are bad and mean, and the poor are giving and nurturing. Another big hint is the names – quite a few appear to literally mean “queen” or “king”.
Harriet is the female version of Henri, inspired by the bloody King Henry VIII.
Kgosietsile means chief or king, but in the drama he is really a queen and this is clear from how Sello Maake Ka-Ncube plays the character – a stereotypically effeminate, limp-wristed gay man.
Shaka is intent on ascending the throne, but will he suffer the same fate as the real Shaka, murdered by his half-brother Dingaan?
Shaka’s half-brother is Kagiso, whose name means “peaceful”, and indeed he is ever ready to remind his family that murder is legally and morally wrong.
But in this universe morals are upside down, so will Kagiso stay in character, or is it just a façade? Shaka’s right-hand man is his uncle Brutus.
In Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar gets stabbed in the back by his most trusted lieutenant, Brutus.
It seems written in the stars that Shaka will meet his own sticky end at the hand of one of his “brothers”.
But since this is a telenovela, there must be a triangle of sorts. My theory is that the fight for the status of queen will play off between Harriet, Kgosietsile and Amogelang, the pretty but poor chef who falls for Kagiso.
Amogelang seems docile, but chefs are very adept with knives...
Stay watching to see if my theory pans out.