Lebanese webseries ‘Beirut+ TV’ pokes fun at reality

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Beirut+ TV's animated presenter Vanessa.

By: Nadine Kanaan

Published Friday, December 5, 2014

In the midst of the media free-for-all in Lebanon, a new channel found its way into the spotlight. Without a doubt, it is different and unique, and probably the first channel to have people actually resemble regular citizens and represent all Lebanese.

"Finally, Lebanon has a TV channel standing up for all Lebanese, and show our aspirations as youth; a TV channel, which is not linked to any party or sect." With these phrases, which are closer to wishes, Lebanese presenter Vanessa announced the birth of a new television channel in Lebanon on Wednesday called Beirut+ TV.

It is unlike any other channel. "Finally, there is a TV channel in Lebanon that looks like you, presenting the top picks of Lebanese programs," she promised. Sitting across from her co-anchor Farid, she added that the programs will vary between politics, sports, culture, cooking, children's shows, and much more.

The channel, whose announcement was interrupted by a power cut, is online and uses cartoon characters. It has a studio, anchors, news broadcasts, and field reports. There is also a breaking news bar that announces things like, "Beirut was flooded with heavy rain and people prayed for drought."

The idea for this unique experiment in Lebanon came to blogger Maya Zankoul and Toni Yammine almost four years ago. However, they faced many hurdles, especially since such a project needed a large number of artists and animators, in addition to a considerable budget.

"We wanted to create an online show based on animation and comedy, which addresses topics inspired by the situation in Lebanon," Zankoul explained to Al-Akhbar. "A short while after establishing a company, we were joined by a big team, which was able to go ahead with the idea. Today, we decided we will make it real. We wanted to work on a project that we liked a lot, in addition to other projects for clients."

Promotion for Beirut+ TV began more than four months ago in a vague and suspense-building manner. "Some people even started to send in their CVs, thinking it was a real channel," Zankoul added. On Wednesday, the series was launched online in a ceremony held in Beirut.

Zankoul explained that the channel, which has its own webpage and is also available on YouTube, is primarily for entertainment, "especially since all we get from the media is bad news about sorrow and depression." The entertainment will include episodes with a variety of themes (two minutes each), which will include dubbed Turkish soaps, commercials, and newscasts. The project's organizers will try to tackle "current issues as much as possible," in an attempt to approach reality and address it directly but in a "cynical manner."

Zankoul maintained that decision to have the channel animated was not arbitrary, since this type of art "could deliver our message easily and target various age groups."

In addition to Vanessa (voiced by Serena Shami) and Farid (voiced by Fouad Yammine), there is the reporter on the field Roy (voiced by Adon Khoury). The installment on New Year’s Eve promises to be exciting since it will host fortuneteller Mikhael Koussa.

According to Zankoul, who is also the author two books, “Amalgam,” and “Amalgam Vol. 2,” the episodes will be weekly and could be longer in the future, even moving to the small screen or the cinema.

Follow Nadine Kanaan on Twitter: @KanaanNadine

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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