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‘Isidingo pulled an Oscar on us’

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GRAVE MISTAKE: Izak Davels character, Brad Haines, holds his father Albert, played by Michael Richard, after firing four shots through a door at him in an episode of Isidingo. His girlfriend, Charlie Holmes, played by Michaella Russell, looks on.

A YOUNG athlete is obsessed with guns and paranoid about crime in South Africa. One night, he hears a noise and fires several shots in the dark, accidentally killing his father. Sound familiar?

This is the storyline that unfolded on Isidingo on Monday night. It’s difficult to ignore the glaring similarities between the script and what is unfolding in the Pretoria High Court. But the producers say the timing is a coincidence.

Oscar Pistorius is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The shooting took place in his home on February 14 last year.

Pistorius fired four shots through a locked bathroom door, and claims he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.

During court proceedings, Pistorius has been portrayed by witnesses as gun-obsessed, possessive and reckless.

The soapie often raises real-life issues, and for veteran Isidingo viewers, it has been clear in which direction this storyline was going.

Last week, people tweeted about the similarities between Pistorius and character Bradley Haines popping up.

@NtobeMaseko wrote: Bradley is a sports star, he’s limping, has a temper and an obsession with guns. Where is #Isidingo going with this?

It starts with Izak Davel’s character, Haines, speaking about his concerns about crime. He has a gun, and gives one to his girlfriend, Charlie Holmes, played by Michaella Russell.

Brad is shown to have a short temper, and threatens to shoot someone in a restaurant. Brad then has a public falling-out with his father, Albert Haines, played by Michael Richard. Albert, who has a gambling addiction, goes to Brad’s hotel room to make amends.

Charlie is hot on his heels. Brad hears a noise, gets his gun, and fires four shots through a door. Then he realises he’s killed his father.

Producers Endemol say the story was planned in October, so any similarities are coincidental.

“A story like this can also be compared to the OJ trial many years back. South Africans are sports enthusiasts and we felt that a sport-related dramatic story would be socially relevant,” said Sivan Pillay, Endemol SA’s managing director.

Pillay said Isidingo had always tried to tell stories that were socially relevant so that it could create debate.

An estimated 1 million viewers would have seen the episode on Monday night, and the repeat. The producers expected a mixed reaction, said Pillay.

On Twitter, reactions ranged from shock to boredom to indifference.

@Babesbeauti tweeted: “Hawu, Isidingo pulled an Oscar on us. 4, 5 shots, no one knows for sure.”

@Rele_Sparkles tweeted that the storyline should be reported to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa. @GoodyGGM responded, asking why, as it warned people of the effects of gambling addiction.

Then there were those who were wondering if an Nkandla storyline would be next.

Hundreds of fans left messages on Isidingo’s Facebook page. Many supported the script, while others found it in poor taste.

Francisca Singende said Isidingo was just a soapie, and people shouldn’t be taking it so personally. She said it did a great job of teaching people various lessons.

Pillay said: “We generally tackle a large amount of very sensitive subject matter in any year of Isidingo, including woman abuse, drug abuse, HIV and cancer.”

But some still feel the Oscar-like script took it a bit too far.

Eureka Jaganath-Sewpersadh wrote: “It is highly insensitive for Isidingo to use a storyline so similar to the Oscar saga while the case is going on and while two parents are bleeding over the death of their beautiful child.”

Lorraine Blackstock wrote: “The scriptwriters for Isidingo have no imagination whatsoever, and they can’t think further than their noses. They copy whatever is happening in South Africa, and copy it badly! It’s about time they stopped smoking their socks… I would fire them all and get new scriptwriters with lovely, fresh ideas.”

Whether the audience liked the storyline or not, it’s all set to change. Rohan Dickson is the new head writer, and his material will appear on screen from next week. - Cape Argus

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