Iconic discussion show Xarabank has officially been taken off Maltese airwaves (at least for now) leaving one burning question in everyone’s mind: what’s going to happen to Mark Laurence Zammit, the dapper young Maltese host of the popular show?
Luckily for his fans, he’s already been given a new show… and he’s currently hard at work preparing for it with his new production team.
“The show is called ‘L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa,’ which is a saying Maltese people use to describe something happening unexpectedly. In a way, this is what we intend to do with the show: explore a story from unexpected angles or in unconventional ways,” Zammit told Lovin Malta ahead of the new production.
Everything that Zammit’s learnt so far will become a part of this show – and he is ready to push boundaries.
“Over the years, I’ve been almost forced to meet with the people whom I disagree with the most, with the people whom I’m afraid of the most, and listening to them has changed the way I see everything. I’m talking about convicted criminals, paedophiles, juvenile delinquents,” he explained.
“Meeting the people who are most different to me is the single most significant thing that changed my life. And that’s what I would like the new show to be about – to generate genuine, healthy discussions between different people,” he said.
So, what can we expect from L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa?
“The typical, cliche-sounding genre is ‘current affairs’ – with added information through journalism and investigative pieces, new points of view to the discussion, and mostly, to cover the subject through an unconventional style, including in a satirical way,” he explained.
And his show couldn’t have come at a better time for the world, according to Zammit.
“The truth is, we’re more divided than ever,” he said. “We think we have achieved an unprecedented level of open-mindedness because, you know, we don’t go to church anymore, so why the hell should we be afraid of hell?!”
“That ‘eternal damnation’ thing isn’t a thing anymore, because we put aside whatever was clouding our minds from seeing the world the way it is, right? So now we believe we know all there is to know because we have access to all the information there is on the planet, all the time, right? Wrong. Because we don’t know shit.”
With a lack of a sense of community and people becoming more individualistic, Zammit thinks it’s more important than ever to hear different opinions and be able to, you know, discuss things in a respectful way.
“Living in an echo chamber is convenient. It avoids any sort of confrontation with a different reality from ours. And we don’t want that, because that’s uncomfortable – and our social media algorithms keep feeding us a feedback loop of the stuff which keeps us ‘happy’, because why wouldn’t they?!”
“Our confirmation bias is making it unthinkable for us to even consider that the ‘other people’ may have a point, let alone to engage in a conversation with them.”
“I see this all the time with people who want to integrate with immigrants, and people who want to shut our borders; with people who are for prison reform and people who want to throw the keys of the cell in a well. Real conversations with these groups of people are becoming unimaginable,” he said.
That said, a show on TVM can only do so much.
“I don’t expect the show to change the world. No TV show ever did. I’m not after that (if it were possible, I’d be after it, believe me. But it isn’t, so it’s not worth chasing),” he smiled.
“My dream is for the show to become a space where you can listen to an interesting and informative conversation about the hottest and most controversial issues. That means that sometimes you will sit through people saying shit you don’t agree with, and at times that will be uncomfortable, but way more satisfying at the end.”
“The good thing about TV is that it doesn’t have that algorithm,” he continued.
“It has agendas, don’t get me wrong,” he said, “but it won’t deny you the privilege of having a conversation, because having a conversation may be one of the most peaceful experiences you can have. And by peaceful I don’t mean it has to be calm. It can be heated, and it will probably get heated at times during the show, but it will still be peaceful as long as people are genuinely trying to listen to each other.”
Zammit will remain a part of WE Media, the producers of Xarabank and executive producers of L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa – just don’t ask Mark Laurence if he is excited ahead of his next big show.
“Right now? No. I know I should be, but I’m consumed with anxiety about what lies ahead. You should see me when I’m at home or alone in the office. I’m a mess,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I feel blessed and so grateful for everything. I feel so lucky to be able to wake up and do this job every day and to be able to have a voice on prime-time television on the most-watched TV station in Malta and I have some the best people in the business by my side – I mean, I’m really grateful for that because I know not many people have that opportunity,” he said.
PBS has announced some other new shows that are about to come to Malta’s national channel, like Serataron – but Mark Laurence’s reputation as an energetic, curious and modern presenter has people keen to see more of the young Gozitan.
“To those people out there who see a part of themselves, or who see a part of what they would like to become, in me, I say: If there’s hope for me, there’s hope for everyone,” he says.
“I was as far from the probability of success as you can imagine. But I was lucky to be surrounded by people who are really good at what they do and who have genuine principles. Surround yourself with people who know more than you, who are better than you, and work hard and aspire to be like them. And before you know it, you will be like them,” he ended.
L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa will be aired on TVM every Wednesday after the 8pm news starting from 30th September.