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Malta’s Celeb Culture Now On Prime Time TV: A First Look At Xarabank’s Successor

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Replacing the country’s most popular prime time TV talk show for the first time in 23 years is no easy feat, and Malta got its first look at Xarabank’s successor last night.

Hosted by Ron Briffa, the eponymously named Serataron is a light-hearted entertainment programme inspired by Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ and other popular American late night shows but with a Maltese twist.

So how was the first episode of Serataron?

Ron kicked off proceedings with a few gags about himself, Xarabank (“We have 23 years together!”) and Ben Camille, as well as a light political joke about tensions that arose when he used to read the PN’s paper at his home.

A few celebrities, including young singer Gaia Cauchi, presenters Clare Agius and Ben Camille then made a cameo appearance and the show began.

Ron teases Emma Muscat with a blonde wig to remind her of her ex-boyfriend

Ron teases Emma Muscat with a blonde wig to remind her of her ex-boyfriend

Ron’s first three guests were singer Emma Muscat, local rock ’n’ roll icon Freddie Portelli and swimmer Neil Agius, whose mind-boggling swim from Sicily to Malta last summer was captured in a Lovin Malta documentary.

A lighthearted discussion ensued, which included Ron bringing out a blonde wig as a reference to Emma’s ex-boyfriend Biondo, Freddie being driven onto the stage in a luxurious car, and Neil fielding cheeky questions from his swimming students.

Emma was challenged to utter a tricky Maltese tongue twister (which she did quite well at), Freddie got to perform on stage, and an off-stage ‘challenge’ was aired which saw personalities bellyflop into a pool to raise awareness for Neil’s Wave of Change campaign.

The personalities also played a quick game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ and competed against each other in drawing Maltese qwiel on a board for the others to guess.

Constant musical interludes separated the sections of the show, lending a constantly cheery vibe to Serataron.

Freddie Portelli makes a grand entrance

Freddie Portelli makes a grand entrance

The host’s demeanour is crucial in shows like this and Ron delivered on that front, managing to appear legitimately jovial without forcing his humour down viewers’ throats. And while he sticked to the show’s promise not to embarrass its guests, he didn’t fawn over them either, delivering some well-timed punchlines.

But with such a crucial slot on Maltese TV, questions remain as to how much excitement Serataron will be able to generate.

Are people going to regularly tune into this show on a Friday night when there are so many entertainment options out there? Are they going to discuss the show at work or school the following Monday?

It will certainly boost the profiles of celebrities in Malta, hopefully helping us move away from a culture in which our politicians and our celebrities are one and the same, not exactly a healthy concoction for political debate.

No matter what they may say, many people in Malta are interested in celebrities, certainly not as much as the UK or the US but more than what some critics would have you believe.

'Let sleeping dogs lie': Neil Agius tries his best to recreate a Maltese qawl

'Let sleeping dogs lie': Neil Agius tries his best to recreate a Maltese qawl

However, turning this interest into a commitment to spend Friday nights watching celebrities have fun is a different kettle of fish. TV shows nowadays must not only compete against each other, but with the likes of Netflix, YouTube and all the other platforms out there. Similarly, Emma Muscat has to compete with the likes of Beyoncé and Billie Eilish for viewers and listeners, especially now that COVID-19 has put a temporary end to live audiences.   

A Maltese TV show needs to captivate Maltese audiences in order to be successful, and if people don’t care enough about the guests or feel bored at the challenges, they’re simply going to switch off.

Xarabank made a success of engaging people in local political and social debates, while X Factor Malta (and now Malta’s Got Talent) had the excitement of a competition which kept people watching.

Serataron seems to be taking a bet on how much the Maltese public cares about local celebrities; its success or lack thereof will determine the state of celeb culture on the island.

Did you watch Serataron last night? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comment section

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