Cultural similarities and long-standing Turkish-Greek relations could be the answer to the question why Greek viewers love to watch Turkish soap operas, according to Pavlos Tsimas, a well-known Greek journalist who produces a program called “Erevna” and hosts a news hour at Mega TV.
Explaining the success of Turkish shows on Greek TV, Tsimas says: “The Greeks view the family in any Turkish soap opera as their own. The attitudes, relations and lifestyles of the people in Turkish soap operas are exactly the same as the Greek style. The only thing that is foreign is the language. I think these social similarities are the primary reason for the growing popularity of Turkish soap operas in Greece.”
The journey of Turkish series in Greece started in the summer of 2005 when the largest private TV station, Mega, aired Turkish soap opera “Yabancı Damat” (The Foreign Groom) considering that nobody would watch TV in the summer, anyway. However, the series attracted a great deal of attention with a rating of 58.4 percent. This was the start of the interest in Turkish soap operas in Greece. “Yabancı Damat” told the tragic and yet sweet story of Greek groom Nico and Turkish bride Nazlı by adopting an ironic approach to the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Tsimas also says one of the reasons for the popularity of these soap operas is the lack of Greek series during a time of crisis. The soaps have filled the void with high quality and inexpensive productions. State-run ERT World General Director and journalist Nikos Megrelis agrees with Tsimas, adding that the soaps have become extremely popular because of the inability of producers to make high quality series. Megrelis says: “The Turkish operas are inexpensive and quality productions. Two big channels, Mega and Ant 1, air Turkish soap operas in prime time.”Tsimas confirms the success of Turkish soap operas in Greece: “The TV series ‘Sıla’ aired last night and was watched by 1,050,000 viewers. ‘Muhteşem Yüzyıl’ (Magnificent Century) aired in prime time and was watched by 1,200,000 people.”
Do not watch the sultan!
A taxi driver in Athens, Dimitris believes that Turks and Greeks share a similar family structure, culture, human relations and emotional approaches. Noting that all family members watch the Turkish soaps at nights, Dimitris says: “I don’t have time. I move to another room to see the news.” Another cab driver recalls that his ancestors moved from Anatolia and that the soap operas bring back memories of things his relatives have told him about.
The unstoppable rise of Turkish soap operas bothers opponents of Turkey. Anthimos, the Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Thessalonika, asserted strong opposition to Turkish soap operas, including the “Magnificent Century,” a historical show that presents life in the Ottoman palace during the reign of the sultan known as Suleiman the Magnificent in Turkey. In an interview he said: “Turkish soap operas have provoked our consciences. Do not watch Turkish series.” SKAI TV host Vasilis Lyrintzis asked him why he is afraid given that the Turks and Greeks have lived together for 400 years.