By Olorunfemi Olaleye
As a child, dreams were easy to come by. While the world loomed ever large, I found the comfort of life in the simple fact that everything could be entertaining. During that period, I never knew I was awakening my mind to questions left unanswered by my surroundings. By watching TV, I could dream and be enlightened by the reflective tales of This Life or the compelling grace of Superstory.
These TV shows, made in the early 2000s, were a pivotal part of my childhood. It was a period when having the smallest denomination of our currency meant the world to you as a child. The glee of having five naira in your hands almost matched the joy of watching Fuji House of Commotion.
However, we’ve come a long way from that period of warm pixels on TV. As we’ve grown older, technology has made leaps. We now have access to thousands of films and TV shows on a device that fits in the palm of our hands. You no longer have to wait in front of your TV with your siblings to see the latest episode of your favourite show when you can binge-watch. Therefore, this evolution begs the question: Has that heartfelt Nollywood connection we felt disappeared with those old boxy TVs?
At that time, evenings promised entertainment on the face of your large, boxy television. My boredom was interrupted by the “humming” sound my home freezer made when power arrived, which also meant screen time. If you recall, the best viewing position was on the floor with your pillow propped under your elbows, which supported your head. Life was simple, and you found satisfaction in the TV shows that eluded joy.
We all tend to remember feelings from childhood because they represent colours—ever vivid and never dimming. As adults, we’ve had our fair share of experiences, both highs and lows. Thus, our childhood memories of films and TV shows take precedence over the movies we see as adults.
The thing with nostalgia is that it pulls you in when the present falls short of your expectations. Unconsciously, you find yourself comparing memories from your childhood to your reality as an adult. Indeed, being a child and being an adult differ, except when we let our inner child come into play. Even as I write these words, my inner child writes with me, nudging me to include his favourite pastime.
The Cadence of Nollywood Shows in the Early 2000s
Looking back at my childhood, I enjoyed the simple things about these shows. Perhaps it was their apt attention to commonplace dialogue and their introduction to a world beyond my imagination. Without a doubt, I understood little about the elements of the films I watched, but I could resonate with them.
One childhood favourite of mine is Papa Ajasco, a sitcom that elicited the best of laughter. It took the mundane and mirrored everyday events in a suburban community. We saw a mix of characters that sparked joy with jokes carried out with excellent acting. Of course, it’s all thanks to Wale Adenuga Production (WAP), a production powerhouse that fed us with shows such as the latter, Superstory, This Life, and many other nostalgic gems.
In Papa Ajasco and Company, we see a sitcom made of lively characters. Papa Ajasco, a promiscuous man characterized by his bald head and round spectacles; Mama Ajasco, who doted on her son and settled with her husband’s promiscuous nature; Boy Alinco, also a wanton fellow; Pa James, Miss Pepeye, and Ajasco. These characters brought rounds of laughter that rocked me to bits.
Superstory, a drama anthology series, tells tales of Nigeria’s human condition. The soap opera was first aired in 2001 and has starred prominent actors in Nollywood over the years. Today, it continues to tell stories of tragedy, grace, fortune, misfortune, and happiness, gracing our screens.
I can’t talk about Nollywood nostalgia without making a note on This Life. Maybe it’s because its theme song was an earworm or because it told the most tragic stories on television. I vividly recall the grim scene of the boy who jumped from the roof. That scene remains imprinted in my mind despite the passage of time. In that scene, the boy jumped at his father’s urging, promising to catch him. He would jump and break his legs because his father would step away. But he would also get his father’s most significant life lesson: “Don’t let people influence you.” Everything sounds, thinks, and speaks Nigerian; these shows were undoubtedly of a distinct flavour.
The present reality
Adulthood comes with its responsibilities but also with the loss of innocence. In Nigeria, the country’s present conditions bring little joy. While we’ve experienced various travails in the last decade—facing inflation and insecurity—we’ve become more judgmental, picking flaws in what we see.
In recent years, I’ve almost detached from the present Nigerian cinematic space. Of course, I watch the latest blockbusters and even stream some of the biggest shows on Netflix, but it all ends there. Instead of feeling what I felt as a child, I’m harsher in my criticism, quick to point out poor exposition and shallow dialogue in films.
I’d like to know if I can blame this disconnection on the rise of streaming networks or the country’s present state. However, the truth is in my face: I’ve become indolent, refusing to accept the evolution of Nollywood while I moan and criticize.