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Tinsel: How Nigeria's Favorite Show Raised the Bar in Nollywood

By Zaina Adamu

Producers knew they were on to something when they conceived Tinsel, a Nigerian soap opera with a dynamic storyline that has continued to attract millions of viewers for more 10 years. The series, which is now streaming on Demand Africa, is a classic, but the story behind the soapie is just as intriguing as the show.

One of the longest-running shows in Nigeria’s history, Tinsel has evolved over the years, but the foundation of the show remains the same. Tinsel is a story of love, influence and scandal set against the backdrop of the Nigerian film industry, but what makes Tinsel even more powerful, is the role its played in creating excitement around Nollywood itself. As producer Rogers Ofime put it, the show caused a seismic shift in how Africa tells stories.

“I can boldly say Tinsel brought about a change in Nollywood,” Ofime told Demand Africa in an exclusive interview. “It was a revolution of some sort.”

The revolution, he said, was immediate from the start. When the first episode aired on the M-Net network in August of 2008, it immediately gained traction in the country, not only for its high-quality production, but for its captivating plot twists.

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tinsel cast

Tinsel tells the story of two powerful Nigerian film companies in a fight for dominance in Nollywood. The show’s main character, Fred Ade-Williams played by Victor Olaotan, is the enigmatic chief executive of REEL Studios, the biggest independent film company in Nigeria. Trouble begins to brew when his daughter Brenda Nana Mensah, played by Funmilola Aofiyebi, becomes his biggest competitor. Brenda is driven to surpass her father’s company with Odyssey Pictures, using her beauty and charm to do so. Exploitation and the fight for control causes a dangerous rift throughout the entire industry as both companies stop at nothing to maintain dominance. The end result causes both their lives and businesses to change forever.

“Viewers can identify with the show’s characters,” said Ofime. “It is believable, true to life and it’s the first of its kind in Nigeria.”

He’s right. Not only does the show draw people in with its compelling storyline, but it was also the first show to be shot in a multi-cam, multi-million naira studio in Nigeria. Many viewers originally thought that Tinsel was filmed internationally, he added, but when it was discovered that it was shot and produced in Lagos using local talent, it became widely celebrated.

TINSEL Fred Ade-Williams

Even more importantly, Tinsel set a new standard of how Nigerian television should look and feel. As the show began to take off throughout the continent, other studios began investing in high-end production. No longer were Nigerian directors outsourcing talent; suddenly, a new wave of local actors and producers were hired, leading to an economic boost for the country’s entertainment industry.

“The show has also brought more than quality to the industry; it has also created new talents for the industry,” says the Daily Independent. “Acts like Damilola Adegbite, Gbenro Ajibade, Ifeanyi Dike Jr. and Lizz Njagah, were really unknown prior to Tinsel. Today, they have turned into superstars who can’t walk the streets without being recognized.”

Meanwhile, other actors like Ihouma Ejiofor went on to star in blockbuster movies, while seasoned actors including Victor Olaotan, Iretiola Doyle and Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi became household names because of the show’s success.

Shortly after the show’s 1000th episode aired in 2013, it has been called “the most successful television drama on Nigerian television in recent times.”

“The series is getting stronger by the day,” said Ofime, adding that he is hopeful that the show will continue to raise the bar in Nigerian programming both locally and abroad.

Stream episodes of Tinsel on Demand Africa now.