My Siblings And I: A Great Family Drama… For The Uncritical

Nollywood, TV Shows
My Siblings and I

When I first saw “My Siblings And I” I didn’t want to like it. It is no big deal, I always look at the beginning of every drama with a liberal dose of suspicion and suspended dislike. It took me a long time to warm towards “Ajoche” but when I did, I fell for it so hard I once rated it above “Game of Thrones” (abuse me if you want, but after that terrible ending, “Game of Thrones” can burn for all I care). After three or four episodes, I confirmed my dislike for “My Siblings And I”. Then I watched a few episodes more and I liked it a little. A few more episodes and I hated it. All through, it has been a sew-saw for me, from dislike to serious dislike to a tiny likeness, then indifference.

“My Siblings And I” is an episodic sitcom on African Magic Urban (DSTV Channel 153) and African Magic Family (GOTV Channel 2). The show was created by and stars Funke Akindele as the vain UK-accent-faking wife of the eldest sibling. Ireti Doyle‘s husband Patrick Doyle plays the role of the Aderuagba patriarch while “Big Brother Naija See Gobe” early evictee Soma acts the jobless, Jack-of-all-trade third- or fourth-born of the family. There are guest appearances from Jide Kosoko and a cameo from ex-screen goddess Ini Edo.

“My Siblings And I” is probably inspired by Nickelodeon’s “My Siblings And Me” from the 1990s. While the American version ended after one season, Funke Akindele’s show is on course for the third season with hundreds of episodes. Does it deserve this long airtime on our airwaves? In a country where the lifespan of shows is not usually decided by the preferences of the viewers, the span of “My Siblings And I” doesn’t tell the full story.

My Siblings And I – A redemption for Funke Akindele?

Whenever the name Funke Akindele is heard, many just see Jenifa. While I have seen Funke so many times outside of her Jenifa altar ego, I still find it hard to totally disassociate her from Jenifa, to unsee the Jenifa in her. When I watch her regular movies (or do we say irregular as Jenifa can be seen as the regular), a small part of me holds my breath praying that a phrase or intonation of Jenifa’s gbagam doesn’t slip out. In truth, Funke Akindele needs a big dose of normal characterizations to erase the singular story that Jenifa is telling on her.

All the big stars have plenty of shades of them. Genevieve, Mercy Johnson, Rita Dominic, and Omotola can hardly be put in a pigeonhole. Ms. Bello may not be on their level but if she must push hard to get to their stage, making herself a rounder character-player is a good place to start with. “My Siblings And I” is a shot on target in this regard.

But there is a comma with her character. The materialistic, patronizing wife with a heavy UK accent (fake, fake, fake!), doesn’t look true on her. It is like heading to the opposite pole: from a local champion grammar-murderer of Jenifa to a flashy been-to phonetics-forger. With her role in this sitcom, Funke Akindele has begun that journey of redefinition. But the root fact remains, Funke Akindele is a queen of the overdramatic.

It is also smart for Akindele not to make herself the central figure in the show so that she can be conveniently written off the show when she has more literary-rewarding shows to attend to. As a businesswoman and TV executive, My Siblings has added a fat feather to her cap.

My Siblings and the overdramatic

Once, while watching “My Siblings And I” with my brother, I asked him if it’s normal for a man (the character of Soma) to have a comb on his hair and go out. He said it is normal in films like this. Films like this. It tells you that this show is different from what we expect to see in normal life and many do not see reality in it, and, in fact, many expect the unreal.

And this is not because the show employs voodoo or the supernatural. In fact, shows that employed these, such as “Jemeji” and “Ajoche” have more claim on reality than “My Siblings”. The problem with My Siblings is that the show mocks reality so much it sucks the life out of reality so that it comes on your screen a reality standing on only two legs of the tripod. They have the typical Akwa Ibom gateman (and that Akwa Ibom accent mimicry is like a fly at siesta, urghhh!). They have an illiterate driver, an illiterate cook, a gossipy last born, a disciplinarian overbearing mother, a nuanced educated father. The predictable, everywhere.

In “My Siblings And I”, nothing is in the right proportion. When they create a character who is a phone freak, she would be too absorbed on her phone so much that food in the kitchen would burn, not once, not two times, and she wouldn’t take her eyes off the phone even when meeting her would-be mother-in-law. When they create a character who is talkative, she would talk from her coffin. When a character is religious, she would kabash and howler and make a fool of herself. If someone wants to seduce a married man, she would go all out and shameless, sending unsolicited nudes to the target and resorting to rape.

There was a time they made the character of Soma rich (up Bet9ja) and extravagant to the point of begging people to accept money from him. Don’t laugh, it is not funny. Well, it is meant to be funny. Maybe laugh at the attempt if not the result. With My Siblings and I, water is always more than the garri.

Again, the show is too moralistic, made in that I-told-you-so version that made “Jenifa’s Diary” the dry show it was/is. And there is so much of “My Siblings And I” that looks like “The Johnsons”. See eh, one can call the show a hastily made hybrid of “Jenifa’s Diary” and “The Johnsons” and not be totally wrong.

My Siblings And I and other African Magic comedies

This is where My Siblings failed – its too-close-for-originality with other shows. There can never be another “The Johnsons” and every family sitcom will be judged as to the level it was able to be different from “The Johnsons” and still bring fresh laughter like the show. There are more brilliant comedians in “The Johnsons”. Charles Onojie, Chinedu Ikedieze (Aki), and Ada Ameh are veterans in the act of making people laugh; and the discovery of Samuel Ajibola as Spiff and Kunle Bamtefa as Pablo help make the soup thicker. On the other hand, only Funke Akindele is experienced in the art of making people laugh and she is playing a role outside of her home ground. Jide Kosoko tried but he isn’t a regular in the show.

With Jenifa’s Diary, Falz and Lolo as Adaku used their talents to help make Jenifa sell. The cameos of Akpororo, Helen Paul plus the brilliance of semi-regulars such as Michael Uba as the bandana-wearing, chewing-gum addictive, girllike James; and not forgetting the Yoruba comedy contingent that was Jenifa’s family in Oyetoro (smiles). Outside of the comedic, cameos from DJ Spinall and Moe Musa and the strong performance from Lota Chukwu added to the spice of the show. “My Siblings And I” lacks these aspects.

For “My Flatmates” by Bright Okpocha (Basketmouth) and Kayode Peters, it is different and that is its most prominent strength. It is a show about a struggling comedian, a failed teacher, a failed con artist, and an Okoro vs Okoro lawyer. Where the storyline reads bland and predictable and verges towards “Hustle”, it is kept alive by the individual brilliance of seasoned comedians like Basketmouth, Okey Bakassi, Buchi, I Go Save, MC Pashun, Koloman, and the super cameos from Senator the comedian, Nedu, Frank Donga, and MC D’Humorous. And no Akwa Ibom or Musa gateman here – their gateman Prosper is a graduate of the University of Bida Polytechnic, as he identifies himself.

What we learn from these more successful African Magic comedies is that freshness and great personalities can run any comedy show irrespective of other weaknesses. With The Siblings, the producers wasted talents. Just look at Patrick Doyle, a fine actor and they brought him to the show to waste his time. A normal father-figure is not what the show needs. Or they can go with a normal father with comedic credentials. Imagine Nkem Owoh or Alibaba as Brigadier-General Aderuagba.

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You are already smiling even before they say a word in the show. Just a thought. That is the power of a powerful character in their own niche. Nkem Owoh playing Chief Obiagu in “LionHeart” film wouldn’t have made much sense. Just as Patrick Doyle’s role in The Siblings did the show no favors. They didn’t even bother writing anything for him to do, so he types Whatsapp messages and serves as restraining leash for his wife who is the only parent trying to add pepper to the drama.

What about “Do Good” starring Kate Henshaw? Let’s not go there. If you have ever done any good in this life, then you deserve to be spared having “Do Good” and “My Siblings And I” on the same plate. Go and be good.

What works in the show?

During the 1960 presidential campaign, US outgoing President Eisenhower was asked to name one policy that then-Vice President Richard Nixon who was now running to be president helped achieve and Eisenhower, rather jokingly, said that he would need one week to come up with an answer. This response which the president later apologized for would haunt Nixon for the rest of the campaign and help cost him the White House.

With “My Siblings And I”, I need one full day to think of what works and I am not joking. I think the performance of Chinelo Ejianwu as a police officer and no-nonsense elder sister to her four younger siblings is more than decent. And the energetic performance of Tomiwa Tegbe as James is brilliant. And that Ubong dance during credits. What else?

I will have to talk to my girlfriend. This comedy entertains her and makes her laugh. But she has a gift I am sometimes envious of. In high school literature, I learned of the suspense of disbelief. My girlfriend has mastered the art of suspending critical thinking when watching shows. She is one of the few enlightened people I know who would be locked up in a room with African Magic Epic playing on repeat for 30 days and not have a heart attack.

For people who have this kind of gift, if you are one of them, “My Siblings and I” is for you. It is like trying to use a suspicious toilet. You want to see, but you don’t want to look too closely. You do your business – number one or number two – and get out.

This story was originally written in November 2019.

Images sources: Bellanaija and Dailypost



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