It’s Charmaine, Season 2. And you’ll soon have fans clamouring for a Chris Fearne spin-off

The Skinny | No. 47 • Prof Charmaine Gauci: Season 2

What are we skinning? The return of Malta’s most-watched televisual experience: the daily live Prof Charmaine Gauci show.

Why are we skinning it? Because it has been proven to be the island’s most-watched TV programme out there, leading to a ratings spike whose popularity continues to spread, much like the show’s persistent and barely-controllable antagonist, ye olde COVID of 19.

But do you honestly think that the Profs Gauci Show can give Malta’s TV scene a competitive edge over HBO, Netflix et al? If the standards of quality are kept up throughout, I actually do think it has a fighting chance.

But what are these standards? A strong female lead whom we’re encouraged to cheer on based not on her looks or deference to her male superiors, but her intelligence, diligence and stoicism in the face of some pretty high medical and social stakes.

But don’t you think that the setup is a tiny bit too static to make for compelling drama? Well, do you feel bored at any point during Prof Gauci’s briefings? Personally speaking, I’m left hanging on every word that comes out of her (now bemasked) mouth…

That’s another thing: slapping on a face mask just to distinguish between one season and another is a bit of a cheap gimmick, let’s face it. Come on: it is a television show, and the visual component is important. But it’s not like the show hasn’t had time to percolate its own interesting ambiguities and tensions while it’s been away from our screens.

Which ambiguities and tensions are you referring to? Now, apart from the ongoing primary antagonist that is the novel coronavirus itself, we have something of a frenemy in the shape of Prime Minister Robert Abela.

Frenemy? Yes, you’re never quite sure whether he’s on Profs Charmaine’s side or not. Sometimes, it feels as though he’s keener to lend an ear to the likes of Tony Zahra… the Grima Wormtongue of the equation.

You’re right on that. You never know which way ‘Bobby’ will swing, which does keep you watching. But how does Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne fit into all of this? Ah. Fearne is a truly Shakespearean character in this configuration.

Why? Added political pressure means that he has to play an even smoother PR game than Prof. Gauci, who can hide behind the technocrat mantle. Give him enough interesting soliloquies this season, and you’ll have fans clamouring for a Chris Fearne spin-off.

Not too many soliloquies though. Can’t have him talking to himself. You’re right. Besides, ‘Between Two Ferns’ is already taken.

Do say: “Now in its second season, the Prof. Charmaine Gauci show proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Maltese television drama does not need big budgets and elaborate costumes to make for compelling viewing. A tight, focused script and a compellingly competent, strong female lead have captured the national imagination, without the show having to pile on melodrama, cheap and tacky twists, bad costumes and worse wigs.”

Don’t say: “Yeah, it’s not bad. Season two is already starting to feel a bit repetitive, though.”

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