Putting the serial in context: Comparing the storytelling processes of contemporary primetime Kuwaiti television dramas with American network dramas


  • Ahmad Hayat University of Salford




TV series, TV narrative, pan-Arab TV production, Kuwaiti Dramas, American Dramas


Strictly designed with distinct narrative characteristics to accommodate the thirty day schedule of the holy month of Ramadan, Kuwaiti television dramas broadcast in a proliferated television landscape confined by the Arabic language and consists of television institutions operating from various Arab countries that compete for the vast pan-Arab audience. These unique broadcasting conditions inform the programme-making practices that shape the construction of narratives across the pan-Arab region. Like American network dramas, Kuwaiti dramas depend on advertising and syndication to generate revenue but the pan-Arab region’s technological adaptation transformed the production conditions and the commissioning processes of these dramas. By comparing the commissioning process of Kuwaiti television dramas with American network dramas, this article examines the development of the storytelling practices involved in shaping their narrative conventions and illuminates the manifestation of their industrial specificities in their narrative designs. The analyses of primary interviews with writers and representative dramas suggest that the unique shared broadcasting conditions of the pan-Arab region, accompanied by the particular operations of a television industry within the region, contribute to the commissioning process and designs of television dramas, and the challenges of this competitive language-confined environment underpins the prominent and intense implementation of serialized elements in Kuwaiti television dramas.


Abdul Sattar, Ahmed (2018). “Aljabri: 8 musalsalat munea’at mn al’ardh fe Ramadan” [Aljabri:

series were prohibited from broadcasting during Ramadan]. Qabas, 18 August 2018.

https://qabas.news/573009 (last accessed 30-08-20).

Abu-Lughod, Lila (1993). “Finding a Place for Islam: Egyptian Television Serials and the National Interest.” Public Culture 5: 493–513. https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-5-3-493.

Abu-Lughod, Lila (2004). Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Al-Husaini, Mohammad (2016). “Alraqaba AlKuwaitia tahwi bil drama AlKuwaitia .. Fahal mn

monqeth?” [Kuwaiti censorships restrict Kuwaiti dramas .. are there any saviors?]. Al-Anba, 19 June 2016. https://www.alanba.com.kw/ar/art-news/660833/19-6-2016 (last accessed 31-08-20).

Al Mukrashi, Fahad (2015). “Omanis Turn Their Backs on Local Dramas.” Gulf News, 22 August 2015. https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/oman/omanis-turn-their-backs-on-local-dramas-1.1568086 (last accessed 19-06-20).

Al-Qazwini, Khawla (2015). “Nafethat alketaba’a / Almara’a fe almusalsalat alkhaleejia”

[Window for writing / The woman in Khaleeji dramas], Al Rai, 23 June 2015.

https://www.alraimedia.com/Home/Details?id=8ecdee9c-1a8c-48fc-8f3c-63d8fe048376 (last

accessed 31-08-20).

Al-Shammari, Hafez (2016). “Nojoum Al-Kuwait Al-A'ala ujora'an khalejeyan fe Ramadan” [Kuwaiti Star Actors Are the Highest Paid amongst GCC Actors]. Qabas, 7 June 2016. https://qabas.news/71988 (last accessed 19-06-20).

BroadcastPro (2014). “Big Plans for Small Screens.” BroadcastPro, 5 September 2014. https://www.broadcastprome.com/content-creation/big-plans-for-small-screens/ (last accessed 19-06-20).

Carrington, Daisy (2013). “Ramadan Acts as ‘Super Bowl for Adverts’ in the Middle East.” CNN, 29 July 2013. https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/29/world/meast/ramadan-television-adverts/index.html (last accessed 19-06-20).

Crystal, Jill (2016). Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State. London: Routledge.

Dunleavy, Trisha (2017). Complex Serial Drama and Multiplatform Television. Milton: Routledge.

Fakhreddine, Jihad (2001). “Pan-Arab Satellite Television: Now the Survival Part.”Transnational Broadcasting Studies, 1 June 2001. https://www.arabmediasociety.com/pan-arab-satellite-television-now-the-survival-part/ (last accessed 19-06-20).

Feuer, Jane (1986). “Narrative Form in American Network Television.” In High Theory/Low Culture, edited by Colin MacCabe, 101-14. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hawkes, Rebecca (2018). “MENA Appetite for TV Soars by 78% in Ramadan.” Rapid TV News, 21 May 2018. https://www.rapidtvnews.com/2018052152178/mena-appetite-for-tv-soars-by-78-in-ramadan.html#axzz6NS3Zx2uI (last accessed 19-06-20).

Hayat, Ahmad (2020). Investigating Kuwaiti Television Serial Dramas of Ramadan: Social Issues and Narrative Forms across Three Transformative Production Eras. Doctoral thesis. Salford: University of Salford.

Hoskins, Colin and Rolf Mirus (1988). “Reasons for the US Dominance of the International Trade of Television Programmes. ”Media, Culture and Society 10: 499–515. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F016344388010004006.

Joubin, Rebecca (2020). Mediating the Uprising: Narratives of Gender and Marriage in Syrian Television Drama. London: Rutgers University Press.

Khalil, Joe (2013). “Towards a Supranational Analysis of Arab Media: The Role of Cities.”In National Broadcasting and State Policy in Arab Countries, edited by Tourya Guaaybess, 188-208. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kraidy, Marwan (2002). “Arab Satellite Television between Regionalization and Globalization.” Global Media Journal 1(1). http://www.globalmediajournal.com/open-access/arab-satellite-television-between-regionalization-and-globalization-.php?aid=35056 (last accessed 19-06-20).

Kraidy, Marwan and Joe Khalil (2009). Arab Television Industries. London: BFI.

Lotz, Amanda (2013). “House: Narrative Complexity.” In How to Watch Television, edited by Ethan Thompson and Jason Mittell, 22-29. New York: New York University Press.

Lotz, Amanda (2014). The Television Will Be Revolutionized, 2nd ed. New York: New York University Press.

Mittell, Jason (2006). “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television.” The Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film and Television 58: 29–40. https://doi.org/10.1353/vlt.2006.0032.

Mittell, Jason (2010). Television and American Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mittell, Jason (2015a). Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York: New York University Press.

Mittell, Jason (2015b). “Lengthy Interactions with Hideous Men: Walter White and the Serial Poetics of Television Anti-Heroes.” In Storytelling in the Media Convergence Age: Exploring Screen Narratives, edited by Roberta Pearson and Anthony Smith, 74-92. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nelson, Robin (1997). TV Drama in Transition: Forms, Values and Cultural Change. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nelson, Robin (2007). State of Play: Contemporary “High End” TV Drama. New York: Manchester University Press.

Newman, Michael (2006). “From Beats to Arcs: Toward a Poetics of Television Narrative.” The Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film and Television 58: 16–28. https://doi.org/10.1353/vlt.2006.0033.

Sakr, Naomi (2002). Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization and the Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris.

Sakr, Naomi (2007). Arab Television Today. New York: I.B. Tauris.

Salamandra, Christa (2008). “Creative Compromise: Syrian Television Makers between Secularism and Islamism.” Contemporary Islam 2: 177–89. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-008-0060-0.

Salamandra, Christa (2011). “Spotlight on the Bashar Al-Asad Era: The Television Drama Outpouring” Middle East Critique 20(2): 157–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/19436149.2011.572412.

Salamandra, Christa (2013). “Syrian Television Drama: A National Industry in a Pan-Arab Mediascape.” In National Broadcasting and State Policy in Arab Countries, edited by Tourya Guaaybess, 83-95. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sconce, Jeffrey (2004). “What If? Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries.” In Television after TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, edited by Lin Spigel and Jan Olsson, 93-112. Durham: Duke University Press.

Smith, Anthony (2011). “TV or Not TV? The Sopranos and Contemporary Episode Architecture in US Network and Premium Cable Drama.” Critical Studies in Television 6(1): 36–51. https://doi.org/10.7227%2FCST.6.1.5.

Smith, Anthony (2019). Storytelling Industries: Narrative Production in the 21st Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Statista (2016). “MENA: Average Rate Card Price for a TV Commercial Spot on Television in the Middle East and North Africa during Ramadan 2015, by Time Slot.” Statista, 9 March 2016. https://www.statista.com/statistics/707364/mena-average-rate-card-price-for-a-tv-commercials-spot-during-ramadan/ (last accessed 19-06-20).

TV series cited

Altendail (2008)

Etr Alrouh (2018)

Zawarat Al Khamis (2010)




How to Cite

Hayat, A. (2020). Putting the serial in context: Comparing the storytelling processes of contemporary primetime Kuwaiti television dramas with American network dramas. Series - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, 6(2). https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2421-454X/11240



Productions / Markets / Strategies