South Asia

Afghanistan gets new TV satire influenced by The Office

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Media captionThe studio set is modest and all episodes of The Ministry have been shot on one camera

A new Afghan television satire drawing on influence from the British comedy The Office goes to air for the first time on Thursday.

In a country with few factories and commercial offices, it would make little sense to have a comedy about the feuds and failings of a small paper company, so The Ministry is about government ineptitude.

There are modest attempts to disguise the target of The Ministry's satire. Set in the mythical Nothing-land, the minister for garbage is vain, corrupt and probably cannot read.

His main qualification for the job appears to be the fact that he's the president's cousin.

It may sound surreal, but Afghan viewers will instantly recognise the characters as the politicians and civil servants they must endure every day. Most of the officials in the ministry got their jobs through family connections, and seem more intent on making themselves rich than clearing up Nothing-land's garbage.

Showing up officials' sins

The show is being billed by its creators at Tolo TV as the country's first satirical drama and very few subject matters appear to be off limits.

Qadir Farhouk, who plays the minister, said he expects audiences will love the series, as much as politicians hate it.

"Afghan politicians don't like the truth - we're showing up all their sins," he said.

"The audience will like it, but officials don't want to see such things."

The studio set is modest and all eight episodes have all been shot on one camera.

As well as The Office, The Ministry takes inspiration from other mock documentaries such as Spinal Tap and Borat, said the show's production mentor, Abazar Khayami.

"We have to shoot fast and we keep it very topical," he said.

Image caption In the mythical Nothing-land, the minister for garbage is vain, corrupt and probably cannot read

"A lot of the kids working with us are not trained properly. So it's an interesting way to teach them a new style and a new way to work."

There's much slapstick, but dark satire too. In one episode, the minister bribes a suicide bomber not to target his office. But he bribes the wrong man, and chaos ensues.

"It's Afghanistan right now, it's what people have to deal with on a day-to-day basis," said Khayami. "It's about political corruption, nepotism, all these topics find their way into the storyline."

Ricky Gervais, the creator of The Office, has welcomed the new show.

He commented on his blog: "They found a fat, annoying, middle-aged bloke with a beard. That bit was easy. The difficult part was finding a town in Afghanistan as grim as Slough. Calm down, I'm joking. It's not quite as grim as Slough obviously."

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