The billboard posters around London announced the arrival of The Adebanjos online. The image does its job in enticing people to meet the clan. On Sunday 26 June, thousands of viewers were expected to head to www.MeetTheAdebanjos.com, to officially meet the fictional British Nigerian family. The “leaked” trailer commanded over 20,000 youtube views and thousands of positive comments.
Viewers of the sitcom will not be disappointed with their new acquaintance. This family from Peckham, South London is charming and infectious. From the first episode of the two DVD box set, we meet recognisable characters: the Traditional father Bayo 45, (the seasoned Wale Ojo), his religious wife Gladys 40, (Yetunde Oduwole), his daughter Sade 17, (Andrea Aboagye), his son Tobi 15, (Daniel Anthony), and aunty Funke 48, (the naturally funny Moji Bamtefa).
An unforgettable love seeking widow, Aunty Funke’s eye shadow alone clashes with the brightly coloured décor of the Adebanjo household. But it is her confident personality, which really clashes with patriarch Bayo. Understandably, Bayo resents his lodger – he has his hands full with his blood relatives. Fun loving Sade, an energetic student of fashion who moans that life is unfair, her cheeky younger brother Tobi who plays the ladies as much as his computer games, and Gladys, Bayo’s ‘sweet potato’ who is weary of his hapless calamities. The line up is completed with sleazy Pentecostal ‘Pastor’ Michael, AKA comedian Simply Andy, Cousin Femi (Tolu Charles Ogunmefun) fresh from Nigeria known as ‘Don’t Jealous Me’, reggae loving tutor Greg (comedian Lateef Lovejoy), and a cameo by East London singer Dele. Season one explores the Adebanjo struggles as a blue-collar family. What they lack in material wealth they make up for in family bonds. The love spreads to needy neighbour Kevin (Jordan Coulson), Tobi’s friend who has a crush on Sade.
West meets West Africa. Grime competes with hi-life; pepper soup competes with beans on toast and cultural references spice up the script. African art, African print curtains, African music and African headdress, add a touch of authenticity to the set.
This family bring a fresh guise to comedy’s wardrobe. MTA productions and Fresh Media Productions challenge stereotypes of Nigerian culture. Though the storylines are somewhat predictable and familiar with scams, forgotten anniversaries, and downtrodden spouses. However, the melodramatic show is well written and cast. It is understandable that the BBC has shown interest in broadcasting this engaging and entertaining show. In some respects it resembles a black version of the hit sitcom My Family. Well produced aside from a few rough edits, the show was filmed in a live studio set in Clapham, South London. It is refreshing from the graphics to the subtle but positive messages about beauty, education, health and family values.
Show producer Debra Odutoyo cites The Cosby Show and My Wife and Kids as inspiration saying there was a need to fill the void of a British African experience. However, Meet The Adebanjos reminded me of the late Ghanaian actor Gyearbuor Asante’s role of the Nigerian Matthew in the nineties British sitcom Desmonds (also set in Peckham). With Meet The Adebanjos we don’t get a single character experience; we learn about the collective story of Nigerian culture across genders and ages. In a multitude of voices and Pidgin English, the West African dialect is captured. “You don’t know me”, “Yes I can”, “My friend, get me food sharp sharp,” “You’re welcome”; the dialogue brings to life the Nigerian story of immigration across the globe.
The producers’ journey to bring the show to fruition is commendable. Germinating from 26-year-old creator and producer Debra Odutuyo’s father’s chance meeting on a plane from Nigeria to London in the seventies, Meet the Adebanjos was to reflect Odutuyo’s life in South London. After spending three years developing the concept and pitching it to major TV Networks, in 2009 she resorted to selling her car and moving out of her flat to raise the money to produce the series herself.
It would only fund the pilot but her determination and vision impressed her childhood friend – the son of her Dad’s long-time friend, former trader Andrew Osayemi also 26, who decided to establish MTA Productions, to realise her vision. Soon they were able to raise the investment needed to produce a full season independently. The new model to fund such innovation is the DVD box set featuring eight episodes.
Odutuyo says, “The response for the show has been amazing. This just goes to show what can be achieved if you dare to be different and think outside the box…My goal is to be the Tyler Perry of the UK! This revolution will be televised. Or at least, it will be at www.MeetTheAdebanjos.com.” Support the cause to ensure that now you have met the Adebanjos, you don’t lose touch. If you haven’t yet seen the show, heed the signature cockerel’s call and wake up!
Meet the Adebanjos, the special edition DVD Box set with cast interviews and a look behind the scenes is priced £19.99 and is available at http://shop.meettheadebanjos.com/. Run Time: 230 minutes.