Long running situational comedy, 'Vitimbi' and 'Vioja Mahakamani', just received a 'face lift' - after over 30 years.
The old Mzee Ojwang Hatari and his screen wife, Mama Kayai were shelved from the old Vitimbi and replaced. But their replacements carry the names Mzee Ojwang and Mama Kayai, but somewhere along the way, the show was pulled off and is no longer aired.
This leaves Vioja Mahakamani, which was 'rejuvenated' as part of reprogramming to modernise the vintage KBC TV. Vioja thus got new main characters with the old names-mannerisms and accents of the old actors Makokha and Ondiek Nyuka Kwota.
Olexander Josephant, who played a Maasai, was replaced by another Maasai, Julius Oletipis. Nyuka Kwota's role was taken by Okal (Mark Onduto) and the Makokha character was killed and replaced by Dr Ofweneke (Sande Bush).
However the two policemen and the court clerk who swears in suspects are still played by actors from old cast.
The famous no-nonsense magistrate of over 30 years in the programme, Lucy Wangui, has also been replaced first by Irene Ayimba and now Jamal Mohammed.
all the other funny characters in court were replaced by other others with similar humourous traits with popular comedians, 'Churchill' and Eric Omondi being poised to make guest appearances to inject some vigour and attract viewership and make the show resonate with the current crop of viewers. It will also add a twist in the Vioja tale."
Since the programme's cast were changed in 2014, the veterans crossed over from KBC and are now running, 'Daktari', on KTN.
Vitimbi targeted mostly adult viewers or who grew up in the 1990s when KBC was the only TV station. But Naomi Kamau, a one-time scriptwriter of 'Tahidi High' and 'Mother in-Law' told The Nairobian that "overhauling the entire cast was a very grave mistake given the fact that 'Vitimbi' pulled viewership through main actors Mama Kayai and Mzee Ojwang and not from the story."
Naomi, the producer of 'Machachari' added: "If I was the one doing it, I could have introduced the characters' offspring over a period of time so that by the time Mzee Ojwang or Mama Kayai is leaving, viewers are used to these new faces. It should not have been done abruptly," and that besides adjusting the script's characterisation, it should have also been changed in a way that it would reflect modern times.
But producers at KBC explained that the changes of 'Vitimbi' and 'Vioja' were inevitable if the station was to keep with modern times and win over new, more young followers.
Jackie Lidubwi, the producer of 'Vioja' argues that viewers should understand that the show had outlived three generations of actors since its inception in 1974.
"There was the generation of the likes of Othorong'ong'o Danger and then Mzee Ojwang and Mama Kayai and then the likes of Olexander and Nyuka Kwota," Lidubwi explains. "So currently we are in a transition where we are passing the baton to the next group of actors. Vioja is part of Kenya's national heritage and the fact that Nyuka Kwota and Mama Kayai is not there does not mean the show is over."
The change of guard was also meant to shed off the image of KBC as a station for old geezers.
David Aliwah, a gospel singer, replaced the old prosecutor and now acts as the new prosecutor in 'Vioja'. He says that the old actors deserve credit for the good work they did, but the new actors should be given time to cut their niche.
"I am not burdened to play prosecutor like the previous actor because I am different," he claims. "Unlike the past the prosecutor now injects some elements of humour during proceedings. I have tried to give the character feelings and emotions where he cries and dances sometimes."
Aliwah predicts soon Kenyans will appreciate the new 'Vioja' that comprise gifted actors like Ofweneke and Ndawuo.
The same sentiments are echoed by Nice Githinji (Ofweneke's wife) in the programme, although she admits the new cast is not competing with their predecessor's.
"We are not trying to match or outdo the previous team because they left their mark in the hearts of Kenyans, and we only hope we will take over from where they left," says Nice adding, "but moving forward we hope to capture the youth who are the majority of television audience in Kenya today as well as retain the older generation."
But Jeff Karang'ae, an ardent viewer of the shows for years, believes that they have lost its mojo and that vintage touch with the departure of the old crew.
"I used to watch Vioja because of that lady magistrate and the prosecutor but since they are gone the programme feels unoriginal," he told The Nairobian.