Eight years after the release of the 2008 movie "Jenifa," Funke Akindele has created a phenomenal TV character that will never be forgotten in the history of Nigerian TV.
There is probably a friend, sister, stylist, shopping mall, acquaintance, social media account that exists to remind you of the character "Jenifa."
The character Jenifa and the TV series "Jenifa's Diary" is one of the most successful and sensational character/show to slide across our TV screens in 10 years.
Funke Akindele has been a household name since the start of her role as Jenifa in "Jenifa" and then "The Return of Jenifa." Eight years after the release of the 2008 movie "Jenifa," Akindele has created a phenomenal TV character that will never be forgotten in the history of Nigerian TV.
It’s probably the way Funke Akindele spits her toxic grammar, her friendship with Adaku and Toyosi, her absolutely hideous sense of fashion, the unexpected facial expressions or maybe it's just the way she pronounces Jenifa, but it's impossible to not describe the character as influential.
To some, "Jenifa's Diary" is total nonsense. There are Nigerians who think Jenifa's diction and use of English does more harm than good to the younger generation. The character has prompted discussions on the influence of a Nigerian TV character on the audience. She has influenced people's manner of speaking with her use of English on TV. Ever met someone who jokingly says "Yels" instead of "Yes." That is the influence Jenifa has on her viewers and non-viewers. Her influenced is passed from fans to non-viewers. Her tenses have become trends. She is arguably the most influential Nigerian TV character.
While some consider "Jenifa's Diary" a nuisance, others consider it endlessly fun and captivating, and thanks to some scenes, some consider it educative.
As a TV success story, its rise has been unprecedented. Severally, I have tried to understand the success of this show, and while I may not have an absolute response, my answer would be: it's comedy, entertaining story and characters, perfect cast, relatable and educative.
'Jenifa's Diary" is a comedy television series that depicts the hilarious and amazing adventures of Suliat, a.k.a Jenifa.She is a secondary school dropout turned hairdresser who lives in a backwater town called Aiyetoro, Jenifa is loud, over-bearing, very opinionated, and indeed an interesting character. Over the seasons, Jenifa has hustled her way from Aiyetoro to Lagos, and recently to London.
In January 2015, Akindele announced the return of the character Jenifa, this time, on smaller screen. As expected, the news was welcomed with mixed reactions. It was a positive news for Nigerians who felt they needed more of the hilarious character on their screen, and negative for those who thought "The Return of Jenifa" was underwhelming and the character needed a break. Akindele went on to create a TV series for the character. She also went ahead to make it a successful and widely acceptable one.
The "Jenifa Diary" success isn't one that is demographic specific. It is a comedy series that factors in all audiences as was decades ago when Nigerians religiously followed shows like "The Rich Also Cry," "Fuji House of Commotion," "Checkmate" among others. Let us be honest, very few number of Nigerians watch Television. Also, there are quite a number of TV programs that are better than "Jenifa's Diary." Yet, there is something about this show that has hooked people the way shows with higher quality has not been able to achieve. Its audience is so large, growing, and are committed to watching each episode every day. Apart from being a relatable show, comedy and easy to comprehend, it is also one that takes people back to the days they cared about Television.
The TV series stars the actress alongside Juliana Olayode, Lolo1, Falz, Beverly Osu, JJC, Yemi Blaq, Lota Chukwu among others. It has also featured guest stars including Alex Ekubo, Banky W, Ali Nuhu, Tiwa Savage, Toke Makinwa, Juliana Olayode, Amaechi Mounagor, Wunmi Obe among others. The show has carefully chosen its cast; focusing on actors viewers would love to see. The show chooses a cast that cuts across and satisfies every demography and class.
Nothing beats a production that knows what it wants to be and goes for it. "Jenifa's Diary" and the character Jenifa are a great success because they know what they want to be and doesn't pretend to be anything else. They set out to make you laugh after a stressful day and make no attempt to bring in action to it. They stick to comedy, the kind of comedy fancied by the old and young generation. they understand their audience and follow accordingly.
There have been a lot of criticisms about the character's inability to learn proper English despite her exposure over the years. What they fail to understand is that Funke Akindele is not just an actress who entertains her audience, she is also a hardworking entrepreneur who has understood why her audience are addicted to the show, and is sticking to it. The show probably won't have a massive following if Jenifa suddenly learnt English and phonetice.
Whatever it is the makers of the comedy show are doing, they are doing it right. Viewers love Jenifa and want more of her.
Despite the criticisms, it is impossible to deny how influential Jenifa is - you can decide to blame it on Nigerians unending love for comedy, but it is more than it.