The Kenyan entertainment industry has immensely grown over the last years. Hundreds of shows have been produced and successfully executed. This list takes us through not just modern day shows, but also a number of drama shows that premiered in the 80s and 90s.
The show played a pivotal role in the birth of modern day comedy. Vitimbi was one of the most watched programs in Kenya. It premiered in 1985 on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). Some of its memorable casts included the late Benson Wanjau (Mzee Ojwang), Davis Mwabili (Mwala), Mary Khavere (Mama Kayai) and Julius Nyambegere (Mogaka).
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This was one of the first court comedy in Kenya which airs on the State broadcaster KBC. It focuses on the events taking place in a court albeit in a humorous way. Various cases are brought before the court and the witnesses would give their account of events and the magistrate would pass a judgement. It features newbies and veteran actors like Ondiek Nyuka Kwota (Hiram Muigai), Makokha (Mathias Keya) and Olexander Josphat (Peter Sankale).
Those born before the 90s can remember one of the best drama series in Kenya at the time which was introduced by the catchy song Tausi Ndege Wangu, Ndege Wangu wa fahari… It presented a Swahili lifestyle and was shot at the Kenyan coast.
Famous Kenyan personalities and politicians were part of the show’s cast including Sabina Chege (Murang’a women representative). Other memorable cast include: Ondieki, Bi Poop, Sango, Ebosos and Mjomba.
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This was arguably one of the most suspenseful and scariest programs on TV in the early 90s. The actors played their roles so perfectly that the program was almost believable.
Omo Pick Box
This was one of the most popular programs in the 90s where competitors were asked questions and the winners won prizes. It was hosted by Lorna Irungu and the late Regina Mutoko.
A classic drama that premiered in 2008 and airs to date. It focuses on the lifestyle of an upper middle class family with a mother-in-law who is always meddling in the affairs of her children and their spouses. The twists and turns makes the drama series ever fresh.
This was an NTV comedy drama that aired once a week at 7:30p.m. It was a fun series that explored the life of the middle class in Nairobi. It was produced by the Machakos governor Alfred Mutua.
A Kenyan television series that delved into the lives of domestic house helps in the fictional Taifa Estate (Loresho Ridge Estate). It also delved a bit into the lives of the upper middle class in the Kenyan society. The House helps were engaged in naughty activities behind their bosses back. It was a true reflection of how some Kenyan employers relate with their house helps.
The fun filled program was a perfect mix of veteran actors and new actors. It was a hospital drama series. Some of its cast members are former Vioja Mahakamani actors: Olexander Josphat, Makokha and Ondieki. It was once rated the third most watched program in Kenya.
The program used to air on Citizen TV and featured young children and teenagers. The teenagers would engage in a number of mischiefs and also help solve problems and mysteries.
The drama premiered on NTV nearly three years ago. Filmed at Daystar University, the drama featured mass and media communication students. It focuses on the lifestyle of young campus students as they try to achieve their goals amidst peer pressure. Some of the students are bullies while others veer away from their goal due to peer pressure.
Tinga Tinga Tales
This was a fun kids program that aired on Citizen TV. It would feature a number of stories/ fairy tales across Africa. The tales were aimed at providing kids with entertainment and life lessons.
A Citizen television program that most Kenyans currently in their 20s grew up watching. It is a kids program that provides kids with education and even featured a program called Junction Juniors that was aimed at inculcating knowledge to kids.
A drama that aired on Citizen TV and was produced by Rashid Abdalla and Lulu Hassan. It focused on the life of Aziza who really wanted to be a famous singer but the twists in life forces her to choose between her family and the man she loves. The drama, full of intrigue and suspense, left many viewers glued to their screens.
Wash and Set
The program aired on NTV and chronicles the ups and downs of Hilda, the owner of a beauty shop in Nairobi. It begins with the actress and her customers being threatened by a gunman. She pleads for the life of her teenage daughter but the gunman is undeterred.
This was a people’s favorite and it introduced some of the most famous actors in Kenya to the limelight. The show, which used to air on Citizen TV, premiered at a time when local TV dramas were very few. The Kenyan audience loved it as they thought the show relatable. It focused on a high school named Tahidi whose characters were full of energy and mischief. Some of the most famous people from the show include Abel Mutua, Sara Hassan, Jackie Matubia, Philip Karanja and Joseph Kinuthia.
Produced by the late legendary Charles Bukeko, who was known as Papa Shirandula to many Kenyans, the program was a massive hit. Most Kenyans would tune in to Citizen TV on Thursday to see what Papa was up to in the episodes. He worked as a watchman who had three wives but hid the fact that he was a watchman from his third wife. Instead, he lied about being a very senior employer in the company.
Inspector Mwala aired on Citizen TV and focused on the events happening in the fictional Kona Mbaya Police station. Mwala, a popular radio Citizen presenter was among the main cast. The show took fans through the lives of police officers in Kona Mbaya and how theh dealt with criminals and participated in crime.
It was centered around the wit of popular comedian James Chanji Wamukoya the rib-cracker, who has starred in a number of comedies, executed his role so effectively alongside his fellow cast. He played the role of a primitive man from the rural area whose actions on the show left the audience in stitches.
Shika Pata Potea
This was a fun yet educational program that aired on Kenyan screens more than a decade ago. With the increasing numbers of robberies in the country, the program sought to educate the masses on how clever robbers have become. They do not need to use force to steal from their victims but have devised clever machinations to steal from unsuspecting individuals.
This was an intriguing soap opera that starred some very popular actors and actresses in Kenya. Brenda Wairimu was among the cast members as she played the role of a rich girl struggling with drug addiction among other things. The series focused on how greed and secrets can divide a family.
Wingu La Moto
Translated to Cloud of Fire in English, the soap opera premiered on NTV in 2003 and ended in 2006. It depicted greed, deceit and forbidden relationships. Some of its famous cast include Esther Kahuha, Wanja Mworia, Ken Ambani, Benta Ochieng and Nini Wacera.
Sumu La Penzi
The Swahili melodrama series premiered on Africa Magic Swahili in 2013. It takes viewers through the lives of three urban women, their mishaps and adventures as they prey on high flying men in society to find their rich lifestyle. They use their charm and elegance to lure rich married men so as to find their lifestyle. Among the popular female actors are Joyce Maina, Sera Ndanu, Naomi Ng’ang’a and Judith Nyambura.
Maria was a major hit among the Kenyan audience and featured some actors who were completely new to the industry. It focusses on the life of the main character Maria who at the beginning was an impoverished orphan with no idea of how to behave like a proper lady. It also showed the life of a rich affluent family who were living with a number of secrets. The series was unpredictable and full of a number if things which surprised the audience and kept them glued to the screens.
The drama aired on KTN and shows the lives of two women who did not know they were co-wives until their husband died. He leaves both of them one house to share together with their children, something that would lead to endless drama.
The Kenyan soap opera, set on the fictional Makutano village, focusses on a number of themes that were so relatable including HIV/AIDS, human rights, Female Genital Mutilation, early marriage and corruption among others. It aired on Citizen TV and was a massive hit.
Pray and Prey
The show that aired on NTV spans through the clergy society, their deep secrets, family issues, blasphemies and deceit behind their ministries. Pascal Tokodi is among the main cast members.
Real Househelps of Kawangware
This show took as through the lives of house helps working for the middle class societies, their relationships and challenges they encounter. Written by Abel Mutua and directed by Philip Karanja (at the beginning), the show was mind-blowing. It helped steer some of the best modern day online comedians to the limelight including Njugush and DJ Shiti who blew up after the show.
This used to air on Citizen TV and was an educational program. The people working on the show traveled across the country to educate farmers on a number if ways that will help them improve their productivity.
This is a comedy series that aired on KBC. The setting was in a college classroom where students would play truant with a no-nonsense teacher.
It aired on KTN every Sunday was a one of a kind series filmed with both love and drama. Junior was at the center of the program when it was still new and his family loved and cared for him.
My Two Wives
A drama that aired on KTN and told the story of a man married to two wives. The wives always want to outshine each other and are always dishing out salty comments between themselves.
First aired on November 2009, the film became a major hit and was aired in 40 different African countries and over 70 television stations internationalism. It showed the lives of young adults who loved to take risks and have fun. Lupita Nyong’o was among the cast members.
Selina is an intriguing soap opera starting Pascal Tokodi and Celestine Gachuhi. It is about love, marriage, family, machinations, friendship among other things. It is also one of the most watched TV shows in Kenya. Selina is an intelligent young woman whose dreams to join university are put on hold when her step mother hatches a plan to make her work as a maid for the Mackenzie family.
Tusker Project Fame
This was a music reality television show aired on Citizen TV. It sought to find some of the best musicians across East Africa. The winner of each season got to walk away with five million Kenyan Shillings.
Produced by governor Alfred Mutua, the show was a massive hit. It proved the ingenious creativity of Kenyans and ability to produce a high quality crime drama series. It would show how a group of operatives worked to solve and a number of crimes and criminal gangs. Charles Bukeko was among the featured actors.
Sue na Jonnie
The fun drama focused on the lives of Sue and Jonnie. Jonnie Juma shows up to request for a job in a company and is mistaken for a famous CEO who shares the same name with him. Rather than correct the false assumption, he accepts the position and even brings his girlfriend Sue into the mix, making them live a lie with the fear of being discovered always looking. Meanwhile, the CEO is in a comma in the hospital.
This takes us through the life of Monica (Brenda Wairimu), who acts as an ambitious social climber from the Ghetto who will do anything to reach the top.
Njoro wa Uba
The show is about Njoro, a banker who lost his job in a scandal. In order to take care of his daughter and his legal fees, he becomes a taxi driver. The job is tough and he experiences quite some difficult moments expressed in a hilarious manner.
This is a political drama set in a fictional state House in East Africa. It focuses on the lives, romances and scandals that face people who work, live and base their lives around the president.
Set in the fictional Kilimanjaro University, the drama takes us from the classroom to the living quarters and lives of the students. Most events take place in the New Edge hostels where we see the lives of students and some of the silly things they engage in.
This is a fun comic drama that starred Eve D’ Souza and Maqbul Mohamed. They are a couple from completely different backgrounds.
Janjaruka was a show meant to educate the masses on how to live in Nairobi which is full of cons. As part of the series promotion strategy, they aired a number of real life stories of celebrities being conned.
The drama aired on Maisha Magic East and written by veteran script writer Abel Mutua. It focuses on the lives of residents in Hullabaloo. The main actor was a rich respected man in the area who feared his abusive wife back at home.
Tabasamu was one of the best soap operas in Kenya at the time that focused on the lives of modern day career women. It dealt with a number of issues from alcoholism, love, family to greed. One of its most famous star was Nick Mutuma.
The first ever medical drama series in Kenya centered on the intrigues and perils of life experienced by patients and the medical team at the fictional St. Theresa’s General Hospital.
The telenovela premiered on African Magic Channel and starred some veteran Kenyan actors including Brenda Wairimu, Nana Wacera and Abubakar Mwenda. It follows the not so perfect lives of the Oyange family who lose the patron of the family, their father, in a grizzly road accident and each inherit something upon his death.
This used to air on Citizen TV. It focused on fictional court proceedings. It featured some famous Kenyan personalities including size 8. Although fictional, the drama educated the audience about crimes that may not be deemed as such and educated viewers about court proceedings.
Jela five star
This Kenyan comedy drama is not your typical prison drama. The lead actor Madam Melba, is a courageous woman running an all male correctional center facility. While this may be a very daunting role for most women, Melba is not one to shy away from challenges.
Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, only one comedy show dominated the local screens: Redykulass show. It comprised of Walter Mongare, Tony Njuguna and John Kiarie. Nyambane (Walter Mongare) played the role of imitating the late retired president Daniel Arap Moi, Tony Njuguna was his bodyguard while John Kiarie played the role of late politician JJ Kamotho.
Churchill Show was the most watched comedy show in Kenya after the defunct Redykulass. It was started by Daniel Ndambuki and has been responsible for the launch of the careers of a number of comedians including Prof Hamo, Sleepy David, Nasra, Jemutai, Mamito and David the student. Before people discovered online comedy, this was a platform that hundreds of comedians wanted to be part of.
The show was given the Swahili name of a chameleon which changes its color in relation to its surrounds. It revolved around the daily life challenge and how a Kenyan chief, Mzee Zero had to adapt to the rapidly changing face of Kenya. It aired once weekly and had a simple storyline.
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