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Teenage drama adds maturity to Thai television

A high-quality series on the satellite platform demonstrates that local audiences might be ready for something different

School bullying, student brawls and adolescent sex are frequently in the news in Thailand. Yet such topics remain almost taboo on Thai television. Maybe these issues are just too tough to dramatise while heeding the censor's limitations. Perhaps it's the possibility that they will flop commercially, but this hardly seems feasible. Whatever the reason, the scarcity of such subject matter doesn't mean there is no room for it, or for it to be critically successful.

The truth is that a good programme will find its viewers and vice versa. This has happened with "Hormones: The Series" on the GMM One Channel. The drama revolves around the lives of nine high-school students. It is unprecedented that a show on satellite TV cuts into the dominance of the soaps on the free channels. Last week it set a new record, coming in third in the ratings for its airtime, behind heavyweight Channels 3 and 7.

Perhaps the series is blessed by its own "limitations". Director Songyos Sugmakanan had to produce a type of show that can't be found on free TV. His choice was a milder version of his favourite British series, "The Skins". With good-looking cast members, fine cinematography and a solid script, the series has struck a chord with viewers.

"Hormones" was a hit soon after its debut two months ago. Viewers, it seems, want something different, and the series meets that demand by touching on teen problems as close to reality as is possible on TV.

Foregoing any preaching, "Hormones" has become a favourite among teens, and strangely enough has been well received by parents too, many of whom encounter eye-opening revelations. It explains why GMM One has recorded spiralling viewership in the 10-19 and 40-49 age brackets, with the latter group increasing at more than double the rate of the younger group.

The limitation of its satellite broadcast platform is not really a disadvantage. The series can also be viewed on YouTube, where its audience has steadily risen to more than 200,000. And yesterday GTH added another channel to its iOS application.

"Hormones" opens the question of whether there is any "limitation" to TV dramas in Thailand. Songyos' TV debut might have increased hope that satellite TV shows can be a more mainstream success if they meet people's expectations. The show started humbly, with only one sponsor, but there were eight for the latest episode. Media buyers have turned their attention to the series because it's the talk of the town. The series is mentioned all over the social media too. Its hashtag #HormoneTheSeries dominates the Twitter airwaves every Saturday during its broadcast. In fact, it has eclipsed many shows on terrestrial TV.

If "Hormones" can achieve this level of success on satellite, so can other TV productions on non-terrestrial platforms. The success of this "unconventional content" signals that viewers are hungry for creative ideas, something other than actresses staging catfights in predictable soap operas.

Maybe the wind of change has started to blow, bringing quality programming that finally reaches and attracts audiences. Producers should take note: controversial, thought-provoking content might be what people are looking for. They will no longer be mere couch potatoes waiting to be fed clichés because they have great alternatives on other platforms, waiting at their fingertips.


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