For someone whose programmes have courted controversy over the years, Ramez Galal is surely relieved his antics have not become regional news again this Ramadan.
Where prior iterations of his prank show have drawn both praise and scorn on social media, 2020's Ramez Majnun Rasmi raised the ire of everyone, from Egyptian media and medical establishments, to the harried celebrities who were subjected to his shock treatment.
The consensus across the board was that Galal went too far.
It turned out that strapping celebrities into a gyrating chair and flailing them around the set, before introducing them to a fake snake and dunking them in a pool of crabs, was not exactly funny.
Instead, it proved to be detrimental to the mental health of many viewers, with one Egyptian hospital even sending a public notice advising the young and vulnerable to avoid the show.
While the surrounding controversy helped to propel the show in terms of ratings, there was concern within the industry that Galal may have started running out of ideas.
After a decade of scaring celebrities witless with sharks, burning buildings and a bear attack, where else could a notorious prankster to go?
As new season Ramez Aqlahu Tar proves, the only way is up — literally and figuratively.
Galal’s latest outing is a welcome return to form, striking the right balance of daring and hilarity.
Here is why it works...
The set up
The biggest problem with the previous season was the static nature of the prank.
Once the guest was strapped in the chair within the first few minutes, all the thrill and anticipation of the episode melted away.
Ramez Aqlahu Tar remedies that by enacting a complex prank, which requires a large cast and technical crew.
Shot in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, an unsuspecting list of mostly Egyptian celebrities are invited to a leisure park under the guise of a promotional appearance.
Galal and his team skilfully begin turning the screws upon their arrival through a series of disconcerting moments.
"Why do I have to wear a life jacket?" one celebrity asks when given one upon arrival.
“It’s part of the branding,” the fake official grins.
A quick game of paint ball is then abandoned after the frustrated celebrity accuses someone of shooting him from the back.
They are, in fact, right.
It's Galal pinging well-aimed shots at their designer jeans from a hidden bunker.
Concerned by the dubious nature of the park, the celebrity is then led to launch the venue’s newest ride, The Hop Drop, an enclosed craft simulating a journey into the space.
Once the door is shut, the celebrity is strapped in with select guests and the ride begins, and things immediately go awry.
Sparks fly, the roof leaks and a floor panel gives away to expose the craft is flailing at 18 metres above a pool.
Concerned the ride would “blow,” the attendees decide to abandon ship.
However, only the terrified celebrity and one fellow passenger make the leap of faith and land in the pool.
It is then, the victim – soaked and thankful for the live vest – discovers the passenger that jumped is Galal in disguise.
The pay off
Let's face it: it's all about that precious reaction when Galal removes his face mask – Mission Impossible style – when they arrive at safety.
Judging by the dozen episodes aired so far, there will be a few great additions to the mix this year.
Star Dina Elsherbiny was at loss for words and shook her head at Galal.
Fellow actress Weezo, on the other hand, launched into a furious diatribe fit for a Ramadan drama.
“You do this to me?” she said among shoves. “Why did you do this? Who do you think you are?”
Egyptian comedian Mohamed Henedy remained the coolest customer, thus far.
After swimming back to shore he calmly asked the park attendants, "OK, what is going on here?"
While the reactions are real, it doesn't have the same level of horror that made moments of last season so disturbing.
That’s because the prank this year is aimed to be a test of character, rather than a nerve-shredding exercise.
Nearly every guest admitted they had never jumped from such a height before.
"Will I be in the Guinness Book of Records?" Weezo asked after cooling down.
“I can’t believe I have done that,” Henedy marvelled.
Of course, not everyone shared the perspective. Galal got an up-close glimpse of Ahmed Saad’s action man status when the actor tackled Galal in fury.
Considering the bruising commentary of last year, Galal's superior new season is worth the hit.
‘Ramez Aqlahu Tar’ airs nightly during Ramadan on MBC 1 at 9.35pm; more information is available at shahid.mbc.net