Eish Tisaway: discussing the oops moment

TV show Eish Tisaway entertains using uncomfortable situations.

Ghassan Al Katheri, host of the OSN show Eish Tisaway. Courtesy Ghassan Al Katheri
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The variety show Eish Tisaway is likely to put audiences in uncomfortable situations. Saeed Saeed speaks to the host Ghassan Al Katheri before Thursday's premiere

The show

You catch a friend eyeing your wife. Your husband finds you rummaging through his wallet. You realise you have forgotten your wallet just as you are about to pay a restaurant bill. These and other socially embarrassing situations are brought to the discussion table in Eish Tisaway (What Are You Doing), a show debuting on OSN Ya Hala HD on Thursday.

The weekly programme, a mixture of talk-show and entertainment, is the brainchild of Emirati actor and radio presenter Ghassan Al Katheri. The Abu Dhabi resident and Eish Tisaway host explains the programme is all about triggering important conversations in households across the region.

"I want to get people talking and seriously discussing these issues as they can happen to any of us at any point," he says. "The show is about asking ourselves how we would react and if that reaction is the right way."

The format

Eish Tisaway is not a talkfest. That was the major goal when filming began earlier this year in Dubai. Al Katheri says the programme is meant to balance discussion with some light-hearted humour. Each show tackles social behaviour and trends with an opening sketch highlighting a particular dilemma. The programme then returns to the studio with Al Katheri and guests ranging from psychologists to academics, discussing the particular social phenomenon. The programme then moves back and forth from the studio to three separate sketches showcasing the range of behaviour and actions one could choose from to resolve the situation. At the end of the programme, Al Katheri reveals the results of an online survey undertaken earlier this year showcasing the regional public's preferred choice of action. "That insight from the audience is very important," says Al Katheri. "The aim of the show is not to judge. Instead, we aim to present the situation and we respect the result of the survey and we hope that forms more conversations back home."

The host

Al Katheri, who has a doctorate in microbiology, featured in a film starring George Clooney. His transition from the lab to the big and small screen began 12 years ago after his winning smile convinced a television producer to offer him a role in a Crest toothpaste commercial. The move led to more roles in commercials before he landed a small part in the 2005 Oscar-winning Syriana featuring Clooney. That achievement aside, Al Katheri says he receives the biggest thrills from discussing important topics with an audience. The approach formed the backbone of topical talks shows he hosted during his two-year stint - ending in 2008 - as a radio presenter with Noor Dubai. "I enjoy this experience very much," he says. "It is a chance to talk about real issues - from health and family to the way we behave. The audience enjoys these discussions as it touches them and it makes you as a host, on television or radio, seem more human."

The reaction

Al Katheri expects some feathers to be ruffled on Eish Tisaway; it's the price of uncorking difficult subjects. "You can't hide things anymore," he says. "Maybe 20 years ago people always discussed positive things but now things have changed. People are smarter and they have many options in the media to discuss topics that could be viewed as negative. Now people won't trust what you say on face value, they will check other things to see if what you say is true. I feel that we are living in a very transparent time right now."

The future

With all episodes already filmed, Al Katheri will spend the season interacting with viewers online and gauging their reaction. If the show is well received there is a big chance it could return as a live programme next season. Despite some heavy themes, he hopes the show will ultimately entertain viewers. " I don't want to judge or just educate," he says. "It is told in a fun and elegant way and I hope they enjoy it."

Eish Tisaway will air on OSN Ya Hala HD on Thursday at 10pm. Repeats are Fridays at 1:30pm and Saturdays at 1pm. For details, go to www.osn.com