When the TV presenter Fahad al Farsi received his mission - to work as a mechanic for a day and fix a customer's car - he froze in shock because, he said, he had "zero" knowledge of cars.
That fish-out-of-water response is what producers hope will make a hit out of Saba' Sanaye' (Seven Professions), one of many offerings being put forth for this year's typically competitive Ramadan programming. The show, produced by the UAE-based TV channel Al Dafrah, sends Mr al Farsi to a wide range of jobs, ranging from rubbish collection to managing a company. "The idea is to show that any person can do any job no matter what it is, and no one is too good for a certain occupation, because work is nothing to be ashamed of," said the director, Saeed Mubarak.
"It will be a comedy show featuring the challenges that he faces; one day he will be bathing animals, the next day he could be spreading wallpaper." Mr Mubarak said the show also addresses the belief among many Emirati young people that such professions are beneath them. "Most Emiratis have the idea that 'I'm wow'," he said. "We tell them there is no such thing as 'being wow'. Allah alone is the greatest above everything else."
Mr al Farsi joins each company's staff to work for a day. The presenter is informed of the day's job in the car on the way to the workplace, where he must complete three tasks assigned to him by a supervisor. "Once I had to work as a tailor," Mr al Farsi said. "As soon as I arrived, the tailor handed me a pair of scissors and asked me to choose a piece of cloth, cut it and then make it into a kandoura. I just stared at him with a grin on my face, because I had no idea how to do that.
"Then he started screaming at me that I have to be serious to get the job done, and instructed me what to do. "Wherever I worked, I was treated as a regular member of staff. There were times when I couldn't take the orders and the yelling anymore that I would storm out." Other jobs included making bread at a bakery and gardening. "The bread was all burnt, and the kandoura I made at the tailor's turned out to be a dress," he said.
The channel is also running a competition for a script for an Emirati TV series. Al Dafrah has started receiving applications through the website www.aldafrah.tv and will continue to do so until November 30. The winning scriptwriter will receive a cash prize of Dh100,000, and the channel will produce the series, which will run next Ramadan. The scriptwriter can be of any nationality, but the story must be UAE-based.
"Whether it is Ramadan or not, our strategy is to be closest to the Emirati viewer," said Fatma Abdullah, the general manager of Al Dafrah Group. "But we found no Emirati soap operas to be up to our standards this year. That is why we are not showing any of them. "Most of the stories were very repetitive of what we've seen in the past three years." The channel will be showing three Arab-language soap operas: a Khaleeji tragicomedy called Zuwarat Khamees (A Thursday Gathering) which discusses the everyday life of a Khaleeji family, and an Egyptian historical drama about Queen Nazli, the mother of King Farouk, which explores the true character of the queen and her life after she left Egypt in 1946.
An Egyptian comedy, Mama fil esm (Mom in the Police Station), about a retiree who is always starting fights with her neighbours, will also run. The nine Ramadan programmes produced in-house include Shu Tsawwer (What Are You Shooting?), in which the station's photographer, Mohammed al Hammadi, goes around public places taking still shots of people while a hidden video camera follows him. "One man got so mad, he said if he had his other car he would've got out his baseball bat and hit me with it," Mr al Hammadi said.
Ramadan is expected to begin around August 11 and end around September 9. firstname.lastname@example.org