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Turkish people love drama, and this particular national obsession is a ubiquitous theme in music, TV, and film, where the exaggerated tales of forlorn love always take center stage. As the world’s second biggest TV series exporter after the U.S., Turkish shows have become a social phenomenon due to their international popularity since the 2000s. Here are eight of the best homespun soap operas.
If there is one actor you definitely need to know about, it’s Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ. It’s no exaggeration to say Turkish women are obsessed with this blond, blue-eyed actor, and Aşk-ı Memnu is the soap opera that flung him into the limelight. The story focuses on the forbidden love between a rich man’s nephew and his very young wife. There’s plenty of drama, mostly within the four walls of a Bosphorus waterfront mansion, along with beautiful outfits, jewelry, parties, and a whole lot of crying.
After playing the cute but often clueless Behlül Haznedar in Aşk-ı Memnu, Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ’s next project gained a lot of admiration because of his transformation into the edgier character of Kuzey Tekinoğlu in Kuzey Güney. The series follows the lives of two brothers (one, a studious nerd; the other, a handsome bad boy) who both fall in love with the same girl – and all the drama that ensues thereafter. You can imagine that Tatlıtuğ’s tough, rebellious character has (of course) a softer side, which makes the ladies go wild.
Set during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, Muhteşem Yüzyıl is one of the most successful Turkish period dramas, with plenty of plot twists, exaggerated emotions, and stunning costumes and sets. The plot focuses on the life of Ottoman Sultan, Süleyman the Magnificent, and his wife Hürrem Sultan.
After her success in Aşk-ı Memnu as the beautiful yet adulterous wife, Beren Saat went on to play the lead role in this wildly popular TV series Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?, which revolves around the rape of Fatmagül (Beren) by a group of young, rich men, and her quest to get justice. The plot also has a huge twist that ends up as a very strange love story, but don’t let us spoil it for you.
Have we mentioned Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ too much? Sorry about that. However, the actor’s newest show, Cesur ve Güzel, also happens to be a must-watch and follows the love story of a rich man’s daughter and a young man whose father he murdered years ago. You can only imagine how complicated the whole thing becomes, given the circumstances.
A little bit more lighthearted than all the tense soap operas, Leyla ile Mecnun is a popular comedy series that focuses on the poetic relationship of Leyla and Mecnun. Funny, surreal, and often absurd, the plot shines a spotlight on a poor boy (Mecnun) and a rich girl (Leyla) who were made for each other. But only if they manage to overcome all the ridiculous difficulties that life sets in their path.
Based on a true story, Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman Ki is set in the 1960s, with detailed costumes and well-designed sets that transport viewers back in time to an Istanbul of another era. The series tracks the story of the Akarsu family as their lives fall apart due to the father’s extramarital affair.
Also known as a Turkish remake of The O.C., Medcezir was a hit with the younger generation, because of its American plot adapted entirely to Turkish TV. The classic “poor (but hot) guy falling in love with a rich (but kind) girl” plot is decorated with cool clothes, beautiful villas, and plenty of fights.