Abnormal Summit, a South Korean TV program, is now being aired on Turkish airwaves with the name "Elin Oğlu." Airing on Saturday nights on ATV and hosted by Ömür Varol and Sinan Çalışkanoğlu, "Elin Oğlu" is unlike anything else currently on TV. Its interesting concept has been attracting fans from all around the world on social media and making them burst into laughter during the program. Having a more humorous atmosphere with an additional live audience and a band, "Elin Oğlu" differs in some ways from the Korean version. Featuring a panel-like atmosphere with eight different men from eight different countries sitting around a table and discussing gender relations and other entertaining topics, the cultural differences between them are apparent. These expats have come to Turkey and haven't been able to leave. Some of them have even fell in love and started families here. Coming from countries like the U.S., Italy, Japan, Slovenia, Russia and Spain, you will find it hilarious to see how these men speak Turkish. Watch "Elin Oğlu" on Saturday nights on ATV at 11:45 p.m.
Daily Sabah had the chance to speak to the producer of the program, Furkan Yeşilnur, and asked him more about "Elin Oğlu" and how it came to be.
Daily Sabah: With its format originating from the South Korean TV program "Abnormal Summit," what are some differences that "Elin Oğlu" has to offer? And how does it appeal to the Turkish public?
Furkan Yeşilnur: With the South Korean "Abnormal Summit" program, there are about 10 participants, each representing different countries, who sit around a table as if they were the United Nations. However, there isn't a talk show format like this in Turkey. As a big channel, we wanted to appeal to the Turkish public in a different way, so we added a live audience to the program as this is something that Turkish audiences are used to. In addition to the live audience, we also added a live band whose musicians are mostly African. The way they perform also adds an interesting atmosphere to the program. In the Korean version of the program, there is a guest and a chosen topic, and the foreign participants argue whether the topic is normal or abnormal. We wanted to be more personal and characterize our participants with not only the country they come from but also their personality as well.
DS: How can viewers become one of the live audience members on the program?
FY: We have application forms on our Facebook page that requires basic profile information. After filling out one of these forms, our crew here will arrange for their visit.
DS: On the program, there are participants from countries like the U.S., Slovenia, Russia, Italy, Japan and Spain who have come to Turkey and haven't been able to leave. How did were the eight participants chosen?
We interviewed about 400-500 people to find the participants we thought were right for the program. We had some criteria in mind while we were doing the interviews. Firstly, we wanted the participants to be under a certain age, but most importantly, we wanted to choose people who the audience would want to be friends with. If we felt a certain energy and positive attitude from the participant during the audition, we were sold. I would also like to say that the most powerful part of the Turkish format of this program is that we were able to bring together eight totally different people and help them form a friendship together. We were successful in doing this, and I believe it's the most important part to a successful program.
DS: Most of the time, the audience is bursting into laughter from the funny conversations. In general, do you only discuss gender relations or are there specific topics you choose to discuss?
We chose to discuss gender relations in the program's first couple of episodes. In general, gender relations is a topic that is constantly talked about on talk shows, soap operas and in TV series, so it is a topic hard to avoid. We don't specifically focus on gender relations but rather it comes up on its own. Other topics discussed include cultural differences between the participants and the stories that come along with their experiences. We generally choose a topic and have each participant discuss how that topic is viewed in his country and what his own thoughts area about it. This way, seeing the cultural differences is easy and entertaining as well.
DS: Being aired on Saturday nights on ATV, "Elin Oğlu" isn't like any other program previously aired in Turkey. Is the program getting the attention you expected?
The program is getting serious attention on social media. At one point, "Elin Oğlu" was the sixth-most talked about program on social media. Like you said, it is an extraordinary program and it isn't like anything on Turkish TV at the moment. This is what has excited us from the beginning: Contributing something new and unusual to the channel and TV in general. People had some trouble understanding the format of the program for a couple of weeks. Three weeks into the program, we had tons of questions and requests coming in to the studio that were generally caused by misunderstandings because of its extraordinary qualities. Now, however, people understand the concept and format of the program, are watching it with awareness and are hopefully enjoying it.
Daily Sabah also spoke with four of the show's participants: Antonio Stokes, an American teacher, Danillo Zanna, an Italian chef, Robbie Lee Valentine, a British public relations specialist, and Chaby Han, a South Korean student.
DS: How did you end up living in Istanbul and how long have you been living here?
Danillo Zanna: I came to Istanbul seven years ago for a job. A friend of mine had a restaurant here in Istanbul and they invited me to come and help for a while in the kitchen. During this time, I met my wife, Tuğçe. Because of my job, I was constantly traveling to different countries; after four years of being with my wife, we decided to move to Istanbul. I opened my own restaurant in Mecidiyeköy, and later Derya Baykal came to my restaurant and invited me to her program. From there, my TV career began in a way, and I'm now part of three TV programs.
Robbie Lee Valentine: I went to university in Manchester and dropped out my first year. I started working for an arts and culture festival, and when I found out in 2006 that Istanbul was going the be the 2010 culture capital, we decided to get the director of the festival to come to Istanbul and maybe try and implement a pilot festival of the same arts and culture festival from Manchester. So, I came to Istanbul in 2006 to see galleries and venues for the festival, and eventually decided to stay. Before this, my family and I came to Istanbul when I was a child on holiday, so I've always had a passion for Turkey and its culture. I now have a company called RLV Projects, and we work with international art organizations to create a platform to promote international artwork.
Chaby Han: I came to Turkey for my father's job. I went to high school in Istanbul and now I am a university student here. My parents also live in Istanbul and they speak Turkish as well.
DS: What do you love most about Turkey?
Antonio Stokes: I love the true Turkish culture, I love the food and I love Istanbul as a city itself. One of my most favorite things is watching the evolution the culture is experiencing, from an old society to an integrated new society. I love the chaos and the order of the city at the same time. I love everything about Istanbul. I love the [Princes'] Islands, the Bosporus, the old parts of the city and the modern parts of the city. The only thing I don't like is the traffic.
DZ: We are talking about one of the oldest cultures in the world, so of course it's a spectacular country in general. The people living in Turkey and in Istanbul are truly spectacular because they came through history, just like Italian culture and the Italian people. My favorite part of Turkey is how Turkish people love Turkey. It is a really deep love and I find it beautiful. I think that if every country received the love Turkey gets from its citizens, I'm sure that it would be a better world.
RLV: When I think about the European and Asian side of Istanbul, my favorite part is that these two sides are so perfectly combined. The combination of these two aspects of Anatolian and European culture is the reason why I love living here. Everything is obviously foreign for me because I come from the United Kingdom, and the language, the food and the culture is almost the complete opposite for me. However, I don't find it difficult to live in Istanbul because I can find certain aspects of Europe in Pera and Beyoğlu and when I cross to the Asian side, I can feel the history and civilization that is there and it really inspires me. Another aspect I adore about Turkey is the passion Turkish people have for family. The value that people give to the idea of what family is really moves me and is really important for me.
CH: What I really love about Istanbul is the people. The first day I started school in Istanbul everyone was calling me brother and asking me to join them to play soccer and hang out; they were really warm and welcoming. Also, I believe Istanbul is the most beautiful city in the world.
DS: What do you think about "Elin Oğlu" and the other participants you are on set with?
AS: The first thing that pops into my mind when I think about "Elin Oğlu" is that everyone knows about the 10 guys onscreen, but "Elin Oğlu" is not just those 10 guys. There is [the staff] backstage, the producers and the people that make the show. I love everyone I work with on the show and for the nine others, it's safe to say that I have nine new friends, my brothers actually. I'm so glad to have met all of these amazing people that have taught me so much.
I think "Elin Oğlu" is an incredible project for Turkey. It's new, it's fresh and it's something that Turkey really needed. The idea behind the program is brilliant, and it's a way to connect many cultures around one table and talk from many different points of view. I believe that we actually live the same life but from different perspectives. We are constantly using social media and connecting with the people who watch us. When we look at the shows on Turkish TV at the moment, we can say that there is nothing completely new. This is why "Elin Oğlu" is so original, and I believe we represent all of the amazing stories of foreigners that live in Turkey.
First, I have to say that I'm eternally grateful to have had this opportunity to be a part of "Elin Oğlu." Not only because it's super fun but also because I worked so hard on my Turkish and I feel that this is a kind of result of all of my hard work. At the same time, I gained so many new friends that are so different from each other and have totally different characters. We all have this mutual thing we share by being foreigners living in Turkey together, and sharing this is a huge honor for me. I think that having this program, sharing our lives and also sharing our love for Turkey gives a chance for expats all around the world to get to know what Istanbul is like. I'm just really grateful to be here with all of these amazing people.
"Elin Oğlu" is the Turkish version of the Korean TV show "Abnormal Summit." Even though they are similar, "Elin Oğlu" is definitely more fun because there is a live audience and a band. The people I work with here are amazing, and I love everything about the program and what it represents.