Friday, April 23, 2021

The Power of the Dizi

In early September, I stumbled across the Turkish TV show Erkenci Kuş, and I was immediately enchanted. I watched the entire series - 51 episodes averaging just over two hours each - in just over a month. And while it lost some of its early magic (which I wrote about here) due to writer changes, I still loved every minute I spent watching it. 

Erkenci Kuş led me to search out other dizis - I initially went for others starting Can Yaman, who played the wonderful Can Divit in EK - and then I found Sen Çal Kapimi. SÇK is a currently airing dizi, so I can't binge it like I did EK. It's also become incredibly maddening due to writer changes, but I keep watching for the insane chemistry between leads Kerem Bürsin and Hande Erçel. (Also, I live for the moments when Bürsin - who grew up in the US - speaks English.)

On January 15, I was diagnosed with leukemia (AML), and my world turned upside down. I spent a month in the hospital doing inpatient chemotherapy, I just completed a round of outpatient chemo, and I will hopefully receive a stem cell transplant next month. It's been three months of ups and downs, and I'm still close to the beginning of this journey. I've leaned more heavily on the Lord during this time than ever before (I recently told my mom that cancer will very quickly make you confront your beliefs to see if you truly believe what you say you believe), and it's been amazing to see how friends and acquaintances have stepped up in support. My family has been my rock. And one other thing that's helped get me through is ... the dizi. 

I only have a handful of American scripted shows I watch regularly, and I'm choosing to spend more of my free time (of which there is an abundance lately) watching dizis. Here's what I love about them:

*They're (relatively) clean. Shows get fined for sexual content, and alcohol and blood get blurred out. You generally don't need to worry about sex scenes, and the shows make up for it by casting actors with crazy chemistry.

*The length. Each episode is usually just over two hours - it's like a movie every week! So much happens per episode, and I love it.

*They keep my brain engaged. Because I don't speak Turkish (though I'm learning on Duolingo), I have to read the subtitles. You can't check out of a dizi because then you'll be lost!

The biggest problem with dizis is finding where to watch English subtitled versions. I watched EK on Facebook, but all the videos have since been pulled down. YouTube is a good place to start - just search the title of the show you're looking for + English subs. There are also lots of sketchy websites, too, that have a much bigger library (I haven't tried any of these yet). And Netflix has some, though the Netflix-produced dizis can have a little more questionable content because they're not subject to RTÜK, Turkey's version of the FCC.

Anyway, here are the dizis I've watched so far. See if any pique your interest!

If you like romcoms:

*Erkenci Kuş - Erkenci Kuş was a magical show - it really captured lightning in a bottle! On top of the amazing chemistry between Can Yaman (Can) and Demet Özdemir (Sanem), the comedy, the music, and the amazing supporting cast, there was this joy, this effervescence, this light. It wasn't a perfect show, but it was wonderful, and it's my #1 dizi recommendation. Here's the gist: Threatened with an arranged marriage, Sanem gets a job as the lowliest of low assistants (her main job seems to be making coffee and tea) at an advertising agency, and she also gets invited to the company's 40th anniversary party that night, where she is kissed by a mysterious man. All Sanem knows is that the man had a beard and was wearing shiny black shoes (the kiss was in the dark). Thus begins Sanem's search for the mysterious man (she calls him her albatross, but something was lost in translation, so I don't know why ...). That mysterious man turns out to be Can (pronounced "Jahn"), son of the company owner and Sanem's new boss, but she won't quickly discover the truth. Where to watch: Subbed clips abound, but the full episodes I watched on Facebook have been taken down.

*Her Yerde Sen - The chemistry isn't quite as off the charts as in EK and SÇK, but you do still pull for Selin and Demir. And the kiss in Episode 10 is pretty epic! The setup is super cute (if implausible): Selin and Demir each purchase the same house and then have to learn how to live together while ownership gets sorted out. And then they find out that Demir is the new boss at Selin's workplace (of course ... the boss/worker trope is alive and well in dizis). Overall, it's just really enjoyable. Where to watch: YouTube

If you like romcoms and soap operas:

*Sen Çal KapimiSÇK begins with one of my favorite tropes - the fake relationship. Through a set of crazy circumstances, Eda and Serkan enter into a fake engagement to make his ex jealous. And of course they fall in love. This started out as a romcom (Episodes 1-12 are amazing), and then it veered into soap opera territory. Amnesia? ✔️ Fake marriage turned real? ✔️ Evil ex who gaslights the lead into believing she's pregnant with his child even though he never slept with her? ✔️ Man of SÇK's problems are due to writer changes - the original team left; the second team carried on pretty well; the third team ruined everything. The second team had just come back to fix things when the set was hit with a lot of COVID cases, so the show went on break. Hopefully season two (airing this summer) will mark a return to the wonderful episodes we got in the beginning. Where to watch: Facebook

*Aşk Laftan Anlamanz - Starring Hande Erçel of SÇK and Burak Deniz of Maraşli (see below), this feels a bit like a poor man's EK in the beginning (though ALA actually came out before EK, so maybe EK took ALA's ideas and made them better), but it does come into its own. Hayat is under pressure from her parents to find a job or leave Istanbul for her village. She ends up getting a job at fashion company Sarte through a series of misunderstandings that leave people believing she's someone else. Murat is her boss, and of course they fall for each other. A couple of the supporting characters are actually my favorites - Tuval, the lead designer, who manages to become the confidant of both the heroes and the villians but always uses her knowledge for good; Murat's grandmother, who clearly sees through her daughter-in-law's schemes and wants nothing more than to see her grandsons happily married; Doruk, Murat's brother, who is a bit of a trickster but has a heart of gold. Plenty of soap opera tropes in this one: faked pregnancy, evil stepmother, mistaken identity, someone believed to be dead isn't really. Erçel and Deniz are much better in their current roles, and Murat has major anger issues that made him hard to root for at times, but I did enjoy the show overall. Where to watch: YouTube (it's cut into 5 minute videos, which is annoying); a few episodes are available on Facebook

If you like drama:

*Maraşli - This show is amazing! It definitely stands up to American dramas. Celel (Maraşli) is a former soldier who is hired to protect Mahur after she witnesses a murder. As the show goes on, you learn that practically everyone is not who they seem. The villains are complex, and everyone's motivations are in question. Maraşli is currently airing, and it's my most anticipated watch of the week! (The 14th episode aired this week, so you can catch up fairly quickly.) Where to watch: YouTube

*50M2 - This is on Netflix, and it's just eight episodes of 45 minutes - 1 hour each, so it's a much quicker watch than most. Also, because it's on Netflix, it's much more violent and bloody than the other dizis I've watched. (And the f-word is used in the English subs a lot.) It's the story of a hitman who goes into hiding after discovering some things about his past, and he ends up taking on the identity of a journalist who just inherited a tailor shop. It's pretty uneven with some extraneous characters, but by the end of the final episode, I was so invested that I was yelling at my TV. Here's hoping Netflix makes a second season! Where to watch: Netflix

If you think Can Yaman is pretty (I sure do!):

*Erkenci Kuş - This is peak Yaman. I'm not sure he'll ever be better than he was as Can Divit. You will fall in love.

*Inadina Ask - So, there's like no plot here. It's basically just the love/hate relationship between Defne and Yalin. But it's somehow still enjoyable? Defne's brothers are definitely problematic - they have anger issues and threaten violence toward the women in their lives. (As of the ninth episode, they haven't been physically abusive, but there's definitely some verbal and emotional abuse happening, which I am not cool with.) I abandoned this one but may go back. Where to watch: YouTube

*Bay Yanliş - This one's a quick watch, at least in diziland terms: it was cancelled after 14 episodes. This is the first show I tried after EK, and I was very thrown by just how different Ozgur was from Can Divit. I couldn't help but compare the characters, and Ozgur - a womanizing jerk - came up sorely lacking. I did enjoy it overall, but it's not one I'd want to revisit. Where to watch: Facebook

*Dolunay - This is the dizi I most wanted to watch after finishing EK, but so far it's been a disappointment. It's just...boring. The little boy playing Ferit (Yaman)'s nephew is adorable, though. My favorite dizi kid so far. I do think I'll go back and finish it someday. Where to watch: ??? (I started this on Facebook, but I can't find subbed episodes on Facebook or YouTube now.)

Anyway, thanks for indulging my dizi gushing! Let me know if you have content questions or want more specific info.


  1. I have never watched Turkish tv, but have been very intrigued since your post in September. Marasli sounds good and looks easy to access...might have to try it.
    I'm so sorry about your leukemia diagnosis...I'm a breast cancer survivor myself (diagnosed 7 years ago this summer), and I can SO relate to what you said about leaning on the Lord! I've always been a believer, but way too often I forget to go to the Lord with my troubles and try to solve all of my problems myself. But...with cancer, I had no choice...I had to lean on Him.
    I'll pray that the rest of your treatment goes well!

    1. Maraşli is amazing! I think it gets better every week. Thank you for praying!


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