I should have known better. Life has repeatedly taught us to never trust the rich, but here I was falling for a rich white woman. She was tall, svelte, blond and wore a wonderful white two-piece suit, and she was picking a red rose from her vast garden. Behind her: a pristine swimming pool and a beautiful mansion with a stark white exterior. The entire opening scene of M-Net’s new telenovela Legacy grabs your attention and, quite frankly, never ceases.
For a brief moment, it is reminiscent of the opening scene of the Desperate Housewives pilot, where we are introduced to Mary Alice Young who goes about, “quietly polishing the routine of my life till it gleamed with perfection”, before she suddenly points a revolver to her head and kills herself.
Similarly, if that opening with Felicity Price (played by the wonderful Mary-Anne Barlow) points to “purity”, all of that is dashed five minutes and 17 seconds into the pilot of Legacy. We quickly learn that there is tension between Felicity and her stepmother, Dineo Price (played by Kgomotso Christopher), the wife of veteran investment banking mogul, Sebastian Price. The distrust stems from the ambition of both women to succeed him as head of Legacy, as he nears retirement.
His indecision is clear to see, as the day of the announcement of his successor rapidly approaches.
As a viewer, you soon guesstimate that the show is about a family at war with itself, with members falling on different sides. On one side is the heiress presumptive, Felicity, and on the other is the apparent successor, Dineo. As his son, Sebastian Price Jnr (played by Anton David Jeftha), points out, Felicity is the only “person who can take over” as “she knows the business inside and out. She’s a fighter. She’s a stickler for the details. She’s been preparing her whole life for this job”. Yet, Dineo comes with something more valuable than business acumen – her suitable skin colour, which matters greatly for Legacy’s future prospects.
Yet, when we meet the Potgieter family, led by Willem Potgieter (played by Dawid Minnaar), we begin to realise this is a story about the legacy of South Africa and the glaring inequalities between its people. Willem is a retrenched technician whose late wife was a nurse and died when they could not afford her hospital fees when she fell ill. He is a disillusioned Afrikaans patriarch.
When his daughter, Petra, returns from an unsuccessful job interview at Legacy, he sighs and says: “South Africa is the only country where affirmative action favours the majority. It wasn’t right when the nationalist government did it, it’s not right now.” He then advises her to look into moving to Europe for better opportunities.
Thus, the real story begins: power grabs, corruption, concealments, accusations, trade-offs – all for the privileges of, well, being privileged (whatever that looks like, these days). It’s a story of a society battling to come right after the horrors of the past. The rich desperately cling onto power at all costs, while the poor find their aspirations and efforts undermined. More than 20 episodes in, and this brilliant production has been as frustrating as the country it is set in.
- Watch Legacy from Monday to Thursday at 7pm on M-Net (DStv 101)