It's an annual MENA tradition I look forward to — analysis of the major Ramadan soap operas, TV serial, and overall programming choices on Arab national and satellite television. Here's a few links:
The to Yves Gonzalez-Quinjano's wonderful site, Cultures et Politiques Arabes, is a full archive of his pieces on Ramadan serials over the last six or seven years — great stuff. I really like his recent piece on the serial about Omar Ibn Khattab's life in the context of the regional Sunni-Shia pseudo-confrontation. In English on the site, stats about this megaproduction:
The Largest Arabic Drama Production in History : 1970 swords, 650 spears, 1500 horses, 3800 camels, 4000 arrows, 400 bows, 170 sheilds, 15 drums, 14200 meters of fabric, 137 statues, 39 costume designers & tailors, 1600 pieces of potery, 10000 silver coins, 7550 slippers, 322 actors and actresses, 10,000 extras in the ba.lefield, 299 technicians from 10 countries
The Old City of Makkah and its areas were reconstructed across 12,000 sq meters, 29 in-studio sets, 89 outdoor shooting locations
322 days of filming & post-production
= 463.680 minutes
= 72.820.800 seconds (source : http://butheina.wordpress.com)
As Yves notes, it's a fascinating evolution of the Wahhabi-led fight for the domination of mass cultural production that their propaganda (as this clearly is) now eschews the traditional fundamentalist distaste for physical representations of companions of the Prophet and of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs.
And like a lot of major political developments in the region lately (support for the Libyan and Syrian uprisings, the covert war against Iran, the tacit alliance with Israel, support for Salafists across the region, etc.) this too is a Qatari-Saudi production.