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Shinmin Bali, Hindustan Times
February 03, 2013
First Published: 12:36 IST(3/2/2013)
Last Updated: 12:41 IST(3/2/2013)

The Indian television audience deserves better than saas-bahu dramas. After all, one can’t resist Torrent sites for ever

TOPIC: Indian TV vs American TV

There are people talking about it in various corners of the Internet. You can’t hear it loud enough. They talk in hushed voices. But the voices are there, nonetheless. You’ve said it or thought about it a few times too. You’ve wondered more than once – what is it that makes American shows interesting, to say the least?

ShinminWe TV watchers are like addicts. We need our timely fix. We will get it from whoever can give it to us. And we’re beginning to find more dealers than ever. And for this relatively small but growing audience, the dealers come from American soil.

You can’t explain everything by the famous saying, ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’. It is just that there are two kinds of grass that have been growing in two different soil types.

The first thing that comes to mind when I try to compare shows from India and the US is the novelty factor. A US show is a foreign show. It has the word ‘imported’ written all over it and we are suckers for anything brought from America. But this can apply to content or products from any other part of the world too.

Another point of distinction between the two categories of shows is the format in which they are made. Where Indian shows are daily affairs, American shows follow the season format. A daily show focuses on the continuation of the storyline. This leaves room for hefty compromises on character development or a clear aim of direction that the story has to be taken in among other things. The general complaint of viewers of this format is that there is always little attention to detail.

TVHowever, a show being made as a season has had the time to focus on every aspect possible. This type of show has to make sure it
successfully delivers the story as planned while maintaining its pace and style. This gives a viewer more chance to understand the characters and the various issues they face instead of rushing a story from point A to B.  One wouldn’t want to disappoint audiences who have been waiting a year for fresh instalments of their favourite show.

The next thing that automatically sets TV shows apart is the content. Both US and Indian shows have content relevant to their respective countries. And considering media in all forms mirrors society to an extent, the case for TV shows is the same. India faces a problem of child marriages? Think Balika Vadhu. Indian woman who aims to become an IPS officer (or just study)? Think Diya Aur Baati Hum. Rising crime in the country? Think Shaitaan. India is a country rooted in its religions? Think Ramayan or Devon ke Dev... Mahadev.

The same applies to US shows. The US has a drug problem? Think Breaking Bad. Have US states legalised gay marriages? Think Modern Family or The New Normal. Is the US obsessed with the paranormal, other-worldly creatures and end-of-the-world scenarios? Think Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries and Revolution. It has a variety of entertainment options? Think America’s Got Talent.

A more tolerant and willing TV platform which allows the generation of original content also sets the two types of shows apart. This gives rise to shows like Once Upon a Time or Homeland.  

If we were to speak in terms of genres, Indian TV prime time is ruled by family dramas. Sure, you can give them the attributes of being representative shows which only mimic social conditions in the country. But how long can you hold that argument when, at the end of the day, as well-meaning as your intentions may be, the soap opera turns into a saas-bahu drama? And I will not, for one second, believe that the Indian TV industry does not have the means or creative talent to produce better quality shows. Insanely repetitive family dramas have been milked for far too long. The TV industry must generate original content. After all, one can’t resist Torrent sites for that long. 

And please don’t dismiss this saying that we’ve fallen for the advances of westernisation. Far from it. We are addicts after all.

Know the Writer
Name: Shinmin, 24
Occupation: Student of Mass Communication
What do you first turn to, in Brunch?: Breakfast of Champions. It sets the tone for what’s inside.
One quirk about you: I hate shopping with a passion. If I could, I’d hire people to shop for me 
If you could trade places with one of our columnists, who would you choose? And what would you call your column? Seema Goswami's Spectator as I really enjoy reading it, and I'd call it Thought Hopper

From HT Brunch, February 3

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