As we start a new year, it’s customary to make some new year-type noises. But before that, a bit of a preamble. As the cliché goes, all of us want to see engaging, enjoyable entertainment on TV. But if you listen to television channel executives, what we apparently really want to see is drama, and the more outrageous and unpleasant it is, the better. By that logic, the TV set is not something you slump in front of at night, looking forward to watching undemanding, relaxing shows, and feeling the day’s tension drain away slowly. Instead, it’s something you watch compulsively; it makes you even more tense and agitated and leaves you eager to discuss what you saw on TV with equally outraged friends/colleagues the next day.
So, since compulsive viewing is apparently what all of us crave, TV channels are going to make sure we get it, loads of it, in the new year. In essence, this means:
Reality shows: More beeps than dialogues. More crying than laughing (specially because the crying happens when participants are both sad and happy and even when they’re neither). More fights than camaraderie. More of the same people: mostly reality TV regulars who flit from one reality show to another. Think Rakhi Sawant and people like Kashmira Shah, Krushna, Raja Chowdhury and Sambhavana Seth (people you may only be dimly aware of if the only channels you ever watch are Discovery and Animal Planet — and it’s astonishing how many people claim to do this). It’s also equally astonishing that there are so many people — the aforesaid Rakhi Sawant and co. — who are happy to have the words ‘reality show participant’ against ‘occupation’ on their bio datas (beats ‘engineer’ or ‘doctor’ any day, doesn’t it?). More controversies than even the tabloids can keep track of. More Information and Broadcasting Ministry directives sternly admonishing channels to remove ‘objectionable’ content. More objections by all manner of people all over the country, each one noisily claiming that they (or, more accurately, their sentiments) were offended/hurt by some TV show or the other. More court cases. More articles in the media (including this one) lamenting and moaning about the stuff that’s passing off for entertainment these days. More TRPs. Amen.
Soaps and serials: More women-centric shows. More weddings. More festivals. More seedha-palla saris. More 25 kg lehngas. More ‘social’ issue-based serials (think caste wars, superstition, illiteracy, dowry, the plight of widows, child marriage, rural poverty, indebtedness etc). More rural settings. More evil Thakurs. More regional flavour. More colloquial phrases and local accents (if character is from Uttar Pradesh, he/she will also say “kaahe” instead of “kyon,” if from Punjab, he/she will litter all conversations with more “puttars” than there are probably tractors in that state, if Bengali, everyone will chant “bhaalo” non-stop etc etc). More relatives than you’ve ever heard of (think beyond devranis and jethanis now). More vamps and villains. More plots and schemes (no, I’m not referring to real estate here). More generation leaps (at the rate they’re going, they’ll soon reach the space age; after which — with apologies to Wall-E — space will be their ‘final fun-tier!’). More TRPs. Sigh.
But still, to go back to where we started, wouldn’t it be a great new year gift if we got some TV programming that was enjoyable and entertaining and not controversial, unpleasant, shocking? (And also, very often, boring?) As I always say, one can always hope.