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One-hour special episodes rule TV

It’s a fad with Hindi general entertainment channels to run a special 60-minute episode of a 30-minute daily that they feel can get plenty of eyeballs. But do these episodes deliver what they promise?

tv Updated: Jan 19, 2010 16:19 IST
Rachana Dubey

BidaaiWill Anandi get to study again?

Will Manav convey the truth to Archana?

Will Ammaji get killed this time?

Will Antara get a school admission?

Can Suman save her husband’s life?

These questions might sound familiar because they continuously run on the TV screen while you watch your most-adored daily soap, week after week. Every week, at least two shows have a one-hour special episode dedicated to themselves on Saturday evening. The reason: a supposed high point in the on-going track is close.

It’s a fad with Hindi general entertainment channels to run a special 60-minute episode of a 30-minute daily that they feel can get plenty of eyeballs. With competition heating up, channels have discovered this as a means to break viewing patterns and lure viewers to their shows. Earlier, one-hour specials were restricted to a serious high-point or the achievement of a milestone like completing 500 episodes.

Though most channels had been doing the one-hour and sometimes, even two-hour specials, it became a regular feature after Colors did a 60-minute run of Uttaran on October 24.

The episode’s theme was whether Veer discovers that he’s married to Tapasya and not his love, Iccha and whether he finds out how it all happened. The episode’s ratings ran into 8.5 approximately, making it the highest ever seen by the show.

What eventually happened in the episode was that Veer just lifted his bride’s veil and confronted her about what had happened at the wedding. Most viewers had expected a lot more drama, which unfolded only in the following episodes.

Subsequently, every channel had a 60-minute run of their popular shows, as and when they had a ‘high point.’ Weekend movies and reality shows took a backseat.

According to Saurabh Tiwari of Colors, it was a strategic decision that worked. “Every show has high points. It’s cool to highlight them in a big way.”

Only when it helps
Shailaja Kejriwal of NDTV Imagine feels that the special episodes are special-stop gap arrangements in the absence of decent films or non-fiction shows. “The episodes come in handy. My channel hasn’t done it every Saturday. We have done a special episode only when it logically made sense,” she adds.

Zee TV, on the other hand, has been as regular with its one-hour specials as Colors. According Sukesh Motwani of Zee TV, it was a luck-by-chance experience for them that triggered off the one-hour series. “We had a special two-hour episode of Chhoti Bahu in which Dev would discover who Radhika really was. It generated a rating of 5 plus which was encouraging. Subsequently, we’ve had more such episodes of Chhoti Bahu and likewise the other shows,” adds Motwani.

Other channels like Star Plus have also done one-hour specials since 2008. One of their earlier draws was the special episodes of Bidaai in October and then November, both of which had generated rating beyond 6 points each. One featured Hema Malini and the other was about a lead pair meeting for the first time.

However, special episodes have been taking the audience for a ride too. For instance, the one-hour special on Pavitra Rishta on Zee TV, in which Manav was expected to confront Archana and tell her who was behind all the wrong-doings, didn’t deliver. It showed that the two were about to meet. The rest happened in the following episode on Monday.

Another special episode that didn’t live up to the hype was Laado on Colors in which the DM calls for a panchayat against Ammaji. One thought it might have a big twist, which it didn’t.

When asked Tiwari and Motwani of Colors and Zee respectively, Tiwari puts it as a way to draw the audience to the next episode. “We end our special episodes at a point where the audience is left asking for more. So they tune in to the next episode automatically and the show gets impressive ratings,” explains Tiwari.

Don’t give away too much
Motwani says that his channel has never promised and not delivered. He instead believes that the high point may not have been worth the one-hour special space.

“Sometimes, the twists are not worth putting into one-hour specials. That’s when they dampen the spirit of the viewer. Otherwise, it’s through these one-hour specials that an audience samples the show and watches it henceforth regularly. The recent Jhansi Ki Rani episode delivered what it had promised,” he defends.

A screenplay and scriptwriter who works on daily soaps, hiding his identity, says that most of these one hour specials involve work which equals the work required on seven 30 minute episodes.

“Despite this, we’re told that we don’t have to give away too much of the story in the special. So, it’s taxing on the actors, the producer and even the writers. It’s difficult sometimes to keep the story held back,” he informs.

Nothing seems to deter the producers or the channels from going ahead with more one-hour specials. So, expect specials on Yeh Pyaar Na Hoga Kam, Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli, Laado, Lagi Tujhse Lagan, Jhansi Ki Rani and others in the next few weeks, but maybe you shouldn’t expect too much from them, right?