I wrote a TV review column called ‘Small Screen’ for almost ten years. I watched Hindi entertainment channels every day of the week. Most shows were a shaadi-parivar-saas-bahu circus except that they weren’t half as much fun as an actual circus.
In this sari-mangalsutra world, mothers-in-law plotted with unflagging enthusiasm to ruin the lives of their daughters-in-law while the men stood around limply. The Hindi serial gravy train ran on the fuel of tears and suffering. It got to the point when I could not watch any more. I needed to detox—for a long long time.
I switched to international shows.
I was not the only one. Many other viewers like me, craving for engaging, interesting shows, abandoned Hindi TV and moved en masse to angrezi TV.
Can you blame us? American TV (which was also a wasteland for many years) is currently going through its golden period with some of the most riveting shows ever made in the history of television.
How can one not get seduced? The only difficulty is that there are far too many shows and not enough time to see them all. (I’ve contemplated sitting every waking hour -- after office hours, I hasten to add -- watching TV, and while the prospect is most enticing, it would take me decades to catch up on just *some* of the shows).
This morning I counted: there are now more than ten English entertainment channels, all fighting for eyeballs, all scrambling to telecast the latest shows as well as reruns of old favourites. The latest is Colors Infinity and it has cottoned on to a smart trend – something other channels like Star World and AXN have also been doing for a while. That is, tapping into the binge watcher in all of us by showing back-to-back episodes.
So let’s start this week with one of my favourite shows, currently showing on Comedy Central: Suits, a legal drama set in New York. It premiered in America in 2011 and is currently in its fifth season.
If your thing is smart, stylish TV with an array of extraordinarily well-dressed, good-looking actors, Suits is for you. If you have a weakness for sparkling dialogue, you won’t find a better show. The best one-liners come from Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), a tough, ruthless lawyer used to winning. Here’s a sample:
"When you’re backed against the wall, break the goddamn thing down!"
"I don’t have dreams, I have goals"
"I’m against emotions, not against using them"
The lines sound even better when they come from the cool, always in-control Harvey in his sharp Tom Ford suits. In the latest season though, the invincible Harvey is showing a vulnerable side you always suspected lurked below the cold, emotionless surface.
It’s forcing him to face his inner demons – to the extent that he has to blunder his way to the office washroom and hunch over the sink, fighting down waves of panic. (Why is the washroom the first place all of us stumble into when hit by something we can’t control? Hmmmm).
Harvey’s loyal acolyte Mike Ross (Patrick J Adams) who entered the firm on false pretences (though our six crucial Suits characters know about the lie) is a brilliant lawyer with a photographic memory.
His relationship with his mentor (Harvey) is based on gratitude and attachment but like any deep relationship, it comes with occasional rumblings of resentment and hurt. Harvey and Mike’s specialty is their quick, witty banter, often around popular culture (and it’s all right if you don’t always get the references; I don’t either).
The third important male character of the show is the chubby Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), Harvey’s rival, who vacillates between being petty/nasty and funny/cute. I’ve gone from wanting to give Louis -- in the time-honoured Indian tradition -- one tight slap to indulgently regarding him as if he were a particularly cuddly species of teddy bear.
And how, the three women characters (and their clothes!)
To start with, there’s the regal, statuesque, shrewd managing partner of the law firm, Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), in her sleek Givenchy dresses and Jimmy Choo heels. She’s the big boss and handles threats to her position in the firm plus legal nightmares with equal elan and an enviable, unflappable calm.
Keeping the headstrong Harvey and the equally headstrong Mike in check is not an easy task, but boy, does Jessica do it smoothly! Absolutely the poster girl for woman power.
Then there’s the perky and alarmingly efficient Donna (Sarah Rafferty) who’s been Harvey’s secretary for 12 years. She’s a fearless redhead who’s got a pretty neat wardrobe of her own – slim tailored dresses, trench coats, stilettos. Her relationship with Harvey is very much boss-secretary but also not.
There is an old history of a romantic nature between the two that had been determinedly swept under the carpet. But nothing ever stays beneath a carpet as we know, except for whorls of dust. Subterranean emotions crash to the surface, leaving – at the moment – a messy trail of heartbreak and hurt.
But we’re all rooting for Harvey and Donna to – eventually – come together.
And the last character to round off the Super Six of Suits is Rachel (Meghan Markle), who starts off as a paralegal and then joins law school to become a proper bonafide lawyer.
Mike and Rachel fall in love and the ride is a bit of a roller coaster with so many ups and downs that at one point, fed up, I felt like smacking them and telling them to just behave themselves and get on with it. (Oh and did I mention that Rachel is always elegantly dressed in pencil skirts, classic blouses and the mandatory high heels?)
If nothing else, watch Suits for the clothes! (Or the fun dialogues. Or the fast, crackling plotlines. Or…)
Fargo, showing on Colors Infinity
One other legal drama you should watch:
The Practice: The show ran from 1997 to 2004 and has been shown on TV in India. An intense legal drama set in Boston, the cast was led by the blue-eyed DylanMcDermott who played attorney Bobby Donnell (you may remember him from the film, Mistress of Spices where he acted with Aishwarya Rai). The tussle between legal ethics and business was one of the key threads in the show. I watched it some years ago and liked it very much. It’s something I could watch again.