For everyone who’s fed up of the unending, assembly-line soaps and serials on Hindi entertainment channels, here’s some good news — and some bad news.
The good news: the options on the English entertainment channels are growing. With the revamp of BBC Entertainment and the arrival of new channels such as BIG CBS Prime (along with the existing channels such as Star World, Zee Café, AXN etc), there is more choice than ever before for English-speaking viewers (who are also Hindi-speaking viewers, by the way, and would happily watch Hindi shows if they could without passing out. A confession here: I have been postponing watching some of the new reality shows, such as MTV’s new season of Roadies and UTV Bindass’s Love Lock Up and the new Dadagiri. I want to see these shows about as much as I want a weekly migraine attack. Watching the promos of Roadies was bad enough — I thought I was seeing promos for some graphic movie about prison torture instead of an entertaining show about kids on bikes).
The bad news: not all the shows on the English channels are wonderful and fabulous.
First, the watchable stuff. To give just one example, I strongly recommend Galapagos on BBC Entertainment, a brilliant documentary about a remote set of islands in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America (that is, if you haven’t seen the documentary already, since Galapagos was made some years ago). Haunting images of marine iguanas crawling out of the ocean onto the land, of giant tortoises (weighing more than four grown men) lumbering down the bleak lava fields of the islands — it doesn’t get more dramatic or mesmerising than this.
But there’s the other side. For instance, we all love Friends, but how often can we see the show? (According to the English entertainment channels, not often enough. Years may come and years may go, but Friends will continue forever. Generations of Presidents might move out of the White House but Ross and Phoebe and company will still be sitting in the Central Perk drinking coffee).
Then there are shows such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (Star World; we’ve had our desi versions too — the swayamvar shows on Imagine, starring Rakhi Sawant and Rahul Mahajan and now, TV actress Ratan Rajput). Currently, The Bachelorette is on air; and the lady hunting for a suitable boy is someone called Jennifer (who had already participated in The Bachelor, where she had been chosen by the, er, Bachelor, except that the relationship didn’t work out, so now she’s on The Bachelorette, looking for true love once again. Confusing, isn’t it? It’s like reality TV musical chairs). Anyhow, in the episode I saw, Jen goes off, one by one, on one-to-one dates with a few of the hopefuls. In terms of scintillating conversations, these dates could go down in a Conversation Hall of Fame. (“It’s like I feel I really know you”/ “You’re a fidgeter? I’m a fidgeter too” / “When it [a kiss] happens, I know it’s gonna be right and proper” and so on). So whether it’s Rakhi Ka Swayamvar or The Bachelorette, the only difference is that in the latter, they kiss each other on the mouth and in the former, they kiss each other on the forehead. (And no, we never want to see Rakhi or Rahul go any further than that).
Then there’s yet another side — say, a show like India Minute To Win It on AXN. Anchored quite engagingly by Gaurav Kapoor, it’s a light, fun (if slightly mindless) show where participants do all sorts of silly tasks (like balancing apples on top of each other) for which they can win up to several lakhs.
So take your pick.