Is it the return of the prodigal season for web shows?

Mar 24, 2023 08:37 PM IST

Not all web shows work, and not many of them make the cut for a third season. But for those that do — what is it that make them worth the investment?

As the Indian OTT scene expands, web shows increasingly start off with the promise of a multi-season framework. With plotlines, motivations and characters established, showrunners find it easy to just run with it.

Is it the return of the prodigal season for web shows?
Is it the return of the prodigal season for web shows?

It is increasingly accepted that it’s usually the third season that is a benchmark of success for a project. The consistently loyal audience and good business for shows such as Little Things, Gullak, Four More Shots Please, Inside Edge and Tripling contributed to them being renewed for a third season. With the all-important S3 for Delhi Crime, Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, Panchayat, Kota Factory, Mismatched and She being announced, one wonders how organic or forced the process is.

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The right kind of motivation

The number of seasons depends purely on the content, feels filmmaker Rohan Sippy. He explains: “OTT is character-driven. With S3 of a show, you know there is an audience for it while in season one, you are competing for their attention. [Globally], the idea is that once you’ve invested in S1 of a show and you have an audience, it makes sense for the platform and the producers to extend that.”

Gullak actor Jameel Khan finds it a “refreshing” concept. “If there is a story to be told, and audiences are attuned to the characters — it’s a win-win for everyone,” he says, before cautioning: “But only if there is enough potential in the story, it should continue. It shouldn’t be forced just because it’s doing well.”

On the contrary, according to Inside Edge and Mirzapur creator Karan Anshuman, there is always “some sense of a story” for multiple seasons. “Sometimes, the latter seasons are better as showrunners get more clarity on characters. The more familiar viewers get with characters, the more invested they become,” he explains, adding that subsequent seasons also add to the existing viewership of a show.

A huge commitment

Panchayat writer Chandan Kumar explains that multi-season shows need patience. “Giving time to one show for years is quite demanding. There are so many shows releasing every month and not every one is a hit,” Kumar shares, adding: “Going forward, I feel, there will be fewer shows with multiple seasons. It will boil down to story potential — like with Panchayat, S1 was about adjustment, S2 was about village politics and S3 takes the story forward.”

Sippy raises a pertinent point. “In the West, a new season is out within a year, but in India, it takes longer. If a season drops after two years, the audience’s taste might have changed. We must be able to commission and get successive seasons on air as soon as possible.”

Overstaying welcome

Every showrunner knows when is a good time to end the show. “You don’t want to fade out. You want to end with a bang”, says Anshuman. According to Kumar, if S1 or S2 creates an impression with the audience, the rest of the seasons sail smoothly as the “viewers are invested”. He adds, “Like there is a craze for Mirzapur and audiences have been asking the makers and actors about the next season. Even Delhi Crime is a loved show.”

Sippy says: “At times, people probably don’t remember the whole show, as generously, in the end. Like GOT, which is one of the greatest shows ever, but because of the last season, I don’t think it is remembered as that. Like they say, in show business — get out on the while you’re on top.”

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    Mumbai-based Kavita Awaasthi writes on Television, for the daily Entertainment and Lifestyle supplement, HT Cafe

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