It’s the end of the year, finally. The boys and girls behind our television programmes should take a bow. Big budgets have been spent. Some ideas hit home, others didn’t. But one thing this year’s television programmes drove home was that the idiot box was the retirement plan for most stars. And not just of the cinema variety. Bengal’s cricketing Hamlet, Sourav Ganguly had discovered this years ago, when he hit upon Dadagiri on Zee Bangla. Finally there was no need to spend the yesteryears applying henna to your hair and making love to your favourite liquor bottle – if you sowed your oats early enough, you could do all that AND reap a fine harvest with an alternate career on TV. So from Raveena Tandon to Madhuri Dixit to Salman and Amitabh, everyone was suddenly on the idiot box.
These are some of the stellar and not-so-stellar acts on the telly which stood out for me this year.
The Turbanator on Dance Bangla Dance Junior 2012
Now this was perfect casting as a judge. Mithunda as head judge of Dance Bangla Dance Junior. You would have had the privilege of seeing this monstrosity of a show if you were Bengali, knew someone who was Bengali or had managed to surf channels and land on Zee Bangla at the right time by some horrible twist of fate. I sadly made all three mistakes. Dance Bangla Dance Junior has everything that should not be part of a children’s show. The episode I saw had me transfixed in horror. There were little tykes who were dressed up as mini go-go dancers, who proceeded to gyrate and mimic the expressions of our best item girls - to much applause. Two children are also the co-hosts and mouth precocious dialogues while speaking to the judges, all of whom keep applauding in glee. And presiding over this lesson on what not to make your children do is disco dancer Mithunda as head judge, wearing various types of shiny headgear and turbans. Trying to look like a Bengali Lawrence of Arabia. I think Human Rights Watch should ban this show immediately.
Aamir Khan on Satyamev Jayate
Realising that if one Khan can why can’t another, Aamir Khan made his debut on the telly. With a programme which was quite revolutionary – if only in the sense that it was the first of its kind in India and was hosted by a superstar no less. The PR blitz surrounding Satyamev almost derailed the programme – what with Khan staring at us from billboards across the country and promising that the programme was one which the entire family could sit down to watch every Sunday. A promise which had to be rescinded once the programme started discussing child molestation, honour killings and other not-so-child friendly issues. Hats off to Aamir though, for not going the entertainment route and putting his feather-weight behind a social awareness programme. If only he hadn’t indulged in histrionics and wept more than any of his guests, and been bogged down by claims that audience reactions were spliced in and some segments weren’t even shot in front of the studio audience who seemed to cry on cue. But what’s the point of having a film-star host a show, if you don’t indulge in some filmy editing?
Junior Masterchef Australia
This was the best thing to hit our tellys in a while. Children who behaved like children. Judges who were actually normal - not condescending and encouraging. You watched agog while these little wizards cooked the most magnificent creations possible. And held their own on camera. No precocious expressions or comments unbecoming of their age. The kids were encouraging of each other, you watched them jump in joy when any of them got a compliment and couldn’t but marvel at their expertise in the kitchen. And just in case I was mistaken, and it was all an act and they’d actually been scarred by their experience on the show, two of the kids wrote to me on Twitter and on Firstpost and told me that it was the best time they’d had and that all the kids and parents still hang out together. If you must make a show with kids, this is the kind you should make.
Channel V’s Gumrah – The End Of Innocence
Before Satyamev Jayate, there was another social awareness programme which was already being aired on TV. But since it had no star host, it seems to not have caught most people’s attention. The new Channel V, which is no longer a music channel I’ll have you know, has a bunch of very questionable Hindi entertainment programmes on it. But this one, hits the mark. Gumrah has re-enactments of crimes which have been committed by or involving teenagers. There’s a very serious and buff pretty boy who hosts it, walking in and out of the frame like a spectre. It features a psychologist who explains why the crimes were committed and how to deal with peer pressures. It’s highly recommended viewing for youngsters. And especially for creators of programmes which claim to be social awareness programmes for adults and youngsters alike.
Bye bye BBC Entertainment
No more Come Dine With Me, Sports Relief, Graham Norton Show, Absolutely Fabulous or Little Britain. The worst thing which could have happened to television in India is that BBC Entertainment decided to pull the plug on broadcasting in India, because they just didn’t have enough advertising revenue. So come end-November, we bid goodbye to the man who had pioneered the way for KJo, and a host of other fabulous comics and brilliant programmes. Says a lot about our advertisers and viewers if the one channel with interesting English entertainment, is the one with no advertising. Which was actually half the fun of watching it, because you used to watch the programmes uninterrupted. But the sun has set on India again and the British trooped out – with their comedians in tow.
Too much of a good thing
Now I’m a big fan of Masterchef Australia. And it seems Star World realised that so is everybody else who watches their channel. So they decided to show us back-to-back series of as many versions of Masterchef they could get their hands on. From Masterchef Australia to another Masterchef featuring all the winners to another one featuring kids to another one and another one…till you wanted to shove your head in a gas oven at the thought of yet another Masterchef Series. It really was too much of a good thing. But at least it wasn’t Masterchef India a.k.a. as the Desi Rocky Horror Show.
2012 is gone. So let’s see what gems the TV gurus come up with in 2013. Maybe a follow-up to Foodistan with a cook-off between Indian and Sri Lankan chefs instead of Pakistan. Or a sex-up-your-old-car show with painting and denting guru Abhijit Mukherjee. Or a self-improvement programme a la Dr Phil hosted by Arindam Chaudhuri, or maybe The Apprentice hosted by the bosses from hell - Subhash Chandra and Vijay Mallya. The sky is the limit.