Comedy Premium League review: Reflects the rot in influencer culture

CPL seems like the kind of project that was born in the heads of one of the MBA-types working for a streaming platform, as a last-ditch effort to meet the quarterly targets.

Tatsam Mukherjee August 28, 2021 09:14:10 IST
Comedy Premium League review: Reflects the rot in influencer culture

What happens when you manage to lock 17 influencers inside a studio for a show? According to a streaming service, it means they can ship promos, snippets of the show, and even promotional content leading upto the show to the tens of millions of followers. Thereby, if you can convince even a fraction of the population to endure the show in the process, you have a ‘hit’ series on your hands. There are shows that emerge from a writer or concept, and then there is ‘content’ like Netflix’s Comedy Premium League (CPL), that only wants to exploit this ‘reach’.

CPL seems like the kind of project that was born in the heads of one of the MBA-types working for a streaming platform, as a last-ditch effort to meet the quarterly targets. The format of pitting one comedian against another has become so thoroughly uninspiring since the conclusion of the first season of Amazon Prime’s Comicstaan, that it’s becoming difficult to sit through.

And that’s probably because it’s the same dozen of faces we see plastered on our social media feed anyway. Whether it’s Tanmay Bhat and his persistent V-Logs, Rohan Joshi’s jokes on gyms, Rahul Subramaniam’s “frustrated” monologues feat. Bangalore lingo, Kenny Sebastian’s low-stakes routine about inanimate objects inside a middle-class home, Urooj Ashfaq’s digs at her low self-esteem or Mallika Dua’s annoying versions of herself that she passes off as ‘characters’. One really needs to wonder if we’re already being assaulted with them in the midst of our daily lives, then does it make sense for us to see them inside a glitzy packaged Netflix show? Which is being hosted by none other than a YouTuber (Prajakta Koli), who panders to the whims of clueless teens with her ‘feel good and safe’ content. It’s a tough sell, but one that makes mathematical sense if one looks at it as an MBA-type and their gazillion spreadsheets.

Comedy Premium League review Reflects the rot in influencer culture

For the influencers (some of them good stand-up comics) it’s yet another avenue for an easy pay-day. The shoots for such reality shows are usually wrapped up in less than a week, and with the pandemic still proving to be a restriction for many stand-up comics (who don’t believe in Zoom shows), one might even see why many might have looked at this as an opportunity to make some money. No judgments here, there’s nothing wrong with making money. But, a question that also comes saddled with this: would you do anything for money?

The disinterest in CPL’s makers reflects in how they name the teams Lovable Langoors, IDGAF Iguanas, Gharelu Gilaharis and Naazuk Nevles.

The alliteration is possibly meant to be ironic, but hearing the names constantly over six episodes can make anyone’s ears bleed. Especially, in the “influencer-feigning-enthusiasm” voice of Koli. Might as well have called them Deewane, Mastaane, Parwaane or something like that.

Credit to everybody where it’s due, everyone feigns professionalism through the show’s six episodes. Even though the show requires them to be funny (which they’re not quite often) they all go through the beats without the slightest hint of the “why am I here?” face except maybe Aakash Gupta. The scoring system is weird because barely a dozen people in the audience (presumably because of the COVID protocols in place) are given the responsibility of deciding what’s funny and what’s not. Which is a flawed process to begin with, especially in a country where ‘taking offence’ is a national sport. But it’s also understandable, how the contestants don’t really challenge the audience either, going for the lowest-hanging fruits like innuendo or adding an expletive in the initial episodes at least.

Comedy Premium League review Reflects the rot in influencer culture

It’s not surprising that the IDGAF Iguanas (with Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi, Sumaira Shaikh and Sumukhi Suresh) go on to dominate the first few rounds, given how at least three of them are established writers. The competition is really skewed that way, with the other teams including lightweights like actor Rytasha Rathore (in Lovable Langoors), Kaneez Surka (in Gharelu Gilaharis) and Rahul Dua (in Naazuk Nevle). It doesn’t matter if I got anyone’s team wrong, cos it’s all equally futile within the scheme of the show.

There are a couple of funny skits towards the end, thanks to the IDGAF Iguanas, who unleash their surprise package: Sumaira Shaikh. There’s also an ugh cameo by Anurag Kashyap in the final, who seems to be prancing around on set like it were promotional content for AK vs AK (also on Netflix). Apart from the odd chuckle every half hour, there’s precious little in this show.

I guess we could pan it, scream about it, but the showrunners already have the upperhand. The money has been credited, and the influencers are presumably already sipping their pina coladas somewhere on a beach, as the two finale episodes drop on us. We’ve given them our attention. Was it worth it for the streaming platform? We’ll find out if it gets renewed for a second season.

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