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MTV’s Bring on the Night and the state of youth programming

MTV’s Bring on the Night and the state of youth programming

No TV for young people. Indian television is still stuck in some regressive daily soap infested twilight zone. The youth channels you can count on the fingers of one hand. Good youth channels of course, you can count on the fingers of the hand of that homeless guy whose arms end in a stump. Stilted dialogue and terrible concepts are all we get, packaged into reality shows of the Roadies and Splitsvilla variety or into the unbelievable high school drama like Suvreen Gagal.

Television channels targeting the youth have absolutely no idea what we watch or want to watch. The guys at the helm are clueless old cronies who get offended by everything and the content is filtered through the tight strainer of the standards and practices department. The uninspired television content that we get on Channel V, MTV or Bindass makes me wonder what these channels think of this 20 something generation. Do they think I don’t know they’ve ripped off this particular adventure task sequence from Survivor Australia? Do they honestly believe that this joke is still funny? Yes, Roadies gets their TRPs and dammit yes, putting skimpily clad dancing women on air for 20 minutes in a 30 minute show entails viewing. But this means that I’m not part of the target audience during the concept forming process and not only does this piss me off, it also means it’s where the circle begins. The shame circle of bad TV begins at “That’s too smart for the Haryana audience.” Write that down. It’s true.

As a 23 year-old avid television watcher, I don’t want to watch a show where people don’t talk like me, aren’t funny or where the word ‘shit’ has to be beeped out and replaced with an inoffensive word in the subtitles. I don’t want to watch a watered-down anything with beeps followed by beeps. So, I turn to the internet for my television needs. If an Indian channel were to create a good show I wouldn’t watch it. So, the TRPs would fall and any endeavor to make good television is thwarted right there.

MTV’s Bring on the Night is a show I have been recommending to absolutely everybody I meet. Watch the uncensored trailer! Wait, I’ll buffer it and show it to you! Look, it’s funny and they talk like us!

Sigh. But they can’t. You can’t have people say bhosadike and madarchod on Indian TV. So, I watch the uncensored episode online. And before I go any further, let me just gush over how incredibly superb Bring on the Night is. The first scene where Devang and Patrick talk about superheroes had me in splits. With great pace and story building, cinematography that reminds me of Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan and Ankur Tiwari, Dualist Inquiry and others making appearances in the background score, BOTN is making me very excited.  It is directed by the super cool Vishwesh (of Scribe and The Dewarists), written by the incredibly funny Tanmay Bhat, Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi, and the plot revolves around four guys who transform a run down old building into an after hours party place.

Is this the dawn of a new day? Is reality television in India reaching its end? Dancing, singing, living in a house and making an ass of yourself and conducting loyalty tests on your boyfriends and girlfriends…Maybe we have milked it for all its worth and maybe, just maybe, its time to put that cow to sleep. In 5 years, or maybe a decade, maybe good fiction will have taken over, pushed the boundaries of what defines entertainment. Maybe we’ll grow up and not be pussies about words like sex and fuck. That’s when I’ll be watching TV made for me.

Please stand up

Please stand up

If you live in Bombay, off late you’re probably measured for coolness by the number of times you’ve visited The Comedy store at Palladium. The Dark knight? Sure. NH7 Weekender? Definitely!  But XXXX’S set at The Store, OMFGSOFUNNYIALMOSTKILLEDMYSELF. I’m not exaggerating. Yes, I admit that the heady rush of exhilaration has died down somewhat. In 2010, it was the biggest thing since Jesus. Suddenly every publication in the country was doing profiles of upcoming talent and writing trend stories that just about stopped short of taking off their metaphorical shirts and throwing them on stage. Acquaintances wanted to be comedians. During sets, women friends made eyes and started touching their hair a lot. Twitter exploded with one-liners from hopeful amateurs. And amateur nights? Yeah, there was probably a bar somewhere in Belapur or Thane, that didn’t have one.

At Project Small Fry, we attempt to document the vein of a subculture that may in the future be held as the first record of the stirrings of a great youth movement. What do you mean, we don’t really do that? Well, the “babble” about TV and books are supposed to be a build up, okay? In any case, we’re a big fan of stand up comedy ourselves. We follow who needs to be followed on Twitter, we go to The Store (if we can afford the tickets) we free ourselves for things like this. All this is reason enough, to try and write about what’s great and not so great, about the stand up comedy scene in the city.

What’s great:

It’s a lovely alternative entertainment option. And it isn’t always expensive. Shows with local talent cost as much as the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR. And you get to listen to someone poke fun at the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR.

It will open your life to a lot of off-the-beaten-track entertainment options. Fun fact: Comedians are a restless bunch, always trying to break new ground and work on new cool projects. Like All India Bhakchod, a podcast by comedians Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba, for example. The more projects, the more laughs. It’s simple maths really.

You will start giving mainstream entertainment the slimmest sliver of a chance. A month ago, the only reason I’d agree to watch even 30 minutes of programming on MTV, would be if you told me that Raghu was converting to Buddhism live on Roadies season 8. Now, when I hear that a comedian I like, had something to do with the script of a television show or wrote such-and-such awards ceremony, I’m more likely to watch. Read Sharanya’s column this week to understand what I mean.

Jokes about Andheri. Jokes about parliament. Jokes about Pooja Bedi. Win.

What’s not so great:

Nine times out of ten, a stand up routine is not somewhere I would take my mother. Now calm down. I’m not talking about the cussing or even the jokes about religion. But, speaking as someone who is actually a patron of stand up, I gotta say, sometimes, comedians get carried away with the laughs. When that happens you can almost see the blood of super human recklessness rush to their faces before they leap, Willy Wonka like, over the line that goes from hilarious to offensive. Check out this clip from Louis, a clever sketch show by legendary comedian Louis CK. Jokes that skim the edges of sensitive issues had best make a point. If it’s a potshot without a point, I won’t laugh. Why should I?

The bandwagon people. These are the people in the audience who are laughing so hard, they’re almost doubled over. “What did he just say? I missed it,” You might ask of such a person. “Oh. I didn’t catch it either,” they’ll reply, eyes streaming over with mirth. So annoying. Though technically, this isn’t stand ups fault. It’s kind of the fault of human nature.

That’s all folks. More about this trend when it develops, I guess. For now, we love how stand up is going in the city. We love the veterans and the newer comics.  We love how fresh and new it all is. We love how funny has become a business and how it’s new enough to not be tainted (as far as we know) with the hypocrisy of most industries in the country. We love that years from now, when it actually is tainted, we’ll be able to shake our heads and say that this, 2010 to 2012, was comedy’s golden era, that we were unknowingly part of a revolution in entertainment and that we wrote about it on Project Small Fry.

An ode to bad TV

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An ode to bad TV

There are days when I question everything, berate myself for every bad decision and wonder despairingly where my life is going. Then I realise, wait a second, I’ve never pretended to be in love for money, fought a crocodile and spent millions on a marriage that lasted 72 days. I’m also fairly certain there isn’t a sex tape of me doing the rounds. So far, so good.

Television can be such a cesspool of the lowest, downright disgusting form of entertainment that I find myself hooked in spite of myself. I watch them all, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Teen Mom, 90210, the whole shebang. No matter how late I am, I try and catch the morning telecast of Kourtney and Khloe take Miami. Seeing Kourntney pregnant with her cheating boyfriend’s baby and watching Khloe’s drunken antics makes me feel so much better about everything I do. I made a story out of press release today? Hey, at least I didn’t make out with my sister’s classmate’s best friend’s boyfriend, twice removed.

When a woman appears on the Jerry Springer show, I place bets on what’s going to come off, those clothes or that wig. (Hint: It’s usually both). The Springer show has marvels like scrawny boys who get beaten up by their 1000-pound girlfriends and midget strippers with purple fur shorts. That’s some wholesome entertainment, right there.

No, I don’t just stick to the English trash, and yes, I did watch Bigg Boss. Hell, I even watched Khan Sisters. I pitied them as they tried to match up to the scandals of the Kardashian sisters and failed and I pitied myself because my box of Hide & Seek Milanos was over.

Reality TV in India manages to combine the perfect amount of drama, ridiculousness and cleavage to make for great TV. I laughed as Rakhi Sawant pretended to seek true love on her Swavayamvar and I made great jokes watching her attempt to raise a baby with her ‘fiancé’ Elesh.  But not once did I let go of the remote. Nope.

On to MTV’s best fare Roadies and Splitsvilla. There you go getting all judgemental. Let me just say this loud and clear. The first few seasons were highly entertaining. The Roadies are like our version of the Hunger Games except that every district is Chandigarh.  You all watched Palak fake fainting, right? And Bani losing her mind? You guys saw Sakshi and Joanna have a dance off, twice (once in slow motion), right? No? Ok, just me then.

I loved these shows. The fights, that moment when Nikhil Chinappa would announce gravely, “There is going to be a task today,” and all the contestants would look shocked. Almost like they had completely forgotten the format of the show. I lusted after the over dramatic vote-outs with the light from a blazing fire in the background, reflecting off Ranvijay’s many ornaments.  I watched with pride as all the contestants then moved on to being ‘tempters’ on Emotional Atyachar.

Bad reality TV is the perfect escape. You know it’s of no use to you but you watch it anyway. Like cat videos on the Internet, except imagine the cat’s purrs being beeped out.

Indian soaps are a whole different game. They are extremely unpredictable and I’m assuming written while on crack. If you look at the current lot on TV, it’s infuriating but extremely entertaining. A show called Kya hua tera vada has the hero leave his nice, homely wife for his smart and sexy boss. But soon enough, it dawns on him that she can never be the kind of wife he’s used to. You see, as a careerwoman, she has a very specific set of skills that do not include making tea, ironing clothes or raising children. Yep, none of those women who work all day, take a crowded train, make dinner and watch this show are offended. Another show, Na bole tum, na maine kuch kahaan (which I happen to like, by the way) has the hero falling in love with a widow. And I know this because every time he sees her, which is about 18 times in a twenty-minute show, the screen freezes. A romantic song plays in the background (dhire na, dhire na nananaaaaaaaaaaa) and he gazes at her with the love-light in his eyes as she slowly chops bhindi and holds her pallu in place while strands of hair fly around her face.

Bad TV has no boundaries. You can laugh at the characters, you can scoff at the story, but it requires exactly 0.000012% of your brain, and sometimes that’s all that’s available.  Bad TV, makes me appreciate my humdrum life. People’s awful choices make me feel ok about mine. And the clincher, Bad T.V gave us Ayushmann Khurrana.

P.s – Notice how I didn’t mention Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar’s kissing scene? Does nobody remember the show, Hubahu? That was the first Hindi show I saw that had a kissing scene. Way before Bade acche lagte hain.

– Sharanya

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