Talking of news talk shows…I sincerely feel that they make for the best reality TV fare….
Scene : Three ‘gentle’men and one ‘gentle’ lady ( or any other gender combination ) with very similar, foul expressions on their face, leaning on shiny wooden podiums arranged on points of an arc, face a fresh looking young female with a smirk on her face. The scene reminds you of a ringmaster trying to control a quartet of wild animals. Except the characters are not in a circus (at least not in the literal meaning of that term).The scene I described is one of the variations of the political debates that we have got so used (bored?) to seeing on national television. The topics vary from ‘trivial’ issues like naxalism to ‘serious’ national issues like whether Sania Mirza should marry a Pakistani…..or even whether Sania Mirza should marry at all!!! (Sarcasm very much intended)I have often wondered what purpose these debates serve. I have yet to see one of these shouting/slanging matches come up with any worthwhile consensus or solution. I mean what would you expect when you pair up an opposition party spokesperson with a ruling party spokesperson……the only thing they would certainly agree to do is to firmly disagree. By the time the ‘holier –than- thou’ anchor concludes the show, more often than not, opinions would have been more polarized than before.
Well TRPs do go up I suppose. That’s about it .Whether you are a news channel or a ‘masala’ entertainment channel (Incidentally some of the Hindi ‘News Channels’ are pretty indistinguishable from the masala channels); it’s either fast rising TRPs or a slow but certain death. When you have seemingly grown up, allegedly mature and supposedly famous people shouting themselves hoarse at each other over anything from the price of onions to national security, you do get a perverse pleasure in watching the ‘tamasha’.
I think when we ‘progressed’ from the almost rustic, simple 30 minutes a day Doordarshan news in the eighties to 24-hour news channels; it was natural that pure, unadulterated news would take a beating. So the news channels needed to improvise……and improvise they did by creating ‘value-additions’ to the news. Harping on absolutely inane (but apparently sensational) incidents like the Sania-Shoaib wedding is one of the accepted TRP raising stunts. The other is of-course to conduct debates and discussion on hot issues to make issue hotter and more controversial than it was in the first place. One of the main problems with these so called panel-discussions is that most of the people in the panel have already got a set and rigid opinion on the issue at hand. You add in a pinch of political mule-headedness and you basically get something sillier than school-kids fighting over candy….absolutely pure and unadulterated farce. I mean how many politicians can actually see the other persons point? And how many politicians absolutely adore listening to their own voice? You answer these two rhetorical questions, combine the answers and you can understand why panel-discussions (with politicians on board) will never go much beyond childish slanging matches)
All said and done, these debates, I feel are the best form of reality TV entertainment. It has mystery and suspense(Half the time you have no idea what these guys are harping on about ….though you feel that the startling truth is just around the corner), violence (mostly verbal, but I suppose the day is not far when we’ll be treated to actual ‘dishum-dishum’ stuff!), comedy (More than one politician discussing a serious issue……what could be funnier?) ,vendetta (that one does not need elaboration I suppose) and of course top class acting (sometimes you’re actually fooled into believing what these ‘netas’ say!)……..if only we could actually have a few politicians agreeing to perform an ‘item’ number or two during the debate, then Bollywood would have serious completion! and the best part? IT’s REAL!!!