At the fag end of September 2015, the top rated shows on Indian television were: Saath Nibhana Saathiya, Ye Hai Mohabbatein and Diya aur Baati (Star Plus), Sasural Simar Ka, Swaragini and Udaan (Colors TV), Kumkum Bhagya and Jamai Raja (Zee TV), and Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (Sab TV). Sound familiar?
Yes, if 2014 shows like Abhinay Deo’s 24, Anurag Kashyap’s Yudh and Vipul Shah’s Pukaar were hinting towards exciting times ahead for Indian television, 2015 showed that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Indian television circled back to the same old formula of women-led soap operas, even as international television seemed to be at a watershed moment in its history.
Because September 2015 was also the month American TV honoured the very best in television at its flagship Primetime Emmy Awards. And for the first time in the history of its 67 years, the biggest winners were cable and streaming TV, instead of good old network television. Cable network HBO swept the awards with a grand total of 43 Emmys, whereas streaming networks like Netflix and Amazon also took home a few big ones.
To give some context: this would be like YouTube comedy groups AIB and TVF or the newly launched digital platform Hotstar.com taking home the biggest awards over Star Plus, Colors and Zee TV at an Indian Television Awards night!
And for all you know, in the next couple of years, that may just happen. Because if there was one major development in Indian television in 2015, it was the prospect of internet being the new TV. With the rise of internet collectives like The Viral Fever, whose original fiction series Pitchers, has over 1.5 million views on each of its six episodes, and the launch of streaming mobile and digital platforms like hotstar, which has both announced huge plans for original content, ‘television’ viewing may be all set to change. In fact, HotStar’s first series is a best of both worlds, with comedy group All India Bakchod teaming up with them for a news-based series.
Both TV and film studios are also joining the race to be the next ‘Netflix’ – and there are plans for the original Netflix to come to India too – so we’re up for some fun times ahead. ErosNow, the streaming platform from Eros International, has announced three big-budget TV series, with filmmakers like Rohan Sippy and actors like Bipasha Basu associated with them. Yash Raj Films, on the other hand, has already launched its first original series, Man’s World, through its youth division, Y Films, while Balaji Telefilms, not to be left behind, has promised ‘edgy’ content too, to exploit the fact that there’s no censorship on the internet.
By next year, it is all too likely that television may want to change its programming to keep up with all the exciting things happening on the digital front, but at the moment, just like the audiences, television network heads prefer to wait and watch.
Five Indian Television Highlights:
One more English channel – There has never been a better to time to be a fan of English-language entertainment in India. There are already about 10 channels providing the same in India, Star World being the biggest, but Viacom18 has extended its Colors’ brand to start yet another GEC, Colors Infinity. With Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt curating the programming, and original English-language shows lined up, it remains to be seen whether it or not it will be a gamechanger.
Two Food Channels – If the popularity of Masterchef India, Junior Masterchef India, Farah Ki Dawat, Sanjeev Kapoor, and food in general, it was only time before more channels dedicated to food popped up. Food Food has already been doing well, and now, with Living Foodz entering the segment with English and Hindi language shows, it looks like too many cooks aren’t spoiling any broths at the moment.
Three Sports Leagues – The Indian Premiere League may be guilty on many counts, like Lalit Modi and reducing the ‘gentleman’s game’ to Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am entertainment, but it’s certainly done great wonders for other sports in the country. The idea of ‘Sports Leagues’ has caught on and how, proven by the smashing, celebrity-driven seasons of The Pro Kabaddi League, The Indian Super League, and the Indian Badminton League.
Four New and Improved Reality Shows – Dance, Music, Comedy and Adventure based reality shows are proven hits in India. This year too, a new entrant in each genre – Dance Plus in Dance, The Voice in Music, Comedy Nights Bachao in Comedy and the upcoming ‘I Can Do That in Adventure – has upped the excitement about each.
Five Fresh Ideas That Made An Impact – The official remake of Everybody Loves Raymond, Sumit Sambhal Lega, was appreciated for re-versioning Indian sitcoms; Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat’s fresh treatment of the show made it a big success, Reporters, was a novel idea that got a lot of love, Stories by Rabindranath Tagore was a stimulating piece of work by Anurag Basu, and TVF’s Pitchers was the first big internet series that proved that the audiences are ready for many more fresh ideas.
Five International Television Highlights:
One Indian star on an American TV show: At the time of publishing, Priyanka Chopra-starrer American TV show Quantico had just opened – to glowing reviews – but it was left to be seen how it would do ratings-wise. But if there’s anything that months of outstanding promotions with Chopra’s face plastered across billboards in New York and LA proved, it’s that American TV probably has its first big Bollywood star.
Two super hit network shows: Empire and How to Get Away with Murder, as two shows that wore their diversity (behind the scenes and in front of the camera) on their sleeves, proved to critics that network TV isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but the trick is fresh voices, diverse faces, and dramatic content.
Three ends of eras – David Letterman retired from The Late Show after 22 years, Jon Stewart moved on from The Daily Show after 19 years and Mad Men ended after 8 years. American pop culture as a whole will never be the same again after 2015.
Four superheroes on the small screen – The big war between Marvel and DC comics spilled from the big screen to the small, with both DC Entertainment and Marvel Studios making a push to take over the television landscape. While DC’s big wins came through The Flash and Gotham, Marvel’s Daredevil and Agent Carter proved that the TV crown is still up for the taking.
Five shows to prove Netflix is here to stay – With the debut seasons of three big-budget and big-casted shows with big ambitions, Narcos, Sense8 and Bloodline, and two ace follow up seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix has proved this year that it wasn’t only on HBO’s trail… it may just have surpassed it.
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Note: This piece first appeared in The Scholastic Yearbook 2015.
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