Yesterday, I was watching Indian Idol - 5. My wife likes it a lot, and dotes on some of the competitors. But for her thriftiness, nothing stands in her way to send zillions of SMSs to make some of them go ahead in the competition. I am not jealous of those competitors. And that's definitely not the reason for my writing this article
But this article is indeed with the motive of expressing my disgust with the reality shows being aired these days. That's a tacky topic to write on. But I will be more specific in things which I disapprove of.
First, a mention of things which I approve of. I think the competition has risen to unprecedented heights. Competitors are awesome. They are superbly talented. And more than that, they generally show tremendous grits in handling stress.
But beyond that, everything is a minus. Firstly, the way things are judged there is really aweful. SMSs sent by by and large a section of population with nothing better to do are far from representative of the public opinion. More serious listeners (assuming it's a music-based show like Indian Idol) will send a few SMSs under the influence of disgust that's caused by the feeling that undeserving candidates may win because of good looks and other gimmicks. But they can't continue to do so. The scepticism of the knowledgeable and judicious portion of the population about these SMSs mattering is pretty much of the same nature as in democracy -- when people think that there are far too many morons voting for a junk candidate for our votes to count
This pressure of impressing a very thoughtless majority audience brings out startling acrobatics on screen. In the opening episode, a girl is hailed as a simple village based contestant who has struggled her way to the competition against general opposition of her traditional village patriarchs. Some million votes (and SMSs). A couple of episodes down the line, she is found draped in all sorts of dresses which don't fit in well with her village background which was such a strong sympathy earning factor for her in the first episode. But, it doesn't matter if those who voted for the upliftment of an underprivileged talent in the first episode turn up their noses now. A few episodes' survival in the show has already earned the lady a semi-celebrity status. Now there's another -- bigger -- section of the audience for which the co-effecient of reflection of her bare shoulders and calves wins far more support than her underdog beginnings. Millions of votes again. As many SMSs.
Similarly, singers are made to dance, act and make faces. Dancers are made to fight with each other in well-rehearsed manners. Judges applaud and insult competitors in such melodramatic ways! Often they engage in verbal broils with each other which look supremely unbecoming and unnatural. It sends shivers thinking what kind of incentives make these great people behave in such artificial ways in the sets.
On the one hand, these days, judges' participation in the actual fate of the competitors has been drastically reduced by SMS competitions. On the other, during the performance, and in the few critical minutes that follow the performance, the judges bias the audience's judgement critically by making faces and hailing applauds and insults of their choosing. I am sure that most of the people who send their SMSs are impressionable enough to be seriously affected by minor twitches in the face of the judges. The whole thing appear like a setup where people are made to pronounce the judge's opinion. Additionally, it appears that the bias that the judges sometimes show during the performances aren't merely their personal opinion; they could even be pre-fabricated verdicts of the entire strategy of the organisers geared completely towards maximising TRPs.
Overall, the gaudiness of today's reality shows far outweighs the increased levels of talents. I'm not ready to believe that exposition of talents is critically dependent on fake spices of melodrama being played in the name of 'reality.' They stink of a systematic manipulativeness that arbitrarily alters the mass behaviour, and creates business models around them, thus closing the gates of redeaming oneself once the negative aspects start surfacing. In this world of mass-production, there has been little knowledge created on ramping down industries. They have just learned to grow bigger and bigger. And by the time the justifiabilty of their existence becomes questionable, it's too late to wind it up gracefully. The only way is to stretch them, at the cost of manipulating the consumption patterns of the population in unnatural ways. Companies keep getting bigger first devouring other companies, then governments, and then entire nations; soaps keep running for ever and ever, news programmes keep reeling the same sensationilsed coverage of a news item for hours, days, weeks.
Heck! What am I writing?!
I have equally disgusted thoughts about news channels, soap operas and the way the experience of TV viewing has become off late. But, I will speak of it some other time, if I do.