Novelty of reality TV wears out

Novelty of reality TV wears out
Rituparna Bhowmick, New Delhi, Mar 26 (PTI) As rival creative directors outdo each other over punchlines that are crafted to grab a rapidly-wandering audience, analysts feel the novelty of reality TV may slowly wear out.

"It can't get bigger than this," music director Anu Malik promises to the media here as singers Udit Narayan and Alisha Chinai vigorously nod their approval.

At the recent launch of the Delhi leg of the auditions for Indian Idol - season 3, the audience is sceptical because they have heard the punchline during the previous two seasons. If TRP ratings are any proof, Sony Television, broadcasting the hunt for the best Indian singing voice, had lost most of its audience from season one during the second phase, analysts say.

The hysterical audience in the first season lapped up every note that Idol winner Abhijit Sawant and runners up Amit Sana sang, propelling two unassuming, shy youngsters into instant stardom.

Statistics show that TRP also dropped of one hugely-popular day-time Hindi soaps. According to AC Nielsen's TAM ratings, TRP of 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' fell from 12.74 points when it started during October 14-20, 2001, to 9.84 during the October 13-20, 2002.

'Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki's' TRP fell from 11.87 to 8.94, while Sony Entertainment Television's Kkusum dipped from 4.08 points to 3.57, the AC Nielsen data shows.

When asked if there will, sometime in near future, be a viewers' fatigue over recycled, re-packaged and imported reality shows that are put under the censor's knife to suit the so-called Indian palate, Sony's creative head Sandiip Sikcand says India does not lack creative talent.

To press his point, he says Sony, buoyed by the success of its reality series Bigg Boss with a TRP average of three to four million viewers, will soon bring in a new show that will feature known faces from both TV and the big screen playing real life heroes.

"You will see known actors in a new light," he says. However, it is not coincidence that a new American drama series by the same name is already showing in India.

Dismissing competitors in rival channels who target primetime slots to overshadow a much-hyped show, senior vice-president of Marketing and Communications for Sony Entertainment Network Aseem Kapoor says as many as 55 million votes had poured in the grand finale of second Idol season.

The third series will go on air during the weekend and feature 24 contestants, narrowing down to the final winner with elimination rounds. To increase the attraction-quotient of the show this year, Sony has roped in two new judges.

While Anu stays on as the tough-talking Indian equivalent of Simon Cowell from American Idol, Alisha and Udit will advice the candidates and alternately soothe and criticise, as is the norm on the show. Personal rivalry forgotten, Anu and Alisha, with a history of past differences, are willing to bury the hatchet and share a common platform to look for the 'Bharat ki Shaan (India's pride) Indian Idol.

"Creative differences are necessary," Anu says. With situational comedies and reality shows of the US and UK penetrating Indian homes, producers in India have picked up the whiff of money in reality TV and promptly copied the American Idol and Celebrity Big Brother

However, as competition mounted in the last five years of capturing a prime time audience, habitual channel surfers found themselves in a fix with Amitabh Bachchan quizzing people on Kaun Banega Krorepati almost at the same time that Javed Jaffri is taking sloppy dancers to task on 'BoogieWoogie' on another channel.

Indian TV is no newcomer to reality. The 'India's Most Wanted' on Zee was designed and packaged on the lines of America's Most Wanted and did receive more than lukewarm response initially. But after anchor Suhaib Ilyasi got mired in controversy and subsequently dropped, the show literally ground to a halt.

Industry insiders say viewers are made to do the loops of so many shows dealing with talent hunts like 'Kucch Kar Dikhana Hai', 'Kismey Kitna Hai Dum' and the latest 'Fame X',that their attention span and name retention capabilities are wearing thin.

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