The Reality Show Wave is Back!

02 Jul,2021

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Shailesh KapoorWe missed it in 2020. Because of the pandemic, the lockdown and all the collateral damage that came along, 2020 saw a disruption in the now-familiar annual cycle of non-scripted (reality) shows on Hindi GECs. While reality shows stay on air through the year, it’s the period around June when the action begins to heat up. Channels understandably don’t want their big-ticket non-fiction launches to be drowned in the IPL din. To that extent, July is a good month to spring into action: well after the IPL and well in time for the festive season. Last year, this cycle seemed scattered. But it’s back in 2021.

 

The usual routine of singing and dance reality shows has been in place anyway. Indian Idol was shaping up to be a memorable season, but its extension during the lockdown has taken a bit of sheen away from it, especially with the change in the jury. But that doesn’t take away from how strong the Indian Idol brand has become in India over the last decade, with each season being arguably better than the one before.

 

Khatron Ke Khiladi, one of the top-rated shows in the category, is coming with a new season from July 17. The franchise has been a standout one in India, having gained audience acceptance with each passing year, and emerging from its niche proposition of being a show for the youth and the kids to being a family entertainer.

 

Bigg Boss had a low-key season, and will be hoping for resurgence in 2021-22. A lingering problem with the show is its ageing host. While Salman Khan continues to remain hugely popular among the masses, he’s clearly past his peak popularity phase that was triggered by Dabangg in 2010, and lasted about 5-6 years. His recent films have not done too well, and in the 2020-21 season, even his anchoring on the show seemed a bit jaded, as if he’s bored himself doing the same gig for many years now. A replacement is imminent. The question is one of timing.

 

KBC, one of my personal favorites, had a misfired season in 2020. The show just didn’t take off, and while it tried to pitch itself around the idea of ‘hope’ in a disease-stricken world, the messaging seemed less organic and more orchestrated. At its core, KBC is not a show about hope, but one about knowledge. And when you are struggling to stay healthy and retain your livelihood, do you really care about knowledge? The next season, whenever it launches, must find a more organic and yet relevant point of connect with its audience.

 

I was pleasantly surprised by Sony’s recent announcement on Shark Tank India. One wouldn’t associate a show like Shark Tank with the word “mass” or “GEC” in an Indian context. I’m very curious to see how Sony manages to achieve the balance between the format and the wider audience the show would aim to win over. We have seen how Star has struggled with the MasterChef on this count year after year, and seem to have given up that idea altogether now. Let’s hope Sony has some imaginative ideas up its sleeve for the ‘Indianization’ of Shark Tank.

 

But the best announcement related to reality shows in recent weeks has been the return of the Got Talent format in India. Colors discontinued it a few years ago, and replaced it with homegrown versions that lacked the zing of the original. The globally-successful format has now changed hands, and Sony will be bringing it back soon. When done well, it can be a crackerjack. Even at its best, the Colors show didn’t touch more than 60-70% of the format’s full potential. So, there’s a lot of room for growth here.

 

There’s also the small matter of when and how Kapil Sharma will return on the television, and though his show is largely scripted, it does fall under the simplistic ‘reality show’ definition in India by exclusion, because it’s not a daily soap!

 

So, get set for an interesting, and somewhat unpredictable, 2021-22 on the Hindi reality shows front.

 

 

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