Last week Barrack Obama was all over the news channels, including the weather bulletin. So to escape the rash I watched a lot of reality shows, and this is what I gleaned from them.
This Q & A will help you to understand the reality shows, so that you begin to appreciate news channels and perhaps even appreciate Arnab Goswami or even a Barkha Dutt (ok, perish the thought).
1) What are reality shows?
These are extremely honest, slice-of-life programmes, where you know beforehand itself that the producers of the show strictly have no capacity for original thinking and are totally dependent on the participants. When things turn desperate, producers are also known to just set up the cameras and line up a few individuals in the hope that they will do something, even if it amounts to just breathing and leading life as a biological entity.
This is broadly the idea on which the most popular reality show of the world, ‘The Big Boss’ is based. I think Shilpa Shetty collected hell a lot of crores of rupees for winning the show a couple of years ago. Her talent, we all know, lies in her ability to swirl on herself a few metres of plain yarn, not unlike the one that Gandhi famously spun on his chakra, and tiptoe around as if it were a sari. She is naturally celebrated as a style icon in these parts.
2) Explain talent-based reality shows
As the name indicates, participants in such shows are put through various dazzling tests in a bid to showcase their innate talents, which can be defined as their ability to smile, laugh or cry unselfconsciously as the situation demands. They may also have a gift for singing or dancing or miming (or in the case of the programme hosted by Rakhi Sawant participants revel in bickering) but they are purely unconnected to the main event.
3) Can you explain further?
Yes I can. But before that we will take a small commercial break and I’ll catch you on the other side of it. These lines have to be consistently uttered in anything even remotely connected with reality shows.
4) Now explain
Well, the talent required for reality shows is similar to what they look for in beauty pageant contestants: A capacity to take the two palms to cover the face while flashing the most exuberantly stupid smile and a wide-eye while they announce one’s name over the tannoy. A reality show participant, by the same reckoning, must possess the skill to look suitably doleful (with tears streaking down the cheeks as if the bank that he or she had invested all the life-savings in had just gone bust) when about to be eliminated or jump with joy, not dissimilar to the indescribable madness shown when somebody is told that he has become a father, when promoted to the next round.
5) So, are there eliminations and promotions in a show?
Like resignations in politics they are just illusions. Eliminations are notional things, and those who are deemed to be exited from the show eventually come back by the easy expedience called ‘Wildcard round’. Anyone, even if he or she is not a citizen of this world, is given a chance in this round.
Participants are given the freedom to think that they have been called back to the show in recognition of their talent, while the viewers are at liberty to believe that. The truth, however, is wildcards will continue to be given till they invent something else to stretch the programme.
7) Give details of the judging process
In a normal reality show, which may be about dancing or singing, a three-bench panel of judges will first be in place. The judges are the ones who wear sponsored clothes that are either ill-fitting or too loud. Their primary job is to keep warning that there are going to be eliminations, but eventually announce that there will be none that week —- every week. This is also usually the cue for the participants to break out into a hoop that would be considered normal only in the event of Bill Gate’s agreeing to will his entire wealth to them.
Apart from the three judges, there is room for another celebratory judge whose purpose is to keep smiling annoyingly and give comments that have little relevance to the programme (asked to review singing, they will talk on hairstyle). Apart from this, the producers, if they wish, can bring in the EC, the Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice to add weightage to the show. Since no reality show actually ends, the EC and others will eventually make it.
If there are so many judges in such shows, who does the actual singing for films?
Now you know why Ilayaraja, Deva, A R Rahman turned singers. With their voices there was no way that they could have been put before the mikes for singing. But what to do, all the singers known to this world are interminably tied with reality shows which promise to end by the start of the next millennia.
9) What is the role of the hosts for reality shows?
Their job description is simple: To announce the name of the programme every 45 seconds, lest anybody forgets it. The hosts also have to be extremely creative on the spot. Suppose a singer named Suresh tells the audience that he is Suresh and going to sing the ‘XYZ’ song, the programme host has to be quick on the uptake and face the camera and translate that into the same language and holler spontaneously at the mike: ‘Suresh is going to sing XYZ song.’ Hosts are indispensable to such programmes as they help to eat a lot of time and ensure that the overall intelligence levels don’t go beyond the level of newborn pups.
10) What to do the winners of the show get?
They are given the right to show up and perform in every other show that the channel beams on special occasions like Deepavali or Pongal, festivals that were thoughtfully created for the televisions to take over.