Can seasonal shows be a reality on Indian TV?

By Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, March 6 (IANS) The trend in the West where a sitcom runs for only a few months a year - 'season' in media parlance - is yet to catch on in India, where constantly running saas-bahu soaps and reality shows continue to rule the roost.

According to Rajesh Kamat, CEO, Colors, the audience-viewing pattern in the country will not change very soon.

"The audience consumption pattern in India is such that they are tuned to dailies. A classic example why seasonal shows won't work as of now is that even if you do one-hour weeklies, people might not even necessarily come back next week also. That is where the problem is," Kamat told IANS.

Kamat's stance can well be justified with the change in the format of NDTV Imagine's "Radhaa Ki Betiyaan Kuchh Kar Dikhaayengi" which was turned into a daily from a weekly due to popular demand.

Industry observers believe this first-ever change was dictated by the reluctance of viewers to return to the same serial after a gap of one week.

Till now, the seasonal format on Indian television has been either confined to reality shows like MTV "Roadies", Channel V's "Get Gorgeous", Star Plus' "Nach Baliye", Sony TV's "Indian Idol" and "Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa", or Zee TV's "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa", or has been experimented with on a handful of youth-based dramas like "Hip Hip Hurray", "Sanjeevani", "Left Right Left" and "Saara Akash".

However, the second editions of the last four failed to hook its audience back again.

Bhavana Sresth of Shah Rukh Khan's television production company Red Chillies Idiot Box said: "People haven't really tried doing seasonal fiction shows in India - the only insecurity being that the audience will run away."

Others are hopeful that seasonal shows will catch on in India soon, especially because the audience in India has been appreciative of international shows like "Friends", "Baywatch", "Full House", "CSI Crime Scene Investigation" and "Grey's Anatomy" - all of which had multiple seasons.

"Seasonal shows are more popular abroad. But the Indian audience enjoys them too. But the audience here gets attached to a particular show for years and that is why they choose to watch a show that they can see for years instead of opting for something that will get over soon," said Samir Khurana, associate creative head of production house Cinevista.

After analysing the current market for such shows in India, Vivek Behl, senior creative director of Star Plus, says "they (seasonal shows) might come to India soon".

"We are moving towards that as a lot of mini series are being launched. However, it can take up to six months or even a few years for the trend to catch on. The format has been popular in the genre of comedies but for soaps, people still prefer the ones that are habit forming," said Behl.

One cannot rule out what Behl points out.

Several single-episode shows like "FIR", "Khichdi", "Office Office", "Dekh Bhai Dekh", "Hum Paanch", "Rishtey", "Ek Chaabi Hai Pados Mein" and "CID" have done well on the small screen in the past. Now, mini series like "Specials @ 10" and "Monica Mongre Case Files" are fast becoming popular among the audience too.

In the thriller genre as well, several shows including "Zee Horror Show", "Mano Ya Na Mano", "Aahat", "Shhhh...Koi Hai", "Shhhh...Phir Koi Hai" followed the single-episode format, in which each episode tells a self-contained story.

Kamat of Colors says his channel is making an effort to support such shows with their new offering "Koi Aane Ko Hai".

"This show is a season based horror show. We are doing three stories - each story would have 18-20 episodes and we will then move out and come back with a new story. So our effort for seasonal shows is with 'Koi Aane Ko Hai'," he said.

Sanjay Upadhyay, creative head, fiction, Sony Entertainment Television feels if seasonal shows should come to India, now is the best time.

"I think it is by far the best time to do something like this," he said. "The Indian television market has just emerged out of a phase of daily soaps after the collapse of saas-bahu sagas. So we're in a phase where experiments can be a hit."

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