I have always loved watching TV. As a kid, I watched it while having breakfast, lunch, dinner and just before I fell asleep. No matter how tired I was, I would keep my eyes open till the end of the late night show, because it would be a waste of an hour if you didn’t catch the very important ending. I loved every moment of being glued to the TV. I never sat down to wonder why I enjoyed it…until now. Does everyone want to analyse things after they turn 30? (I am 32 by the way.) I don’t think I would have wanted to write any of this down if I was a day younger than 30. Don’t believe them when they say ‘30’ is the new ‘20’. It is what it is. One of the many drawbacks – you don’t get to watch TV enough! Here’s to all those who are more than 30 years old and want to join me being nostalgic about the awesome (care-free and non-analytical) TV watching days.
Reason No. 1: It kills boredom.
As a child, I always had the option of learning to paint, bake or dance during my vacations. My parents would ask me if I wanted to learn Origami? How about Abacus? All wonderful options I would say, ask for time to make my mind and keep making excuses till my vacations got over. All I wanted to do was catch up on all the TV I missed out on during the cramming sessions! Do I wish I had learnt Abacus now? Not really. Do I wish someone (other than my mom) had told me I would gain a kilo a day if all I did was watch TV lying down and eat chips? Hell yeah!! As I hadn’t been forewarned (who listens to their mother?!?), I carried the habit of watching TV series on my laptop in bed while I was in the hostel too. (Hostel TV’s never have the channels you want to watch.) Yup, gained many more kilos! But by then I was convinced TV could be educational too. I was learning how to be a good leader! Yeah! After all those seasons of ‘House M.D.’ I felt confident I could successfully cure anyone with a mysterious disease (read: make a lot of money and be successful), without even having to meet the patient (read: customer). I just needed to have a good team (read: efficient managers)! That’s how it is everywhere – be it a big corporate or a start-up. The leader is only as good as his team.
Reason No 2. It makes me laugh.
I was never one of those to watch shows where everyone was crying. So right from Dekh Bhai Dekh times down to Big Bang Theory, funny real life situations and conversational humour always made me laugh. And I enjoyed the sound of my own laughter. (And thank god I did. Because I don’t laugh very ladylike – I laugh loudly.) I don’t know if this is the reason that I primarily watched the English TV shows. I enjoy the subtle humour and the the situations that are very relatable and hence evoke laughter.
Reason No. 3: It kills fear.
So what if I have not completed my assignment! I would magically get super powers to be able to turn back time and finish it in peace…once I have watched the most important episode in the whole world! Nothing was more important than that episode. Anyone else in family wanted to watch something else? Too bad! They have to go over my dead body to get the remote out of my hand. I just had to know the reason whether Mrs. Solis had caught on to her daughter-in-law’s Gabrielle indiscretions (Desperate Housewives)! Of course when I switch off the TV after the hour, not knowing the reason (I hate the words…’to be continued’) I am so irritated I don’t feel like using my magical powers and go to sleep. I call in sick next day to complete the assignment. To realize another one of my favourite shows is on air…I feel powerful again.
Reason No 4: It makes me feel smart.
Nothing is bigger than the high of solving a crime mystery minutes or even seconds before the detective says ‘here’s what happened…’. I might have done it just once in my life. But it makes me believe I can do it every time. I love ‘Monk’. I still have to solve the mystery of why they decided to call the show that though. I mean ‘Mentalist’ at least gives you a hint. But ‘Monk’ never gives you a chance at guessing it is a whodunit.
Reason No. 5: It’s where I used to ‘watch’ music.
I remember exactly when MTV came into my life. It was the day I was made fun of because I didn’t know who Britney Spears was. I didn’t have cable television for the longest time. My parents thought it would affect my studies (and that of my sister). When they eventually gave in, I saw stuff my parents watched. I was bad at channel surfing. And then during a school trip I realised I was not ‘educated’ enough about music. My parents usually listened to ghazals and carnatic music which was all I was exposed to until then. Beyond Hindi film music of course. So for a year or two I would only watch 2 channels in order to catch up on my music. It was much much later that I took the time to find my own taste for music. If we were the MTV generation, the next is going to be the Youtube one. (Did you know that Youtube is one of the largest search engines with more than 3 billion searches in a month?)
Reason No. 6: It made me get over the ‘I wish I was pretty’ phase.
Have you never felt confident about the way you looked? Have you had braces? Have you taken a photograph with braces? I have. And I hated it. Years later, I see a TV show about the fashion industry where ‘Ugly Betty’ (an adult with braces) not only becomes the fashion editor, her good-looking boss also falls in love with her! Aww! It’s the perfect heart-warming under-dog story that fills you with hope.
Reason No. 7: It got me to think my parents are cool.
‘Friends’ was aired for 10 seasons. My sister and I have watched re-runs after re-runs of the show. She could have been an understudy for any of the characters if there ever was a need for one…she knew everyone’s lines! ‘Friends’ was such a significant part of our lives, that it soon became a not-so-significant-but-cannot-be-ignored part of my parents’ lives too. The amount of ‘sex talk’ that happened on ‘Friends’ was way more than any other show we had ever seen until then. When we learnt about lesbian relationships, they didn’t switch off the TV. And my parents are very morally correct and traditional. But the fact that they didn’t prevent us from doing anything, let me know they were real cool. And my dad loved Joey. My sister loved Chandler. I loved Phoebe!
Reason No. 8: It made me realize that it’s okay to be ‘mad’.
I used to worry a little when I realised I related the most to characters who were a little different than the others, like Phoebe or ‘Ally Mcbeal’. I wondered if it meant I was mad. It didn’t help at all when my parents used to shout to me that I was mad all the time. It’s only now (yeah yeah when I’m getting old) that I know that every popular show has a quirky character. They are necessary to make the others seem normal. (Note to self: Wonder if that is the purpose of my life- adding quintessential quirk value to people’s lives? Hmmmmm.)
Reason No. 9: It’s where I learnt about the importance of E.Q.
TV made me realize the world belongs to ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’. More about that show in next point. What I was referring to was the reality shows – the first of which I saw was the ‘Roadies’. The airing of the Miss World competition may be the technical answer for the first reality show exposed to Indian audiences. But the real ‘you will see what you have never seen on TV before’ brand of TV reality shows I think started with Roadies. Pretty looking boys and girls performing dangerous stunts and trying to outwit one another in the search of fame and money got the TRP’s (confounding concept that!) of MTV through the roof. It’s what set the ball rolling for the ‘Big Boss’ and ‘Khatron ke Khiladi’. Reality TV is all about anticipating the other person’s thoughts and moves and being prepared with yours. That is exactly how you improve your E.Q. or Emotional Quotient. That’s the reason why the most non-controversial inmate of Big Boss wins the show every year. (Disclaimer: I watched a lot of Roadies and very little of ‘Big Boss’ and ‘Khatron ke Khiladi’.)
Reason No. 10: It’s where I learnt about ‘odd’ families.
My family is as normal as it gets – a nuclear one – with a strict mom who is an excellent cook, a fun-loving dad and a younger sister. I thought that’s how all families are. I was wrong of course. I realized how wrong when I watch my first TV show, after I got cable TV, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’. There wasn’t much choice amongst English TV shows back then. Episode after episode the matriarch of the family stood upright and preached about morality, to no avail. There were step-dads and step-moms, step everything everywhere. So many years later, I don’t remember anything else about the show! I think ‘Modern Family’, another TV show about 3 different families which aired many years later, did a very entertaining and funny job of depicting the…well modern family. The patriarch of this modern family is very rich and has married a Hispanic woman who is much younger than him and has a son from her previous marriage and they all live together. The patriarch has two much older children from his previous marriage. One of them is gay and his relationship with his partner is depicted so beautifully. They also go on to adopt a baby. The other child of the patriarch is a woman who chooses to be a stay at home mom, married to a doting husband and has 3 children – 1 dumb, 1 vain and 1 super intelligent- the story of a ‘normal family’. If it wasn’t for the earlier 2 families, a show about the third family would be boring. More power to the quirky ones!!
Reason No. 11: It got me closer to the stars of the Hindi film industry.
Definitely closer to their dirty little secrets. I love Talk Shows and their gossip. Sure Oprah is awesome and her causes are great. But nothing on TV could beat the moment Rekha confesses her love for ‘him’ on the Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. Of course Karan Johar heated up the couch on his show. Karan is singlehandedly responsible for the decline in the use of the erstwhile popular word ‘sofa’ with no apparent synonym from the vocabulary of the show’s avid listeners!
Reason No. 12: It’s where I learnt that if you are self centred, find yourself a sensible spouse.
‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ is a hilarious story of ‘Raymond’ who always has good intentions but owing to his self-centredness usually ends up in sticky situations. He has a loving wife and 3 children. His parents stay next door with his younger brother. Raymond wouldn’t function if it wasn’t for his wife ‘Debra’. I see myself as a ‘Raymond’ and I think I have found myself a ‘Debra’.
Reason No. 13: It’s also where I learnt ‘Happily Ever After’ takes a lot of effort.
No I didn’t have to go to therapy. I got myself a sensible spouse remember? But any marriage takes effort. And I saw how tough it got for Lily and Marshall (HIMYM). My heart went out to them when she leaves him to become a ‘painter’. Of course she later has a change of heart and they get back together. She ends up being a kindergarten teacher and a mother eventually. Amy Farrah Fowler (BBT), tired of being called ‘a friend that’s a girl’ underwent a massive change of character in her quest to become Sheldon’s GF. From a haughty loner to a supportive sweet partner, it was a traditional twist in the tale.
Reason No. 14: It’s where I got my ‘mom’ lessons for the future.
No, not because of Lily. Because of Lorelai Gilmore. It is an inspiring story of a gritty single mom of a teenager. The ‘Gilmore Girls’ both have the same name, the younger one is called ‘Rory’. Based in a small town, the award winning show is about two women, both of whom are ambitious and rebellious in their own ways but have the same brand of humour, kindness and loyalty. I loved the series. I still watch some episodes online. I loved the mom. The senior Lorelai is funny, smart, intelligent and responsible and raises a kid she (and anyone else for that matter) is proud of. She is undoubtedly the best mom a teenager could have. She is her daughter’s best friend and theirs is an enviable relationship. One that I truly wish I have with my future child.
Reason No. 15: It’s what got me interested in cooking.
Lorelai (GG) doesn’t cook. And neither did I till 2 years ago. But I was always interested in food and cooking. Even now, I feel like I know all the theory. I just need to get down to the practicals soon. I would like to think Sanjeev Kapoor and Tarla Dalal started the ‘Food porn’ revolution (glamourized spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements, infomercials, blogs cooking shows or other visual media). The term is a recent one. I didn’t know it, but I was addicted to the awesomely tasty looking food I would watch being cooked on TV. I called myself a ‘foodie’ (a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet). I don’t need to any more. With one glance at me, and they’ll know I enjoy my food. The Master Chef series brought international cuisine to Indian households and I hope that one day I’ll learn to cook AND eat small portions of food.
My friends tell me I have missed out on some great TV shows like ‘Prison Break’ or ‘Game of Thrones’. It doesn’t matter. I know I enjoyed watching the shows I did. It’s probably what’s made me what I am today. Fat and happy? Naah. Wiser. It’s where I learnt my life’s lessons. Of late, (post the age of 30) I think what’s important is the comfortable feeling of switching on the TV after a long day’s work and finding something engaging to watch. Gone are the days I could watch a show at a designated time. As long as I can watch something till I get sleepy, I’m happy. I am okay now – missing the last 5 minutes of the show…gives me the chance to make up my own ending in my dream…or worse…nightmare! Ok no more analysing!! Or I’ll realize how much of my productive time I have wasted watching the Idiot Box. Hmmm…if I assume I watched average of 2 hours of TV during the week and 5 hours in the weekend it totals up to 640 hours which is 27 days which is almost a month of my life! ((32 X 5 X 2)+ (32 X 2 X 5)) I haven’t even accounted for the ‘binge days’ of TV watching the whole day!!!! I am so sad…I need an immediate pick-me-up. I wonder what is on TV right now?
P.S. Does the above write-up seem inspired by ‘The Wonder Years’? I just realized it! What a coincidence! Remember how cute little Kevin Arnold was?