The seasonal show saga on Indian GECs

MUMBAI: Daily soap operas, with an infinite number of episodes, is the unique feature of India’s TV entertainment offering. From the era of a single national broadcaster to today where you can pick from a plethora of general entertainment channels (GECs), times have surely changed. What is slowly catching up is the trend of limited episode shows with seasonal follow ups.

Since 2000, Indian television has intermittently witnessed a trend of shows ending after a certain stage and returning with its new season. To be precise, it all started with the show Aahat, which began in 1995 and ended its first season in 2001 on Sony. The show had back-to-back six seasons, with its last season televised in 2015 for about six months.

One would think India is attempting to fit to international standards of shows to maintain its quality. Zee TV deputy business head Deepak Rajadhyaksha says that they do not compromise on quality regardless of it being a fiction or non-fiction or the duration of the show. Zee hasn’t done finite shows with follow-ups intentionally except perhaps Chhoti Bahu, Punarvivaah (both of which had a second season but not launched as a finite series). Chhoti Bahu launched its first season in 2008 and ended in 2010, whereas the series came up with another season in 2011 which lasted till 2012. Punarvivah completed a year with its first part in 2013 and in the same year the network started with another season.

He said that cost saving isn’t of utmost priority for a channel and a story will be told regardless. Do shorter shows maintain audience and advertiser interest as well as the longer ones? Rajadhyaksha believes that sustaining audience interest is a function of great content only such as its flagship show Kumkum Bhagya, which recently completed 1000 episodes. “Great shows that are both relatable and aspirational will always attract audience and advertisers’ interest,” he says.

Sony Entertainment Television’s head of non fiction Ashish Golwalkar says that he doesn’t see this as a trend but rather a way to make use of the first season’s success. When a writer is able to create a fresh story with old characters, channels give a thought to reinvigorating the show.

He says, “Whoever does a second season of any show, never considers cost as a criteria. There is an affinity towards the character that you build over time and once the story is over, you take a pause, wait for a while, redo the story and come back within a span with the same characters where the affinity of the show continues.”  For instance, Sony is telecasting Prithvi Vallabh in two seasons and the reason for it is not cost-effectiveness. “The way we want to mount the show needs a lot of time and if we commit ourselves to 80 episodes at a go then we might trouble the production and it will compromise the quality. So we will stick to 40 episodes. Majority of them have already been shot and are into post production.”

Sony had rolled out three shows named Aahat, Kutumb and Parvarish. 1995 was the year when Aahat made an entry. Its last two seasons barely got seven months of air time compared to the six years of season one. Kutumb-its first part aired for about two years, but its other season was completely different from the older part. Parvarish launched in 2011 with a commendable extension of three years—till 2014. But the second season got just nine months, from November 2015 to July 2016.

Syndication could be the reason for channels limiting show episodes because European and American audiences don’t welcome infinite series with open arms whereas they are likely to sample shorter series. Indian historical dramas with fixed episodes are seeking global takers.

Star Plus came up with the thriller Ssshhhh...Koi Hai  in 2001 with two production houses Contiloe and Cinevista producing it. It ran for more than three years and consisted of 154 episodes. Season 2 was produced solely by Contiloe and the show was shifted to the then newly launched Star One in 2004. This time it ran for nearly three years before the plug was pulled.  Its last comeback was in 2010 and it broke the record by shutting down in just two months. Adding one more show to the list, Iss pyaar ko kya naam doon? had three comebacks—the first season lasted for a year (2011-2012), other season lasted for two years (2013-2015) and the last season they decided to wrap up within four months in 2017. Star TV declined to comment when reached out to them.

Viacom18’s Colors also had a number of short shows that garnered great traction but had three blockbusters which were reincarnated  -  Balika Vadhu, Na aana is des Laado and Naagin. Balika Vadhu was an infinite series that lasted for eight years-starting from 2008 to 2016 with a relaunch in April 2016 but the show had to pack its bags within four months.  Na aana is des laado’s first season continued for two years and the sequel-Laado is the upcoming show on the channel. Naagin’s first run was from November 2015 till 2016, whereas its other season continued for about nine months-from October 2016 till June 2017. Its third season is expected to launch this year. Kitani Mohabbat Hai launched in 2009 on NDTV Imagine with the first season lasting nine months and the second season in November 2010 which wrapped up in May 2011

What we witness is that the first season gets rave reviews but the subsequent seasons get hardly any attention from audiences – whether because of the gap in the launch or the new story line or maybe because people have moved on to newer shows, especially in times when minds are so fickle. Unless audience attention builds up for recurring season formats, channels are unlikely to indulge in experimenting a lot with the format.

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