Casting the Net for US shows

Do the names Glee, Vampire Diaries, House and Lost ring a bell?

Popular on American Television, these shows find a huge following among 18-25 year olds in Bangalore. As they’re not aired on Indian cable, the shows have sparked off a downloading frenzy among the college-going crowd.

“I have around 20 to 30 shows on my computer right now,” says Diya Ballal from Mount Carmel College, who downloads various kinds of shows on a regular basis. The best thing about watching shows online or downloading them is the absence of advertisements, she feels. “I decide on what shows I want to download based on friends’ recommendations or while browsing the Net. An actor’s performance in one show may have caught my attention, in which case I look for more shows in which he or she has starred.”

Aditya M Rao, a student of computer applications, seconds this. “I stumble upon shows via word-of-mouth or on sites like IMDB,” he says. “I’ve been watching Lost, which just concluded a week ago, Two and a Half Men and Dexter. My criteria for picking out shows are that they must have good reviews, casting and an excellent storyline. I don’t prefer certain genres over others but I usually end up with a good balance of comedy, thriller, mystery and science fiction,” he says.

For Twilight fans, the natural progression from the books and movies seems to be a series called Vampire Diaries. “One of my friends gave me the first few episodes and I fell in love with it,” says Shruti Nayar, who has watched the entire first season. “Vampire Diaries is more grounded thanTwilight, in which the characters may seem too perfect at times. Here, the characters are flawed and a lot more believable.” She also watches the medical drama House avidly.

“Science has always been an interest. It’s great that there’s not a lot of theatricality in House as opposed to something like Grey’s Anatomy in which the lives of doctors and their patients are impossibly tangled. House focuses on the patient’s problems. The story doesn’t sidetrack the main issues.”

But on the top of the most-watched list is the American musical comedy-drama called Glee, which focuses on a high school show choir.

Meera Sankar, a media student, who follows the show keenly, says the reason behind Glee’s popularity lies in the fact that it’s something fresh that appeals specifically to the teenage crowd. “It’s quite similar to a high school drama but quite innovatively done. As the show centers round a glee club, music plays an important role,” she says. “Many wait eagerly for the newest Glee episode just to see what the show has in store music-wise. Some Glee versions of famous songs sound better than the originals. It constantly reinvents its music.”

In addition to Western shows, Japanese Anime also appears to be a rage. “Anime is very interesting and unconventional. I know a lot of people who stay away from anime thinking it’s similar to cartoons. But it can be quite mature with strong enough plots to keep older audiences hooked,” says Chaitanya Hegde, a student from RVCE. “I’m watching Death Note andBleach at the moment.”

Ask them why they don’t watch Indian TV shows and they say it’s because of a serious lack of good ones aimed at the age group of 18- 25. Even if there are such shows, they tend to be pretty lame, they feel. The amount of drama in the shows that exist also puts them off.

“Really, do I want to watch the saas-bahu kind of serials? People sleep with their makeup on, survive fires and several other disasters. They return from the dead or have plastic surgeries, sometimes both — it’s ridiculous!” says Kinnisha Andrew, an arts student.

They resort to downloading shows instead of just watching them on TV only because they aren’t available here or if they are, tend to be aired late at night, making it impossible to watch daily, they say.

“I’ve been watching Supernatural on TV, but the latest episodes get released earlier in the States and take a really long time to be aired in India, sometimes up to a year. Criminal Minds is another show that used to be aired on Star World, but it’s been discontinued, so I download and watch it,” says Andrew. She adds that you have to be careful while downloading. “There are chances of virus attacks when you’re getting stuff off the net, but it’s up to you to check that your sources are safe and reliable. Once you make sure they are, there isn’t any problem.”

But downloading shows in such a large number inevitably means spending an equal amount of time watching them. Don’t parents have a problem with that? “Although it’s great to watch TV shows, doing that all the time can take its toll,” feels Meera Sankar. “Some people watch whole seasons in a day and end up sort of zombie-ed out. You need to know your restrictions. My parents let me watch whatever I want as long as I don’t go overboard. I shouldn’t shirk my responsibilities to sit and stare at my laptop screen 24/7,” she says.

Published in DNA, June 7th 2010