Edgier medium

Edgier medium

Much to viewers’ delight, the new shows on the telly  reveal changed dynamics, be it in plots, characters or relationships.   Asha Chowdary does a reality check.

When Diane Lockhart and Alicia Florrick walk into a courtroom, with the clickety-clack of their stiletto heels resounding behind them and their no-nonsense handbags pinned firmly under their arms, the stage is set in the TV series The Good Wife for the arrival of the non-apologist women.

When Lisa Cuddy, Dean of Medicine, steps out of her office to confront Dr Gregory House, MD, in the TV show House, we brace ourselves to see sparks fly between them. When the tough Viola Davis in the recently launched TV show, How to Get Away with Murder, pronounces her courtroom rules to her law students, there is palpable excitement in the air.

And, closer home, in the TV series Airlines, which has a happy mix of Hindi and English dialogues, when pilot Ananya Rawat openly defies her superiors to save a passenger’s life or deliver an organ to a patient, she has droves of women fans cheering her on.

Our TV-viewing time is cluttered with all kinds of shows — courtroom battles, relationship comedies, family sitcoms, reality series, crime sequences etc. Most of us pick our favourites by following the trends we love.

For some, it’s the arrival of the ‘strong’ woman that is a draw. For others, the appeal lies in the intelligence of certain TV shows, where one enjoys banter, clever dialogues and highly researched facts instead of the inanity of daytime soaps. There are others who might find emotions like love and patriotism, friendship and family dynamics deeply moving.

For those who are still swamped in TV nostalgia, with memories of ‘The Soup Nazi’, the ‘Smelly Cat’ or the character of ‘Big’, immortalised by Carrie Bradshaw, it’s time to wake up and check out the newer TV shows.

Big three

Viewers prefer fresher dialogues, zero laugh tracks and thrillers in the form of crime shows, courtroom dramas, hospital sagas and stories of people who fight the system. The old-fashioned set with its couches, faded rugs and flowers has run its course, and the coffee-shop stories have moved away from prime time.

Whether it’s Homeland or Castle or The Blacklist, the shows have become edgier   and far more believable. A closer look at the trends reveals three areas of change, namely: the empowerment of women, transformation of love, and forging of great friendship.

Many argue that the emergence of stronger women characters is not new. But the difference today lies in the fact that newer heroines are not perfect as the earlier protagonists. They are often flawed, and openly so; they don’t mind talking about their shortcomings, eccentricities, illnesses, secret passions etc.

For instance, if you were to compare the impeccable Clair Huxtable, in the rather ancient The Cosby Show, the woman who could juggle a high-powered job and her home perfectly, and the quirky Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Crazy Ones or the opinionated Robin Scherbatsky in How I Met Your Mother, who challenges all gender norms, you would notice a vast difference.

The powerful woman is the focal point in many shows and it has always been a magnet for drawing audiences. Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones, Emily Thorne of Revenge, Santana Lopez of Glee, Dr Bernadette Rostenkowski in The Big Bang Theory or Dr Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy, Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife... there is no end to the wonderful women characters that have been created.

Another trend that emerges in some TV shows is the focus on the widening sphere of families.

This is best seen in Modern Family, where there are none of the accepted family units. The writers of the show have created an unusual family tree with Jay Pritchett, the patriarch, who after his second marriage to his Colombian wife Gloria (who is the age of his daughter Claire from his first marriage) is now father to her son, Manny.

Due to this relationship, 12-year-old Manny is Lily, Luke, Alex and Hailey’s step-uncle, Jay’s stepson and Phil’s step-brother-in-law. Jay’s other son Mitchell finds a partner in Cam, and their adopted daughter Lily is Manny’s step-niece. Confused? According to the creators of the show, that’s how a modern family works and they are quite sure there’s enough love to go around.

Cherished bond

The third noteworthy trend in TV shows is the celebration and evolution of friendship, especially among women protagonists. As in real life, most of these friends swing from being BFFs (best friends forever) one day to frenemies the next, but eventually their friendship shines through. The notable ones are between Alicia and Kalinda in The Good Wife, Cristina and Meredith in Grey’s Anatomy, Quinn and Rachel in Glee.

Experts now say that everything we watch on the television can affect the way we think and view the world. So the trends in our TV viewing experiences could work towards making a better world as women get stronger, shows get smarter, violence gets lesser, families get larger and friendships get closer.

You may only watch cookery shows or news, or you might be among those who follow sitcoms, but whether it’s education or entertainment, you never come out unaffected.

The small screen is not just the medium that transports us to new worlds, it can also be a game changer in the way we make decisions, spin opinions and live our lives.

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