The success and failure of Coupling, this blog and the Benjarong Conference

One of the few sitcoms that has remotely managed to hold my attention is Coupling, the series on BBC. I don’t think it runs “live” any more, and even when it did, the quality of the episodes fell off sharply in season three, and even more sharply in season four. Episodes of those two seasons simply cannot compare to the episodes of the earlier seasons. In possibly related news, a number of blog readers and commentators mentioned to me that they saw a sharp fall in quality in posts on this blog sometime in late 2009. None of them have told me that the blog has made any “comeback” of sorts. And given this theory, it is unlikely to.

Back in March 2009, there was a meeting of six great minds at Benjarong Restaurant on Ulsoor Road, which has come to be known as the Benjarong Conference. The main topic of discussion that evening was about chick-hunting, and more so in the controlled environment of South Indian Brahmin arranged marriages. The conference was a grand success in terms of the quality of discussion, and left lasting impressions on the minds of the participants. Kodhi, who is going to be arranged married later this year, mentions that over two years on, it was the proceedings of this conference that helped him make his decision.

The main attraction of Coupling, for me, was the theories that the character Jeff used to propound. Starting in Episode One of Season One, where he comes up with the concept of “Unflushable” as his best friend Steve repeatedly tries to dump his girlfriend Jane, and fails. And in subsequent episodes, when the three male leads (Steve, Patrick and Jeff) meet at the bar, Jeff always has a theory to explain why things happen the way they happen. Masterful theories, at a similar intellectual level that was exhibited at the Benjarong Conference. Jeff has a theory for everything, except that he is unable to implement his own theories and get hooked up. And what happens in Season Three? He gets hooked up (to his boss, as it happens)! And starts falling off the social radar, and even when he is there at the bar, he is incapable of coming up with theories like he used to. And in Season Four, he disappears from the show altogether, thus robbing it of its main attraction.

Four of the six participants at the Benjarong conference were single, with three of those having never been in a relationship. The two that were married were married less than a month, and one of them had met his wife not too long before. The conference drew its strength from this “singularity”. Single people, especially those that have never been in a relationship, have a unique knack of being able to dispassionately talk about relationships. The problem once you get committed, as readers of this blog might have noticed, is that there is now one person that you can’t disrespect when you talk or write. So every time you concoct a theory, you have to pass it through a filter, about whether your WAG will find it distasteful (most singletons’ theories on relationships have a distasteful component, as a rule). Soon, this muddles your thinking on these theories so much that you stop coming up with them altogether.

One of the pillars of strength of this blog between 2006 and 2009 was the dispassionate treatment of relationships. Then, in late 2009, fortunately for myself and unfortunately for my readers, I met Priyanka, with whom I have subsequently established a long term gene-propagating (no we haven’t started propagating, yet) relationship. And on came the “distaste filter”. And off went the quality of my posts on relationships. A large section of the readership of this blog knew me as a gossip-monger, and they would now be sorely disappointed to not find such juicy material on this blog any more. The only good relationship posts subsequent to that, you might notice, would have been on the back of some little domestic fights, which would have led to temporary suspension of the distaste filter.

Sometimes, though not in public forums, I do get my old distasteful sense back. Not so recently, I was counselling my little sister-in-law about relationship issues. After thoroughly examining her case history and then situation (examining case history and diagnosis is her domain. She’s studying to be a doc), I recommended to her that the solution for her then relationship woes was to get herself a Petromax. While it did help that my wife and her parents weren’t around then, the tough part was to convince her that it was a serious well-researched piece of advice. Maybe I should have packaged it less distastefully. And maybe it is time to accept that the distaste filter in my case is on permanently, and I’ll never be able to spout theories like I used to. And my dear blog reader, it is time you accept that, too, and stop holding this blog against its pre-2010 standards.

Business Model for DD

Flipping channels an hour back, I happened to stop at this never-heard-before channel called “DD Bharati”. Usha Uthup was giving a concert that was ¬†clearly recorded for television. Looking at her, and considering that the program had been recorded in black-and-white film, I would suppose that it was ancient indeed. Maybe from some time in the 70s.

The program itself was nice. The sets, for the time, were excellent. Usha was backed up by a bunch of men clad in suits – one on keyboard, a couple on guitars, one on trumpet, one drumming, one on the cymbals and another just swaying from side to side. The songs were all quite good, most of them Usha’s own compositions, and I didn’t think twice about giving up on ESPN Sportscenter Asia, Roland Garros and three not-so-bad Hindi movies in order to watch this program. And while I was watching I thought of this business model for Doordarshan.

The basic idea is that there is a whole lot of footage – all that was shown all through the 70s and 80s – that is quite popular among people and nostalgia-inducing, which is held by Doordarshan. I would be surprised if DD would have licensed out any of its old content to any other channel, if not for any other reason but because so much bureaucracy would have to move for that to happen. Stuff like 80s soaps and sitcoms, shows like the Usha Uthup performance I watched today, etc.

So I think DD can truly profitably run a “nostalgia” kind of channel. The market of people who grew up on these programs in the 70s and 80s is large, and most would prefer to watch re-runs of those ancient shows rather than watch the tripe that is dished out by most channels today. And then there is an opportunity for people to catch up on stuff they missed out on back then for various reasons – for example I missed out on so many cool programs back in the late 80s because our antenna didn’t catch DD2, and I wouldn’t really mind watching those today.

And then those ads – yeah they are available on youtube (and on dd’s own site) but then I’m sure it would be profitable to run those ads now as programs in themselves! The opportunities, I think, are endless. Unfortunately it is a sarkari company that is not interested in profits that is sitting on all these options. The loss, I think, is for us potential viewers.