As a rule, despite this being an ‘international TV blog’, I don’t watch a lot of Indian TV. I did back in the late 80s/early 90s, when BBC Two had the likes of The Mahabharat.But Bollywood’s love of music and dancing is an anathema to TMINE (motto: “Tough on musicals, tough on the causes of musicals”) and the ubiquity of multi-channel TV by the mid-90s meant pretty much everything outside ‘the mainstream’ ended up shunted to its own channel with a random EPG number somewhere between the 75th and 76th Mersenne primes.
In other words, I – and almost everyone without a dedicated interest – haven’t had much of a chance to watch Indian TV in the UK since.
(Well, I can hear it coming from my downstairs neighbours a lot of the time – including right now – but I’m not sure that counts.)
The arrival of streaming TV hasn’t changed things that much, but changes have been happening, with Amazon and Netflix both acquiring a multitude of Indian shows in the past couple of years. However, the opacity of channel categories and ‘recommendations’ means that you usually have to know what you’re looking for and express an interest before either network will reveal its hidden cache of treasures.
But we’re now entering the phase when both global networks are commissioning and airing Indian shows for global consumption – and they want you to watch them so might even tell you they have them.
Amazon launched its first Indian original, Breathe, a few months ago and I have every intention of watching it. I do. And just last week, Netflix launched its first Indian original, Sacred Games, with Ghoul to follow next month. That means I can watch Indian TV again. Hooray! Or hooray?
As you might expect of Netflix, Sacred Games is something of a prestige production, being based on the award-winning Vikram Chandra novel of the same name. It sees Saif Ali Khan playing one of the few honest cops in Mumbai, something that earns him nothing but misery in exchange. One night, he gets a mysterious phone call from someone giving him all manner of orders and the runaround. Who are they? What do they want? And what game are they playing? Whatever it is, it seems Mumbai might have just a few days of existence left…
In New Zealand: Wednesdays, TVNZ 2, 8.30pm
In the UK: Not yet acquired
Taika Waititi is so hot right now. Eagle V Shark may have had a cult following, but it didn’t elevate him to stardom. You might have noticed him in Green Lantern…
…but it didn’t exactly give him free rein to be hilarious. 2014 vampire house-sharing comedy What We Do In The Shadows, which he co-wrote with Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement, might have done better business than the original short film, but it still didn’t quite set the world alight.
However, the marketing muscle of Marvel Studios meant that Thor: Ragnarok finally unleashed the hilarity of Taika Waititi around the world. Naturally, that has meant there’s a lot of interest in his latest projects, which include a US series of What We Do In The Shadows with Toast of London‘s Matt Berry.
Before that, though, we have a somewhat more niche project that’s actually more of a Jemaine Clement affair, given he’s the co-writer of the first episode. It’s a New Zealand TV show called Wellington Paranormal that’s a spin-off from What We Do In the Shadows, and features two of that movie’s characters, Officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary), but none of the vampires. A sort of cross between Cops and The X-Files, it sees the hapless duo Mulder and Scullying up to haplessly investigate incidents of the paranormal at the insistence of their sergeant (Maaka Pohatu), who’s been collecting evidence for years suggesting that Wellington might have its own hellmouth (maybe).
The first episode concerns a case of demonic possession that might ultimately lead to the dead coming up from hell to take over the Earth through the Bucket Fountain in Wellington, which was apparently created by Satanists in the 60s. As you might deduce, just like The Almighty Johnsons before it, Wellington Paranormal plays on the low-key, friendly, not especially Earth-shattering nature of New Zealand life, as well as satirising genre conventions. O’Leary and Minogue generally have little to do in their regular line of duty and when they experience a demon projectile-vomiting, they merely advise it where to direct its bodily fluids. They chase after ‘unusually athletic’ housewives, castigate people for breaking the laws of gravity, and advise them not to rotate their necks 360º as it’s bound to hurt. Minogue’s claim to there being a sexual tension between him and O’Leary is met merely with an uncomfortable, embarrassed silence.
However, if you’re expecting something designed to ride on the backs of both Clement’s and Waititi’s current popularity to achieve worldwide success, you’ll be surprised. This is a low-budget affair clearly devised as something for a New Zealand audience watching TV NZ’s second channel (not even its first). There are plenty of jokes that you might need Wikipedia to get if you’re not from NZ – the Bucket Fountain joke only really works if you’ve ever spent time watching it in real-life – and you really do have to have an appreciation for the New Zealand style of comedy to find Wellington Paranormal a laugh-a-minute, rather than a titter-a-minute show.
There is plenty to raise a giggle most of the time, and there’s even a belly laugh from time to time (such as O’Leary’s encounter with a fence), but it’s not something that even tries for the hilarity of Thor: Ragnarok, let alone achieves it.
On the plus side, it’s at least light years ahead of Ghosted and the 25-minute runtime does fly by, as there’s never really a let-up in the show’s antics. The characters are more jokes and set-ups for punchlines than real characters, but that’s often usually enough to work, and the genre pastiching does score more than a few hits.
Just don’t expect something that’s going to set the world alight or make your sides hurt from all the laughing.
Every Friday, TMINE lets you know when the latest TV shows from around the world will air in the UK
A big bunch of premiere dates this week, with only one new show getting picked up with just a vague date (“Some time in August“) – ABC (US)’s pretty dreadful Ten Days In TheValley. Otherwise, we know where and when all of the following will be showing up on UK TV and laptop screens:
Adaptation of the hugely successful Canadian stage play about a Korean family who run a convenience store. Fun but not always the funniest, I enjoyed it enough to stick around for three episodes at least.
US-made spin-off of ITV’s The Bletchley Circle that sees a bunch of former Bletchley Park codebreakers head off to San Francisco, where they link up with some American code-breaking friends to solve crimes.
Series supposedly based on the life of Jamie Foxx, in which comedian Jay Pharoah decides he wants to be famous not just to black people but to white people as well. And that’s going to involve some compromises, some of which might involve dealing with the rather bizarre ‘Jamie Foxx’.
Sometimes funny because of its takes on ‘soft racism’, it felt more like a weak Entourage and Jamie Foxx wanting to get a few things off his chest than anything worthwhile.
Insatiable tells the story of Patty, who for years has been bullied, ignored, and underestimated by those around her because of her weight. But now that she finds herself suddenly thin, Patty is out for payback against anyone who has ever made her feel bad about herself. Bob Armstrong, a disgraced attorney whose true passion is coaching beauty pageant contestant, is the only one who sees Patty’s potential, and takes her under his wing – first as a legal client, and then as a pageant contestant whom he coaches toward becoming the top pageant queen in the country. But Bob and his wife Coralee have no idea how deep Patty’s rage goes, or how far she will go to exact revenge on anyone who has ever wronged her. Bullies beware: payback’s a bitch, revenge is sweet, and if you cross Patty, you’ll be her next treat.
The comedy series, which was created by Lauren Gussis, stars Debby Ryan, Dallas Roberts, Alyssa Milano, Christopher Gorham, Erinn Westbrook, Michael Provost, Kimmy Shields, Irene Choi and Sarah Colonna. The executive producers are Lauren Gussis, Ryan Seacrest, Nina Wass, Andrea Shay, Todd Hoffman, Dennis Kim and Andy Fleming.
I’ve just watched the first episode of this, so consider it a review as well, to save me writing a full review.
The Outpost follows Jessica Green, ‘a strong female hero’ and the lone survivor of a race called ‘Blackbloods’. Years after her entire village is destroyed by a gang of brutal mercenaries, Talon travels to a lawless fortress on the edge of the civilised world, as she tracks the killers of her family. On her journey to this outpost, Talon discovers she possesses a mysterious supernatural power that she must learn to control in order to save herself, and defend the world against a fanatical religious dictator.
And it’s dreadful. It’s nearly unwatchable, low-budget, badly written, terribly acted dredge that is a throw-back to the syndicated likes of Relic Hunter in the 90s. If you make it past the first minute of plot-dumping dialogue, I’ll be surprised.
It desperately wants to be Game of Thrones, but it doesn’t come close to even the qualities of the somewhat similar The New Legends of Monkey – somewhat similar in that it not only features our heroine wandering around some nondescript fantasy realm, fighting mildly-threatening fantasy things, it’s stuffed full of Australians. While the present day antics are almost unwatchable, the little momentum they have is broken up by dreadful flashbacks to Green’s childhood in which everyone speaks a ludicrous made-up language (sorry in advance if it turns out to be Gaelic, as there are a lot of Irish actors around, too). Except they only speak it for about five seconds at a time before switching to English for no reason then starting again a minute later. The child who plays the younger Green looks so unlike her, too, it makes me wonder if that’s potentially even a plot point.
The fights are about the best bit of it, although the direction is so poor that you’ll spot every time a stuntwoman subs in for Green. Avoid like the zombie-alien plague. No, really. They have zombies with Alien mouths.
Premiere date: Tuesday, August 28
Three-part Indian horror series about a prisoner who arrives at a remote military interrogation centre and turns the tables on his captors, exposing their most shameful secrets.