It has been aeons since local TV delivered good entertainment. — File photo
It has been aeons since local TV delivered good entertainment. — File photo

In an age where our musicians are breaking new ground globally, our producers winning awards upon awards, and our movies breaking box office records; our televised programming has been reduced to a bunch of screaming news outlets purveying misery and disappointment 24 hours a day.

It has been aeons since local TV delivered good entertainment, so much so that even saying that has become a cliche.

A brief history, if you permit: Our entertainment industry has a knack for surviving. It survived the effects of the Zia Administration (prevalent even today) and it will survive ludicrous game shows and this chasm created by Turkish dramas.

This is not delusion of hope speaking, it is a historical fact. Take Waaris, Fifty-Fifty, Tanhaiyaan, DhoopKinaray, as examples. DhoopKinaray was so iconic that HaseenaMoin was asked to create an official Indian version. The Zia Mohyeddin show used to air across Asia, all the way to Japan. Those were incomparable successes and our benchmarks for quality.


Also read: 'Panellists debate standards of TV dramas'


But of late, the highest rated TV Shows have appeared indistinguishable from others of their genre, e.g. Family Front and Bulbulay - minus the cast - are basically the same show.

The same can be said for the countless soap operas around, popular and unpopular alike. Just look how they treated the sequel to Tanhaiyan. The problem does not attract sufficient attention. Though our industry is not under direct attack from any group (domestic or international). It is a system that is slowly crumbling from within.

Here are three major reasons why:


Rampant commercialism


The first pit-fall is an inescapable global reality. You could be working on your dream project, you may even be the best person for said project, might know exactly how to turn it into the best; but it will not matter because decisions lie with people writing the checks. They may decide to turn the whole project into a farce, but it will be theirs to ruin and you can have no say in the matter. Unfortunately, a vast majority of decisions in TV hail from a lack of appreciation of the creative process and more from service to the bottom line.

That's why you could swap episodes between soap operas and it would make about the same amount of sense, because no matter whom the cast/writers/creators are, the final say comes down to the a handful of people who are convinced that the country needs this the kind of programming.


New govts bring new agendas


The second problem is politics. With any change in Pakistan’s political landscape, everything from personnel to content will adjust to the new regime’s agendas.

Take the decline of the ratings-grabber Tariq Aziz Show, or the growth of sect-specific channels on the air. Private channels retain certain independence, but they are still subject to the first problem.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time in our history where TV characters went from expressing genuine human emotions to fluctuating between the extremes of laughter, bawling and just preposterous amounts of staring. This could well be due to commercial risk-aversion and the need to stick to what works, along with the massive appetite for content of a national nature, regardless of its entertainment value.


Also read: 'Turkish soaps: a development on media front'


The “if it worked in India, it should work here” mentality also needs to be reworked, but that is a long discussion and for another time.

For now, let's turn to another pressing issue:


Budget


It is laughable. With varying amounts for each channel, the average price per episode is between PKR. 200,000/- to PKR. 600,000/-. That includes costs of sets, props, production, directors, writers, actors, marketing and everything else. This is why production values are so disappointing and talent seems scarce (with a few rare exceptions) because “cheaper” becomes more important than skilled. The few, who are good, have so little to work with that they make a living either in volume (which severely affects quality) or they simply branch out to other industries.


How to fix TV programmes


The solution lies in repairing processes. However, we cannot demand that the revolving-door management policy suddenly stop, or that everyone unanimously change the way they think. That's wishful thinking.

The pragmatic way out of here is for television to begin a gradual return to its experimenting ways and open the doors to more original content.

To take an example from the film industry, take 'Waar'. It had its fair share of flaws, yet it broke box office records. This was because people are hungry for original local content en masse.

Original content brings ratings, ratings bring ad revenue, ad-revenue brings bigger budgets and the wheels keep turning. As a personal plight to aspiring artists, please create as much original content as you can, in your personal capacity and put it out on the internet for the world to admire. Its writing needn’t rival Breaking Bad and production values needn’t surpass Game of Thrones, it just needs to be well-made, with whatever resources you can afford.

This will create a demand for quality and that will force the industry to raise their standards.


The author is the head screenwriter for the Peabody Award-winning show, Burka Avenger, and writes frequently on entertainment, technology and humour. He tweets @abdurab


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (27) (Closed)


H L
Jun 27, 2014 06:11pm

Thankyou for writing a good, short and to the point.I was thinking may be its just me who is feeling this pain. Hope someone lay their ears on these suggestions and create a difference and give a new life to media industry.

AdHawk
Jun 27, 2014 06:34pm

In the 70s and 80s creators were way ahead of their audiences. Now they're just following them. Hence the malaise.

COOL TV
Jun 27, 2014 07:52pm

I think this type of dramas should be played and appreciated in Pakistan. As most of Turkish dramas are becoming popular now a days because of their meaningful story behind it. I hope this dramas will be one of most appreciated one.

salman
Jun 28, 2014 12:01am

same actors/actresses across different soaps at the same prime time on same day. just different channels. more-over they also have a what may be called omnipresence-fetish, because when the commercials show up, you see them there too.

....hence when you watch ptv old dramas, you feel a bid de-stressed as if on a break from work.

nor are the screen writers ploughing out scripts that can be manifested naturally and neither the players/ actors able enough to do it.

its all very 'vanilla'like art, and its tiring and its boring and the defence that todays plays/ TV soaps represent todays life and issues is simply put hollow. They are just not art any more (period). There are no big guns - around only discard-able fireworks. use them once and forget them.

to put the nail in the coffin and to give a living proof of the above abrasive critique is the apparent observation that 'drama's /soaps today have below base line memorability, when compared to better days.

surely does any one NOT remember dhoop- kinaray? . and what was the name of the super famous play that recently ended where a middle class religious family girl ends up in a bad marriage with a sick guy? how did it end? - case closed.

Arshad Raza
Jun 28, 2014 12:23am

Well, HUM TV seems to be producing some great dramas, like Hamsafar, Zandagi Gulzar Hai and Maat to name a few... Well in 80s we only had one channel though the production was good but sets were very cheap and low cost then. agreed same can be said about many dramas now a day due to so much demand and so little time to produce good quality. In short i respectfully disagree that "It has been aeons since local TV delivered good entertainment"

Waqas Ishaq
Jun 28, 2014 12:37am

You say "In an age where our musicians are breaking new ground globally, our producers winning prestigious, and our movies breaking box office records". I agree about the musician and some what with producers but which movie has broken box office record and what record.

imran
Jun 28, 2014 12:38am

All Pakistani drama especially HUM TV, has only one topic which is Shadi, as soon it happens drama over, I have suggestion why don't they change Hum tv name to Shadi TV. Most of the dramas shows girls are being abused by susral. Indian dramas even worst than anything probably written by 5th grade passed peoples.

Rev. Eldrick Lal
Jun 28, 2014 12:58am

Your article is worth reading and I hope that Pakistani TV plays will be transformed and will be compulsive watching again. On the contrary, the Turkish plays are not exhibiting Pakistani culture neither Islamic culture. They are pro-western style plays and I am not being biased or prejudiced.

syed
Jun 28, 2014 01:34am

its crap de la crap, I have not seen any Pakistani in ages, I already knew what was coming, why waste time.

Mansoor Iqbal
Jun 28, 2014 03:51am

Oh stop whining ! Pakistan drama serials are doing just fine. Especially the ones in HUM TV. Due to ever increasing demand Our neighbour India has launched " Zee Zindagi " which is dedicated to Pakistani Drama Serials.

a
Jun 28, 2014 04:25am

More interesting and variations are needed in Pakistani Dramas. Not triangle loves only.

Osman
Jun 28, 2014 07:30am

An excellent article. Couldn't agree more, especially the bit about lack of creativity and original content.

Asim
Jun 28, 2014 08:58am

I really think writer is confused and has no idea what he is writing about. Although quality of dramas might have declined, but all is not lost. In a country where Politics is the main source of entertainment, and talk show hosts have become celebrity instead of artists and actors, we still have out drama competing with the 8-10 PM prime time talk shows. Writer might not b liking current crop of dramas, but in my family there has been a regular chat about Bulbulay and other dramas, can i ask him how old was he when he saw Tanhaiyan and Dhoop Kinaray on the only channel available. What we see or like as a child and teen, stays with us forever. Mr. Writer must come out of his shell and start watching dramas with a positive mind. I m sure there would b plenty of stuff to like.

Salma Feroz Ali
Jun 28, 2014 10:08am

Most of the dramas focuses on gharelo problems. They should comeup with the likes of Dhuwan / alpha Bravo Charlie / Manchalay ka sauda

Adi Abdurab
Jun 28, 2014 11:11am

@Waqas Ishaq Sharmeen Obaid Chinnoy's oscar and Burka Avenger's peabody award.

Khan
Jun 28, 2014 12:20pm

Tanhayan 2 - LOL, was a joke and not in a funny way! By not being a part of it, Zara (Shenaz Shiekh) proved she was the most sensible family member.

Areeba Hanif
Jun 28, 2014 01:32pm

I don't understand why Aun Zara's screenshot has been used as a representative image of all that isn't good. :/ wasn't this program a leap away from the cliche?

akhan
Jun 28, 2014 06:47pm

I am seeing ads of some pakistani soaps on indian tv channels here.... I think they are being broadcasted on zindagi tv.

Zia Ahmed
Jun 28, 2014 08:51pm

I endorse your views and would again say that our TV shows have really fallen of the edge, all those old drama shows we had were really entertaining and full of joy and laughter and educational. Todays shows are all about stupid jokes and third class rated shows, truly the writers have to pay less and actors are not actors but un-talented people dragged into the world of actors. Stories are so exaggerated in their parts that such events have no where their roles in our society. TV channels for the sake of their telecast plug these shows and mint money through the advertisements, they are not looking at the quality and the lesson that needs to be imparted. TV is meant to educate and entertain the masses and set a standard both locally and internationally. Copying others has become our norm, importing foreign dramas like the Turkish dramas have no entertaining factors for our society, easy come and easy mint is what our cheap TV channels have adopted. Lastly, its time for our talented writers and wise channels managers adopt a course change to create a healthy society full of joy and education.

aaa
Jun 28, 2014 10:21pm

I disagree slowly the drama is back. Many good dramas like meri zaat zara e benishan, hamsafar, mera sayen, kankar, aun zara, rehai, dil e muztar, pul sirat, and many many more have done a come back. As far as tv is concerned other than drama only ptv has high content production. Sadly people dont watch it much as they find it boring. Still ptv has high qyality only the audience will return to it in time. Even ptv news is better without any sensationalism.

Sikander Sher
Jun 28, 2014 11:02pm

from tv serials like Dhuwan / alpha Bravo Charlie / Manchalay ka sauda we have now started producing depressingly boring serials...all the dramas now have a very depressing storyline with always and i mean always a MAZLOOM aurat or a MAZLOOM aurat having orphaned kids...they should come up with a far better storyline cause people watch the dramas for entertainment purposes not for getting depressed all over again...the last few drams that i enjoyed personally was humsafar and bulbuley that's it ...for gods sake get rid of the gharelo problems/ mazloom aurat storyline....there is a reason why people now prefer Turkish or Indian dramas

Daanish
Jun 29, 2014 04:39am

nice start

Hello people
Jun 29, 2014 04:40am

Hello, I am from Bangladesh, I like some of the Pakistani dramas in ARY and HUM tv very much. Because your culture matches with us unlike India.

Gaurav Arya
Jun 29, 2014 08:05am

@Mansoor Iqbal - Pakistani TV dramas are way, way better than what is produced in India. In fact, except for a few rare shows, most of our Indian TV content is over-the-top. On the other hand, just wait for a few weeks…the way the momentum in India is catching up, Aunn Zara will be a super-hit. When strangers start discussing Aunn Zara while traveling to work on Delhi Metro, you know you have a blockbuster on your hands. "Kaash main teri beti na hoti" is a bit heavy and serious, but great nonetheless. I think Pakistan has far better scriptwriters and that is the reason for great quality. Script is king.

joinzaheer
Jun 29, 2014 10:26am

The writer at least should ask a couple of people before writing this article. I am living in dubai and saw many people following our serials.

Zee started a brand new channel Zee Zindagi having only Pakistani serials. Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Aunn Zara are getting massive popularity in India. A channel official also said that there would no high drama, mahaepisodes, loud and garish make ups or much hyped deaths and births of people. Whatever is the case people are liking today's dramas specially from HUM TV.

Rashid Nazir Ali
Jul 04, 2014 09:16pm

in which age the writer lives there are dozens of superior quality dramas produced in recent times like zindagi gulzar hai, humsafar, dastan, malal,aun zara, qaide tanhai, durre shehwar. Giving examples of forty years, twenty years old programs is irrelevant in current context. Agreed there are dozens of bad plays, but there are also good ones in current age.

Please come out of past, open your eyes to this new age, and then write something meaningful. Otherwise please stop misleading others.

Rashid Nazir Ali
Jul 04, 2014 09:18pm

@Mansoor Iqbal Agreed, perhaps the writer is also one of those who loves to constantly criticize everything. there are dozens bad dramas on air these days, but there are many good one too. But seeing one bad drama and cursing whole channels is a very negative and passive thinking.