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Recently two celebrity talk shows that once reigned supreme have returned to television in a brand new avatar. Simpering, buttering and at best cajoling their guests into letting go of certain inhibitions to guarantee TRPs.

Lately, Simi Garewal – famous for her Rendezvouz With Simi show, where she played agony aunt to all her celebrity guests – got them to cry on her shoulder, laugh and reminisce all while holding their hands, giving them a chance to open up their lives, loves and unhappiness in front of the entire nation, is back with Simi selects India’s Most Desirable. This time, she uses the show to reestablish her iconic status and that of her guests. She repeats frequently in the show why she considers her guests ‘India’s most desirable.’ I think we would know why a handful of top Bollywood stars are desirable. Do give the audience some credit. She uses the show to suggest how Ranbir Kapoor, whom she is obviously incredibly fond of, possibly even charmed by, is actually really a sweet little Mama’s boy, very acceptably interested in women. What’s amusing is how Ranbir manages to charm her and keep her charmed throughout. And we shouldn’t even get to the part where Mama actually comes in with her endearments for Son. Simi’s botoxed and sugar-coated avatar give the audience less of a chance to see the real person, and more of a chance to see the avatar she wishes to – or has promised her guests to – unfold before the audience. Add a reassuring tarot card reader, a live audience that is highly impressionable and possibly enamoured by star power, and you have a celebrity I’m-so-famous-that-it-hurts show.

Karan Johar’s Koffee With Karan was funny, irreverent and iconic in that he managed to make a chat show into a gossip session that allowed his guests a ‘get out of jail free’ card to be as bitchy and frank as they liked when they did their rapid fire round. This time around, KWK is like a badly made cup of weak Koffee – quoted from my earlier post Decaffeinated Koffee With Karan:

“After a long hiatus, Johar is back with season 3 of KWK, and despite being much awaited, it fails to satisfy. It is disappointing, just like his movies: dramatic without meat, one-sided and microcosmic. Where you look for incisive questions, probing analysis and incurable wit, you realize that the show now balances on Johar’s relationship with his guests – so he treads on eggshells, pleases them, praises them and it becomes a mutual back-scratching hour. The questions are boring, dull and jaded – do we really care how some actors rate other actors? Do we want to know about only 5 actors – the Khans and Akshay Kumar? With only the bitchiness or sharp wit, straight-faced untruths and simpering (respectively) of Kareena, Saif, Ranbir and Priyanka provide some entertainment or relief, the show falls completely flat for the same reasons his movies fail to excite: they remain relevant to an older time, they assume only 5 people of either sex exist in the industry or Karan’s world, the format hasn’t got updated with anything but blatant in-show marketing of advertisers and sponsors.”

Note: Deepika comes into Simi’s show advertising blatantly for Neutrogena. She goes to Karan’s show taking Nescafe breaks – another one of her brands. Simi and Karan openly advertise these brands on their show. Maybe the hosts/ channels are afraid they won’t make the TRPs or the advertising revenue the normal way, so need to add this extra marketing to the mix?

What is it about these smart, savvy and experienced talk show hosts that they find themselves sinking into mediocre hosting? Pressure from that fact that they are a part of the same industry? Wouldn’t it be far more interesting if an outsider quizzed these people, without having to worry about having to make movies with them in the future? Or to not have to face that odd, cringing feeling when the guests have to choose from a list of tired-and-famous directors, and when the talk show host puts himself on that list. In a spectacular display of self-preoccupation. So the hosts are full of themselves, the guests are full of themselves, the hosts are insisting on the popularity of their guests with audience clips, accolades and praises – and in all of that, the viewer is left feeling…very-taken-for-a-starry-ride-to-nowehere-ish. Oh snap.