For the first time yesterday, I watched the making of the finale of ELR - "The Last Laugh". The interesting part was that the crew (production crew and the cast) narrated their experiences over the course of 209 episodes and 9 seasons. Phil Rosenthal, the producer of ELR, said one very interesting thing - he said that the show was about "nothing" and they had only 2 guiding principles - can this happen and will people relate to it?
I find this "Can this happen and will people relate to it?" so so powerful. Come to think of it, why will people like a show about a family, its internal bonds and discords, the power struggle between the daughter and mother-in-law, the sibling rivalry unless they can relate to it? But people did like the show, so much so, that even today, we can see re-runs of ELR on various channels.
I remember, in the 80s and 90s, the quality of programming on DD was very high. The best of TV producers used to compete for a slot on DD. "Wagle Ki Duniya", "Kakkaji Kahin" et al were some very good serials.
In the late 90s, after the opening up of the TV world, we all have been witness to the innumerable "Saas Bahu" serials or SOAPs that run forever. Completely devoid of any story. I wonder how people can relate to such shows. I haven't seen a TV show based on short stories for years now. Every channel has more crap and now we can pay more money and watch this crap in HD
PS: The only exception is "Sarabhai-vs-Sarabhai", which was exceptional in my opinion.
Indian cinema is actually worse. They have always made formula films and now they have discovered a formula for making 200 crore films and they are milking it. It doesn't matter whether the movie has a story or not, but it must have an "item number". Very few films are great. I can't fathom how somebody can pay to watch these crappy movies and make them a box-office success.
This reminds me of the "Why, What and How" argument. People appreciate the "what" if they can relate to the "why". The "how" comes much later. If Indian TV and Cinema has to become better (and yes by my standards), they better start thinking about the "Why"...