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Is The Best Thing on TV Not Even on TV Anymore?


It’s no secret that television programming of late has, according to me, been on a downward curve. News channels are spectacularly inept at everything except sensationalizing whatever it is that they peddle in the name of “news”. Movies are hilariously and rather ham fistedly censored. And English entertainment channels? Well, let’s just say that I can watch season 4 and season 10 of Two and a Half Men back-to-back, on two different channels, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Why? Because it just serves as a stark reminder of how Mr Kutcher isn’t funny and can’t act (and definitely should never have played Steve Jobs in a movie). And how studios will flog their (once respectable) properties into submission, even when the only punch line of any and every joke happens to be the viewer who decided to stay faithful to the sow in the first place.

Anyway, I digress. This piece isn’t about how syndication makes it possible for all channels to carry the same basic list of shows, most of which are well past their prime. It’s about this little show I happen to be one of the most vocal supporters of. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. It stars nobody breathtakingly famous, except probably that Asian guy from The Hangover (his name is Ken Jeong, and even I had to Google “Leslie Chow” to get his real name). It’s this little show called Community. Even if you have heard of it, I’m sure you wouldn’t have given it a second’s thought. After all, nobody in your immediate friend circle is talking about it the same way they talk about a House, or a Suits, or even a Big Bang Theory.

What sets Community apart from everything else on the telly is its originality. And its pop culture references. And its funnier than funny one liners. And the heart and care given to each character. And the fact that even though a Wikipedia description of any of its episodes sounds like an absolute hodgepodge, which can be nothing but a train wreck once filmed, each episode just about manages to somehow still make sense and shine through all of the zany brilliance.




I mean, seriously. This is a show which refuses to stick to any particular format. There have been stop motion animated episodes. There have been episodes entirely set within (and presented like) 8-bit video games. There have been episodes centred around paintball which still somehow manage to riff on Star Wars, the movies of John Woo, The Matrix, and classic westerns like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly—all at the same time. More than anything else, here is finally a show which places a premium on the writing.



Such care and spark of originality should always have been celebrated on TV. Sadly, after a mere five seasons, NBC decided to cancel Community forever. Meaning, that those who never knew about this gem would go about life still safe in the assumption that Brooklyn Nine Nine is the funniest new show on the block. And those who did know about this gem? Well, we folks are just left ruing the decisions made by NBC, and writing semi-nostalgic, extremely fanboy-ish pieces like this. Because that’s what the show does to you. It grabs your imagination, and never lets you be satisfied with anything else on TV after it.


Thankfully for people like me, there does seem to be a slight silver lining to the cancellation cloud. Community would be back on Yahoo Screen. Hopefully, soon. Hopefully, better than ever. I am certainly waiting with baited breath for it. Are you?



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©Rachit Agarwal for

Is Warner Bros Finally Getting It Right?

It’s been no secret that for years now, Warner Bros has made a hash of its DC properties on screen. While they might have started the current trend of superhero tent pole films (take the likes of the original Superman series, or the Burton-Schumacher Batman films), with Marvel struggling to get anything going for them, the tables have well and truly been turned of late. Marvel has managed to score such slam dunks as the Iron Man series, the Thor films, and above all, the Avengers universe. In the same time, Warners has struggled to even ape the Marvel model. They hoped to get a unified universe off the ground with their Green Lantern film, but well, that film has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 26% for a reason.


When it was announced at last year’s San Diego Comic Con, the mecca of all things comic and geek, that Warner Bros would be attempting a unified universe again with their sequel to 2013’s box office superhit (but critically “meh”) Man of Steel, I was sceptical. It isn’t just that I don’t trust Snyder completely right now. Or the fact that without Nolan present to look over his shoulder, David Goyer can turn out to be a shockingly clunky writer. It was just that it all felt too rushed. A new version of Batman less than 5 years before Nolan’s definitive take? How do you manage that, man? How can you even hope to top Nolan’s take? Or even differentiate your own take?


And then they cast Ben Affleck. Yep, Daredevil was all shades of terrible, but I was willing to get behind that guy. He seems perfect Bruce Wayne material. Specially an older Bruce Wayne. Plus, his recent escapades as a director suggest he actually has a head for story and pacing and nuance—all things that the “visionary director of 300 and Watchmen” (Zack Snyder) lacks. Maybe, it was a silent admission of Warner Bros’ part that Snyder still needs some sort of guidance when it comes to character development. And this was just reiterated when Affleck got his Oscar winning writer, Chris Terrio (Argo) on to the project. Yep, things seemed to be looking up.


But then, bombshells were dropped on us. Wonder Woman would be in the project. Maybe they were rushing a bit, but it could work. Oh wait. They just cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman! A woman, notorious for how skinny she is, would be playing a female superhero notorious for how buff she is! Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. And a Lex Luthor with hair. All these were wild departures from not just the norm, but what any fan of these properties could have (and would have) hoped for. Especially considering that the great Bryan Cranston was such a perfect fan favourite for Luthor.


For all these reasons, Warner Bros might have felt the pressure coming into this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Coming to the biggest geek event on Earth, with fans firmly sitting on edge, waiting to tear you to pieces for any sign of disrespect to their beloved characters, is not an easy thing to do. And boy, did Warner Bros put on a show!




As this insane first character look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s Wonder Woman proves, WB and Snyder really seem to have gotten the character look down to a pat. And really, the Wonder Woman costume has proven to be one of the toughest to get right on screen. A skirt too short, and you get slammed for having a “leery eye”. A departure from the comic book costume (as the 2011 Wonder Woman pilot tried by giving the character a blue pants), and fans go up in an uproar. But this costume really seems to convey the character’s toughness and vulnerabilities, even making up for Gal Gadot’s slight built.


But more than this reveal, fans went giddy after getting their first look at actual footage from the 2016 film. I’m sure you have all read descriptions of the footage (if you haven’t, it’s a tease to an epic showdown between Batman and Superman, with plenty of mood and atmosphere about the two characters). Some of you might have even seen bootlegged versions of the footage (if you haven’t its best to wait till an official release of the footage. It will literally blow your mind). After watching this footage, I really have no doubt that Snyder and co have found their own (cinematically) unique take on the character. A faithful adaptation of the character from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (which also, coincidentally, had a showdown between Batman and Superman), this version seems grittier and more ruthless than anything Nolan ever committed to screen.




Snyder has never let fans down when it comes to the visuals. And that is particularly true of the clip shown too. Oodles of style, immense teases, and atmosphere right for such an epic showdown. Even knowing this tendency of Snyder’s I am suddenly more than silently optimistic about the film, and about the entire unified DC universe. There seems to be great talent involved, and the choice of teases (till now) seem to suggest that those in control have a firm understanding of what is needed. And, for that, I believe Warner Bros deserves hearty congratulations.


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©Rachit Agarwal for

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Hans Zimmer & AR Rahman: Kings of the Rut?



Hans Zimmer and AR Rahman. Ubiquitous names when it comes to music. Each a maestro in his own industry. Each one looked up to with the same fervent adoration hitherto reserved only for demigods and Sachin Tendulkar. Each one, a pioneer when he first burst on to the scene. A sole, different voice in a sea of uniformity. But alas, each also probably stuck in a rut which, in the case of at least one of them, is beginning to hurt his credibility.

To understand this opinion piece, one must delve slightly into our own nostalgic look back into the music of the early 90s. Both of them burst on to the mass scene at more or less the same time. Zimmer did so in Hollywood, Rahman did it in Bollywood. At the time, Bollywood had just lost the legendary junior Burman. Bappi-da and Baba Sehgal were somehow popular. And, Bollywood soundtracks had begun their slow march into the pap that we have peddled around right now under the guise of “music”. In all this tone deaf mayhem, came the soothing, and very hatke sound of Roja. The instrumentation was counter to the norm. The construction was simple, hummable. The music just floated under and lifted the lyrics of the songs. And yet, each song had its own distinct melody. Each one captured the innocence of a bygone era, filtered through the sensibilities of modern day music production.

Across seven seas, Zimmer was doing much the same with his action movie scoring. Those who were savvy about such things immediately latched onto the subtle shift in scoring Zimmer seemed to be championing. The shift to a more staccato, urgent sound. Heightened suspense and excitement through the use of percussion. Whilst each composer (at least those who cared, and weren’t just phoning the score in) lay emphasis on notes, Zimmer seemed to be laying emphasis on beats. His score for Crimson Tide is still considered a landmark. It finally ushered us into the era of the modern action movie score.

However, after the original breathtaking originality, both of these maestros seem to have gotten stuck in a rut. Their latest offerings seem to be merely peddling those same tropes they mastered two decades ago. Both have tried getting out of their comfort zones, and both seemed to have failed to a degree. Rahman tried a more “pop” sound but ended up ripping off Backstreet’s Back. Zimmer went big with his orchestration, and just ended up losing the heart and soul so needed for a good movie score. In my opinion, the scores for each of the three Nolan Batman movies seem to mirror Zimmer’s descent into the rut. Batman Begins had plenty of heart and mournful, emotional scoring (the notes for which, in all probability, were provided by Zimmer’s scoring partner on the project, James Newton Howard). The Dark Knight lost much of the heart, but dared to experiment (with its Joker theme). The Dark Knight Rises was merely a bloated mess, devoid of any heart.

By failing to evolve into a sound which makes you say (without even having to look at the credits), “oh hey, that’s a Rahman score,” or “oh hey, that’s a Zimmer score,” both these men seem to be doing their legacy a great disservice. Don’t get me wrong. Having a sound which is uniquely yours isn’t a bad thing. The most celebrated composers—from Beethoven, to John Williams—al have their own distinct sound. But, it becomes a problem when your “distinct” sound is easily ape-able, and any attempts at “evolution” are laughable (case in point: Zimmer’s Electro theme from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which was such a bad “rap” track that it should never have made it into the final film). In this respect, I think, Zimmer is more guilty.

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this (after all, I used to be a die-hard Zimmer fan), but while both seem to be stuck in a rut, at least Rahman’s rut sounds pleasing to the ears. Don’t you agree?


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©Rachit Agarwal for