The problem with morality is that it is subjective. If we come up with a yardstick for what is moral and what isn’t, TV channels would have a hard time selling us such garbage
My father is not a man given to outrage. At the age of 65, just a few months older than the country itself, he leads a retired, unassuming life. He likes his tea without sugar, one-ball-foursomes on the golf course and enjoys primetime talk shows to the fullest. After years of watching his favourite anchors and politicians get beaten to a pulp on live TV, he is a channel surfer par excellence. So imagine my surprise when last night, over iftar, dad comes down from his room in a huff and starts venting like a man who has seen too many corrupt officers promoted ahead of those who rightfully deserved the reward.
The cause of his chagrin? Those happy-go-lucky talk show hosts now masquerading as Ramzan experts. Messrs Liaquat, Masood, Maya, Sanam and (if the seths see it fit to let her show air) Veena. The point of having such well-recognised and highly (sic!) respected TV personalities hosting sehr and iftar shows, ostensibly, is to build a personal connection between the channels and their viewers. This is why Aamir Liaquat, that most revered of televangelists, is hosting a Neelam Ghar-esque quiz show as part of his Ramzan transmission. It is reminiscent of the legendary show not because Mr Liaquat bears any resemblance to the great Tariq Aziz, but because the amount of advertiser branding in every given frame of said show was matched only by the genius of Neelam Ghar.
Victims of the recent violence that has wracked Karachi are also invited to the (and I use the adjective loosely) good doctor’s show. Once there, they are treated like Wasu was in Shehzad Roy’s last music video i.e., pushed to the background while Herr Doktor takes centre-stage and asks the million dollar question, “Who is responsible for these tragic deaths?” The answer is almost always a unanimous chorus of “the government of the day”. Fortunately for the purposes of the monologue that is to follow, no representatives of the government or the law-enforcement agencies are on hand to refute, rebut or explain the allegations levelled against them. This is possible because Dr Liaquat does not pretend to be a journalist and is actually merely doing a public service by interfering in the realm of journalism by allowing anyone and everyone to share the screen with him.
The icing on the cake is even sweeter. As the time to make or break one’s fast nears, the spirit of Nigella Lawson enters Dr Liaquat and he becomes possessed by the djinn of fine cuisine. The culinary experience is so thorough and so convincing that one is forced to soil themselves with drool in anticipation of the feast that is to come. And it’s not like the good doctor will eat all that yummy food himself. In fact, he has scores of ‘ordinary people’ (read friends of the production staff) who are more than willing to share a dastarkhwan and the Geo TV screen with the makhan-monger of yesteryear.
Sanam Baloch, the Lux Style Award-winning star of SAMAA TV’s morning show and Maya Khan’s replacement, has also broken out her black mourning dress and can be seen strutting her stuff on set in full make-up as she talks to wailing widows and other marginalised peoples, all the while, maintaining her impeccable hairdo and making sure that her crocodile tears do not mess with her mascara.
The terrific (read terrible) twosome of Dr Shahid Masood and Maya Khan are back to their old tricks and making Ramzan intolerable for all sane people on ARY News. While the old timer from the ‘End of Times’ is being his usually self, the dater-hater Maya has donned the mantle which, up until now, was only the domain of the Roman Catholic church. Papal pardons used to be a thing of ridicule, but now Maya is handing out pardons to all and sundry who confess their sins. The saucier your sin, the greater the value of the pardon. Of course, you have to be shameless enough to own up to said sins on national television. Otherwise, it just doesn’t work.
The problem with morality is that it is subjective. If only we could come up with some sort of objective yardstick for what passes off as moral and what is decidedly immoral, TV channels would have a hard time selling us the garbage that they are currently airing in the name of Ramzan. After all, the good people over at the Express Media Group pulled Veena Malik’s show due to a furore over whether such a sinner can be allowed to host a show which calls upon people to cast out their demons. Maybe it’s time other took a leaf out of their books and sent all these nauseating talk show charlatans to Sahir Lodhi’s show for a good old-fashioned exorcism. My father will be pleased.
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