What better way to bring in Gandhi Jayanti than by launching the new season of that most puerile of TV programmes, Bigg Boss? That the reality show hosted by Salman Khan is back in its 11th season speaks volumes for India’s television watching audiences. The channel after all is giving the people what they want – a bizarre reality programme which shows us some of the worst human behaviour possible. The last few seasons have had contestants throw their urine on each other, spit in each other’s drinking water, throw water bottles at each other and generally behave like feral children. Actually, to be fair to feral children, even they show some semblance of restraint in their wildness.

The only positive that is there is that Bigg Boss has remained consistent in its crudeness and crassness.

Now to the show, which premiered on 1 October with an unending gala episode, which saw Khan’s stubble grow thicker by the end of it. Now, I’ve had the misfortune of watching the show from Season 1 onwards (the things we must do to earn a living). The first year, it was like a study in social behaviour. How would 12 strangers locked up together for 3 months with no access to the outside world or people other than themselves, behave? Would they be obedient when instructed to perform tasks for rewards, by a disembodied voice or a celebrity host? How far would they go or fall to win Rs1 crore? Would you see the survival of the fittest, a breakdown of civilization, the emergence of the Missing Link? With the right group of people, this could have actually been a social experiment worth watching.

But for that to happen you have to have an interesting group of people. Not the bottom of the celebrity cesspool, which is what the show has now been reduced to. Even Khan looks surprised when he sees the contestants, because other than for a TV serial star or two, there’s no one you’d recognise. Or whom I recognise.

On the show, there is a set formula. There will be one international recruit. Usually it is a porn star. Sometimes to break the mold, Colors will just find some random but voluptuous foreign model and plonk her in the middle of this mess. One season the producers really thought out of the idiot box, and brought in Pamela Anderson, who refused to stay or play with the other contestants. This time around there is an Australian called Lucinda Nicholas who looks like Angelina Jolie’s doppelganger.

There is always a god man or god woman or sadhu or sadhvi. This time’s divinity slot has been filled by Sshivani Durgah whose strangely spelled name couldn’t save her from having to take part in Bigg Boss. There’s always someone from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, which is Sabyasachi Satyapathi who along with some people called Luv Tyagi, Mehjabi Siddiqui and the aforementioned Lucinda Nicholas make up the “padosi" group, who remain hidden and harass the contestants in the main house over the phone. Exciting stuff, this.

The other contestants include TV actors Shilpa Shinde, Hiten Tejwani and Hina Khan, and Priyank Sharma, and VJ Benafsha Soonawalla.

And because the Colors team seems to think that they’re making their version of Downton Abbey, there’s a group of “commoners". This includes Jyoti Kumari, “a common girl with not so common dreams". A Delhi business family offspring, Puneesh Sharma—who said “party karna mera shauk hai", dancer Sapna Choudhary who seemed the most sensible of the lot, a blonde rapper called Akash Anil Dadlani, and Zubair Khan who is Haseena Parkar’s (Dawood Ibrahim’s sister’s) son-in-law. This is like Celebrity Big Brother recruiting Osama bin Laden’s son as a contestant. All these people spent the first episode shouting and hurling abuses at each other while dressed in velour trackpants.

But leave aside the dismal motley crew which has been pulled together for the show. I don’t know whether the producers are displaying a smidgen of black humour or whether irony is not their friend. Because, on the show, Salman Khan got to introduce an underground jail in which contestants will have to stay when they fall out of favour. He also had to stand in a witness stand while introducing and questioning contestants. Will this make Khan empathise with contestants, wanting to release them from their incarceration as soon as possible? Who knows. But this was the only moment of entertainment and sweet irony on a show which seems to have managed to bring its entertainment level one step lower than its earlier puerile state. Now it’s not just puerile, it’s also boring. A deadly combination if ever there was one.

If you’d still like to watch Bigg Boss, tune in to Colors at 10.30pm on weekdays.

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