Should You Watch Tim Sebastian’s New Show ‘The Outsider’?
On shows such as Hard Talk and The Doha Debates, former BBC presenter Tim Sebastian developed a reputation for being a hard-as-nails inquisitor. However, the quality of discussion on his new India-centric talk show on Bloomberg UTV, The Outsider, was only marginally better than that seen on similar programmes on other news channels. Based on the first episode, which aired on Saturday, August 25, The Outsider’s format seems similar to that of The Doha Debates, Sebastian’s series on the Middle East. For the first 20 minutes of the hour-long show, the speakers present their opinions and are aggressively grilled by Sebastian, who comes armed with well-researched dirt on all of them. The rest of the show is reserved for audience questions.
However unlike The Doha Debates, which were often quite compelling, the inaugural installment of The Outsider was unfulfilling. This was solely due to the middling debating skills of the speakers, who were the usual political talking heads we’ve seen on similar shows and didn’t say much that we haven’t heard before. Sebastian’s motion, “Politics should no longer be a family business”, held out the promise of a crackling spot of Congress bashing, something that’s always welcome in these scam-ridden days. But the episode sputtered rather than sizzled. Supporting the motion were Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sudheendra Kulkarni. Their opponents were Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the president of the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, and the Biju Janata Dal’s Kalikesh Singh Deo. Both Bahuguna Joshi and Deo (who could win a pageant for parliamentarians with his model-like looks if not a debate) are from political dynasties. Joshi’s father, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna was a Congress leader and a former Chief Minister of UP, and Deo’s father and great-grandfather were both politicians in Orissa.
Yechury kicked off the debate by saying that politics is about having a vision for society and delivering justice, which cannot be achieved if it’s a family business. Sebastian then dryly pointed out that two members of the CPI (M) politburo—Prakash and Brinda Karat—are husband and wife. Kulkarni, who strongly opposed dynastic politics, was reminded that the BJP has several dynasties including the Scindias (the late Vijayraje Scindia and her daughters Vasundhara Raje and Yashodhara Raje) and Jaswant Singh and his son, Manvendra. Of course Bahuguna Joshi was targeted the most by the speakers as well as the audience as the Congress is ruled by the most prominent political dynasty of them all, the Nehru-Gandhi family. The Congress leader spent most of her speaking time defending heir apparent Rahul Gandhi, who was accused of being too inexperienced to become Prime Minister.
Sebastian was a skillful moderator, reigning in the speakers whenever the discussion got unruly, something that surprisingly didn’t happen too often. It almost seemed as if the politicians were on their best behaviour before Sebastian. But, as with most debate-based TV shows, the discussion was too rushed to really plumb the topic. The audience, which was made up of students and young professionals, failed to raise the level of debate with clever questioning. The only audience member who stood out was a young man who spoke about his failure in entering politics without connections; he had enrolled in the Congress and found the experience discouraging though he did not elaborate why. The show ended with an audience poll, the result of which doesn’t bode well for Rahul baba—78 per cent voted in favour of the motion.
The Outsider airs every Saturday at 8pm on Bloomberg UTV.Tags: Bloomberg UTV, Politics, Television, The Outsider, Tim Sebastian, TV, TV reviews, TV shows