It’s the quintessential sitcom idea, innit: bringing together a motley group of youngsters in an apartment and capturing the comedy and drama resultant from their interactions. In the case of Amazon Prime Video’s Tamil sitcom, Time Enna Boss, there’s also the idea of time travel to further spice up proceedings. This means that the premise doesn’t just have people who are of different types; they are of different times and land at Bala’s (Bharath) apartment, specifically his toilet.
The opening and final episodes of the show are titled Flush In and Flush Out. Towards the end, I wondered if it was a metaphor perhaps for the viewing experience. There’s Barathi who comes from 1976, Hannah from 1895, Buggy from 2075, Killi from 1000 AD… I know what you are thinking. Surely, it has got to feel explosive, inventive… I mean, imagine the conversation possibilities, the sheer range of topics people from such diverse timelines could discuss, the comedy you could milk out of such people learning the ways of a world they are clueless about...
How can you go wrong with such a premise? Across the ten episodes of this sitcom, you learn how. Each episode of this show lasts roughly twenty minutes and in all, works up to more than three hours of runtime — three breathtakingly tedious hours. As the episodes pass by, and as you count down to when you can finally escape from the imprisonment of it all, you are subjected to increasingly frustrating — and often repetitive — attempts at generating humour. There’s an idea about how Barathi freezes each time someone says ‘brilliant’ and gets released upon hearing the word ‘Kannan’. It’s an idea that’s not funny the first time around. Around the 100th iteration of this idea, you are ready to eat your hair in frustration. Oh wait, the sitcom tells you there’s a word for people who eat hair: trichophagia. Perhaps the writers knew the effect the content would have, after all.
It’s a show that frequently drops dialogues and references from popular Tamil films and international cinema. From time-travel films like Back to the Future and 24 to popular cinema like Aboorva Sagotharargal and 7aum Arivu to 7G Rainbow Colony and Game of Thrones, the references are very many. But the question is, so what? What’s it to us if the bonnet of a car has the words ‘Bodhi Dharman FTW’ plastered on it? Or how about all the play with brand names? There’s a drink called Dead Bull, there’s a shampoo called Aldo Raine (the character from Inglourious Basterds who wants scalps… get it?), a fashion brand called Coma (not Puma, get it?), a channel called Bore Darshan (are you sure you want me to explain why?)… There is just no respite.
The biggest shocker is how impotent the time-travel angle is in this show, how little engagement — humourous or dramatic or emotional — results from it. It’s a show whose cast includes established actors like Bharath, Karunakaran, and Priya Bhavani Shankar, and successful comedians like Robo Shankar and Alexander Babu, but the problem is what’s on paper. Typically, I’d present a few lines from the show as evidence of ineffective humour, but with Time Enna Boss, you can feel free to stop at any point in its 3+ hour duration for a sample. The dialogues aren’t funny, the situations aren’t enterprising, and the characters… you feel nothing for them at the end of three hours of familiarity. Wait, to be fair, that’s not true. I did feel quite a bit of loathing.
While watching a show like F.R.I.E.N.D.S or The Big Bang Theory (whose intro song seems to have influenced the one here), we occasionally catch ourselves wishing for similar content but that which is homegrown, that which speaks about problems we are familiar with, that which draws from everyday humour… Shows like Time Enna Boss take us further away from ever seeing it come to fruition. The only question I had after enduring all ten bizarre episodes of this show, concerns the laughter track that is often used in the show. Who are those people, and what convinced them to laugh to this content?
Cast: Bharath, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Robo Shankar, Alexander Babu
Streaming on: Amazon Prime