In Defence of Four More Shots Please!, the Ultimate Guilt-Watch for the Lockdown

Pop Culture

In Defence of Four More Shots Please!, the Ultimate Guilt-Watch for the Lockdown

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Exactly a month ago, Netflix released Tiger King, a seven-part true crime-documentary-drama series centred on the rivalry between zookeeper Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, a big cat conservationist. Every episode plumbed new depths of horror, teetering on the edge of “how is this legal?”, while parading a checklist of American gore carried out in broad daylight. The result is that you’re glued to your seat in morbid fascination, despite common sense.

Tiger King became a cultural touchstone almost overnight, its cult multiplying as memes, tweets, and personal recommendations based solely on its ability to shock during a period defined by a pandemic and a global lockdown, when nothing really felt shocking anymore. In an essay for The New Yorker titled “The Crass Pleasures of Tiger King,” writer Doreen St Félix termed the show “prestige trash”. “Tiger King is what we watched two weeks into our isolation,” she wrote, observing that the collective embrace is evidence of “our renewed craving for the crass, the politically incorrect, the culturally insensitive.”

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Even when the show paints a portrait of the decades-long hold of the Indian social conditioning that has always worked against the liberation of Indian women, it is not entirely interested in representing them.

Amazon Prime Video

One month into isolation, the show that we choose to watch closer home is Four More Shots Please!, an Indianised, watered-down version of Sex and the City for similar reasons. Like Tiger King, the breathless obsession with Four More Shots Please! has less to do with its quality and more to do with how unequivocally it commands our attention as well as takes our minds off the things that demand our attention. Exactly like Tiger King, the ability of Four More Shots Please! to promptly end up as a conversation-starter across social media timelines is more than anything, a product of its timing.

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As of today, actress Kareena Kapoor, one-fourth of a girl gang herself, has put her weight behind the show.

Amazon Prime Video

The second season of the show – now streaming on Amazon Prime – comes at a time when the ambiguity of a lockdown that has us unmoored from human contact, is beginning to gnaw. At this moment, when every positive case of coronavirus and the increasing death toll is a harbinger of even more uncertainty, a show like Four More Shots Please! that doesn’t just distract but also deflects from the realities on the ground, offers a different kind of escapist, therapeutic pleasure.

If the first season of Four More Shots Please! introduced us to a brand of aesthetic feminism, stacked to the brim with loud sex, alcoholism, lesbian romance, and numerous vagina interventions, then the second season takes it several notches higher. The protagonists, Damini (Sayani Gupta), the strong-headed journalist, Siddhi (Maanvi Gagroo), an affable spoilt brat, Anjana (Kirti Kulhari), the successful divorcee lawyer, and Umang (Bani J), the plucky bisexual gym trainer, navigate misogyny, fake orgasms, a surprise pregnancy, monogamy, and the perils of the writing process with renewed vigour. The show works overtime in tackling every possible thread of bubble-gum progressiveness: Sapiosexuality, polyamory, and open marriage are invoked as is standing up against the government machinery at the cost of being branded an anti-national. Ample screentime is also afforded to a vipassana retreat, stand-up comedy, Instagram fame, and same-sex marriage, which is yet to be legalised in the country, even though Section 377 has been repealed.

Four More Shots Please! achievement is the fact that everyone seems to be watching and talking about it at the same time as each other.

As anyone who has watched even one episode will tell you, Four More Shots Please! doesn’t quite qualify as brilliant television. Even when the show paints a portrait of the decades-long hold of the Indian social conditioning that has always worked against the liberation of Indian women, it is not entirely interested in representing them. Its storylines are characterised by the kind of superficial excess that at times can be undeniably ridiculous – the obstacles faced by the four protagonists frequently come across as minor inconveniences that are often devoid of any real consequences. This season for instance, has an integral subplot about a journalist who finishes writing a book within the first five minutes of an episode and then self-publishes it in the closing five minutes of an episode. In the next episode, we learn that the book, based on the mysterious death of a judge (heavily inspired by Justice Loya’s death and journalist Rana Ayyub’s Gujarat Files), is both banned and a best-seller. Somehow, things seem to always work out for these four women, either through a stroke of good fortune, wealth, privilege, or a combination of all of the above.

Yet it is also the show’s frivolity that is the reason behind the mass-traction it is amassing at the moment. The truth is, Four More Shots Please! is simply easier to consume than anything else – the fact that its universe is so far removed from our current realities is thrilling at a time when delusion seems hard-earned. If the measure of a watchable show is the endorsement that it manages to generate around itself, through outrage, guilty-watches, or memes, then Four More Shots Please! is a definite shoo-in for the ultimate Coronavirus unifier. Its achievement isn’t just that everyone is watching and talking about it but also the fact that everyone seems to be watching and talking about it at the same time as each other. Effectively, the show has managed to find a loophole in the restrictions that have made it physically impossible to gather for a group viewing and turned the internet into a screening room. In doing so, it has allowed us to replicate the joys of community watching, giving us a reason to talk to others about something that they can talk back to us about.

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Four More Shots Please! is simply easier to consume than anything else – the fact that its universe is so far removed from our current realities is thrilling at a time when delusion seems hard-earned.

Amazon Prime Video

As of today, actress Kareena Kapoor, one-fourth of a girl gang herself, has put her weight behind the show, indulging in a good-natured Instagram banter about making an appearance in the third season (can you imagine?). In the last two days, my Twitter timeline has started resembling a confessional room. Every third tweet is about the show – friends, acquaintances, and strangers can’t stop talking about how they can’t stop themselves from talking about the show.

Before a deadly pandemic halted our lives almost without warning, Four More Shots Please! was merely prestige trash: a show that was so bad that it was good. But today, it is also emblematic of what quarantine entertainment looks like, similar to a time-out during heated moments in basketball matches.

Every episode in the second season of Four More Shots Please! opens with a disclaimer that declares that it is made “solely for viewer entertainment”. Whether you are a fan or not, you’d agree that it does live up to that promise. Sometimes, that’s all you need from a show.

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