The best part about the second season of On Air with AIB is that it’s not on air anymore. The show being pulled off Star World and being made a Hotstar exclusive gives it all the opportunities to reinvent itself – but does it follow through?

The first thing you’ll notice about Season 2 is that it’s less about the ‘on air’ and more about the ‘with AIB’. There are no separate episodes for English and Hindi, and the format has changed too – each week has 3 segments of an episode coming out, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The first segment is a 20 minute take on an emerging trend in the news space, the second is a shorter segment called ‘Can You Not’ that comments on common practices that should be less common, and the third segment called Off Script’ is essentially an episode of the AIB podcast with guests from the comedy circle.

The season premiere is underwhelming at best. There’s no Tanmay Bhat for the first 20 minutes, and the other three don’t seem too excited to be back. The episode is titled ‘Nationalism vs Anti-Nationalism’ and begins with Gursimran Khamba and Ashish Shakya poking fun at Pahlaj Nihalani (an allegation that Nihalani brushes his teeth with Chawanprash is particularly funny) and the bizarre decisions taken by the CBFC.

The rest of the segment clumsily addresses the phenomenon of anti-establishment voices being drowned out as ‘anti-national’. While it has its moments, the topic is vast, and the time taken to set some punches up leaves the punches themselves feeling underwhelming – a 40 second introduction to Kiren Rijiju ends on a particularly flat note.

The funniest part about the segment is Shakya reading out a query from Mahinder Watsa’s Sexpert column in Mumbai Mirror, which doesn’t speak too highly of the quality. Tanmay finally makes an appearance at the end of the first segment in a mini-sketch about the national anthem playing in theatres, which is another high point of the episode.

The first podcast feels like a half-baked effort to put out more content for Hotstar. While the guests – Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath are entertainers with comic chops of their own, the segment is a poor use of their talents.

Rohan Joshi and Khamba move on to ‘Can You Not’, where they take down political acronyms being used in election campaigns, and it’s liberating to see them cut loose, both in terms of the language they use and the jokes themselves. Rohan even compares Amit Shah to Salt Bae at one point, with hilarious results.

The writing is funny but it’s the hilarity of the carefully-chosen subject matter that makes the segment stand out.

The first podcast feels like a half-baked effort to put out more content for Hotstar. While the guests – Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath are entertainers with comic chops of their own, the segment is a poor use of their talents.

It’s a 30 minute long conversation about board exams, but I could only make it past 10 minutes before tuning out. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

The second episode is a big improvement over the first, and a large part of that is thanks to Tanmay.

The first part of the first segment is hugely entertaining due to Khamba and Tanmay’s chemistry. The punches come often, the laughs feel genuine and the source material (funny protests across the country) is much better researched – a hilarious video of protestors doing a ‘Naagin’ dance is capped off by Khamba with an emphatic punch (“This is what happens when someone takes the phrase ‘Kya karoon? Nachoon?’ literally”).

WATCH: Stand-Up Comedians Adda (Part 1) 

For the first 5 minutes, the segment makes you believe that AIB can be India’s John Oliver, as long as they aren’t trying too hard. Rohan and Shakya then take over, dissing draconian restrictions on college students. While it isn’t exceptionally funny, the segment is finely balanced between silliness and a serious discussion, and a reminder of what every episode can be. The podcast is better than the one with Kanan and Biswa, but still feels out of place. AIB sketch regular Rahul Subramanian drops by for a conversation about vacations and trips to Goa.

Not being on TV anymore looks like it might work in AIB’s favour – the targets are bigger, the gaalis flow more freely, and the smaller set feels more conducive to AIB’s style

The stories are funny and very relatable, and the 18-minute runtime seems much shorter than that. While it’s still tough to understand why these podcasts are being projected as a part of the show, at least this one isn’t boring.

All in all, the highlights of the second season so far have been when the comedy collective isn’t trying too hard to be something it isn’t. Not being on TV anymore looks like it might work in AIB’s favour – the targets are bigger, the gaalis flow more freely, and the smaller set feels more conducive to AIB’s style. However, AIB’s journey to find itself isn’t always hilarious, and it still feels like the show has a lot more potential – even if it is a marked improvement over Season 1.

You can watch On Air WIth AIB on Hotstar here.

 

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