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'It Really Just Felt Relatable': The Cultural Impact Of Hasan Minhaj's 'Patriot Act'


HASAN MINHAJ: Hasan Minhaj - that's the "Patriot Act." Thank you guys so much.


For nearly two years, Hasan Minhaj has hosted his political satire show for Netflix. And yesterday, he announced "Patriot Act" will not be returning for its seventh season. The show was a first for Netflix, the first weekly U.S. talk show hosted by an Indian American. It earned both a Peabody and an Emmy Award and the hearts of viewers, particularly in South Asian homes here and across the globe. To talk about its cultural impact and representation of South Asians in media, we have pop culture writer Sowmya Krishnamurthy. Welcome.

SOWMYA KRISHNAMURTHY: Thanks for having me.

FADEL: So, Sowmya, you were one of many fans of the show who expressed some sadness at its cancellation on Twitter yesterday. What did the show mean to you and South Asian communities?

KRISHNAMURTHY: For me as a fan, the show finally meant I could turn on the screen and see someone who looks like my brother, who looks like my cousin, who looks like one of us. And I think for so many South Asians, so many first-generation kids, Muslim Americans, it was this idea of representation. Finally, we have someone on screen who their whole life has been told they have a hard-to-pronounce name. I know that pain very well. And we just had this innovative show. It was so smart and funny and the way he utilized technology and audience interaction. The best way to put it is he had this millennial sensibility where he was smart and he could talk about politics and climate and college debt but do it in a way that was palatable and appreciated and approachable by young people. To see him being pulled off the screen is really a sad day for us fans.

FADEL: Who fills that hole now?

KRISHNAMURTHY: You know, it's really a question. Right now, 2020, in the entertainment industry, everyone's talking about representation and this idea of inclusivity, bringing in different voices that haven't been heard so far. I would love to see that the next Hasan Minhaj perhaps a young woman of color, a young South Asian woman, would come to prominence in that position. Hasan can and should go on to another channel and find a lot of success. And that should open the door for the next generation of Hasan Minhajes (ph).

FADEL: So Netflix hasn't said why "Patriot Act" was cancelled, but it also recently canceled talk shows by Michelle Wolf, Chelsea Handler, Joel McHale. Does this format just not work on streaming services?

KRISHNAMURTHY: We really don't know what the metrics because Netflix hasn't revealed that. And so much when it comes to television, it's about ratings. If people aren't watching, they're not watching, and we go on to the next show. You know, one thing I think we have to remember is we're in an election year. And the first Indian American vice president is coming to prominence. So I think there's still a need and desire to have this talk show format, to have smart political conversations happening. Maybe they're not going to happen on Netflix, and they'll happen on something else. But I think they definitely need to happen.

FADEL: What are you going to watch with your father now? I saw that this was the show you shared.

KRISHNAMURTHY: What's so funny is there's few shows that my dad and I actually agree upon. And this was the one show that we could watch that would cover cricket and hip-hop, something for him, something for me. So I think right now it's kind of left a hole. But I really urge network executives to come up with the next brilliant idea. What can you do that Sowmya's dad and Sowmya can watch together?

FADEL: Sowmya Krishnamurthy is a music and pop culture writer. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone and Billboard. Thank you so much.

KRISHNAMURTHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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