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Drivel in a Box

I have spoken out on the evil that is Japanese TV quite often, but I realize I’ve never really gone in depth about it. Please allow me to do so now.

If I had my way, I would never watch it. My TV would only be used for video games, movies, and…um…entertainment of the adult persuasion. Unfortunately, my wife loves Japanese TV, a habit I have yet to break her of. Since she gets home before I do, the TV is already on and spewing its crap before I can even object. I have a subscription to cable TV which includes international versions of American channels, and I’ve even tried to steer her in the direction of music, but she always comes back to the boob tube. Sigh.

I feel that I should clarify exactly why Japanese TV sucks. I’m sure many of you are thinking “but, American TV sucks too!” And yes, there are a lot of horrible American TV shows that make you question your faith in justice in the universe. But I feel that for all the crap, there are gems that shine brightly enough to more than make up for it.

In Japan, its all crap.

I’ll elaborate. Japanese TV is dominated by a type of TV show called “variety”. I find this naming ironic, because the shows all follow the same worn-out formula. Variety shows revolve around gathering a group of talent/celebrities, and one of the three activities…

1. Celebrities talking.
2. Celebrities eating.
3. Celebrities taking quizzes/playing some sort of game.

They may combine one or more of the above three (celebrities taking quizzes about what they ate, for example), but this is the nucleus of the Japanese variety TV show. As if that wasn’t drill-a-hole-in-your-skull boring enough, the celebrity pool in Japan isn’t that big, so you end up seeing the same damned people over and over again. Plus, the word for celebrity, or talent in Japanese, is “geinoujin”, which means “a person with talent abilities”. This is also highly ironic…as none of these people are actually even interesting, let alone talented. If you want to have some fun with a Japanese person, ask them who their favorite geinoujin is, then ask them what exactly their talent is – watch as their entire reality shatters around them. It’s fun!

Perhaps if Japanese TV had other stuff to balance it out, say a Japanese version of 24 (how would that work anyway? Jakku Bauaa has 24 hours to make sure his kids pass their college entrance exams while hiding his mistress from his wife?) or something like that, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but variety dominates the airwaves.* The crap is just inescapable. Its the lack of variety plus the horrible repetition that makes the situation so grim.

*I know many of you are thinking “but, what about drama/anime?!” Good drama only comes around every now and then, and even then the dramas are kind of formulaic (office, police, doctor, school (good teacher reforms bad kids), romance, family). Anime…I won’t get into that.

So basically, Japanese TV is like going out with your friends to dinner. Except, you are trapped in a glass box. While you can hear and see everything that happens on the outside, everyone outside is completely oblivious to you. So you can watch them all eat and talk about “you had to be there” stories and maybe play some games, but not actually participate. Again, I’ve tried to point this out to people; instead of watching this crap on TV, why not call up your friends and actually do it in real life?* And again, they will go into a semi-catatonic state at such a preposterous and unthinkable proposal.

*Maybe its just me, but has anyone else found the odds of calling up a Japanese friend randomly and having them be receptive to going out on the fly close to mathmatical zero? Even if they are just sitting at home doing nothing (or watching God-awful TV, which is pretty much nothing), the stock response seems to be, “But, it’s so sudden…” I’ve also asked some Japanese people about this, and the answer I’ve gotten is that they haven’t “mentally prepared” for going out. Not saying all Japanese people are guilty of this, but I’ve pretty much given up on meeting any Japanese friend unless the date was penciled into a calendar and ratified by the National Diet.

This entry was born from a conversation with my wife, where we found that the 5 shows I loathe the most are among the ones she most enjoys watching. So I would like to present my Top 5 Worst Japanese TV Shows. …Of course, giving these shows a ranking sort of implies that one is somehow better than the other. Don’t get me wrong. They’re all horrible, festering piles of steaming donkey shit. Its just that one is the donkey shit, and perhaps the next one is donkey shit covered in natto, and the next one is donkey shit covered in natto and left out on hot open asphalt.

Az Presents: The Top 5 Worst Japanese Television Shows On Air
(Disclaimer: List is based on personal preference…but they all suck. I Men’s Warehouse-Guarantee It.)

…Before I get to the Top 5 though, a shout out.

Honorable Mention: London Hearts

I feel kinda guilty for listing this show, this is one I can actually watch and even (gasp!) enjoy. As a man though, it is my duty to list this one for the epic Chris Hansen-level trapping they do.

I’d love to tell you what this show is about – but I actually have no idea. The content seems to change every week – sometimes they follow around a celebrity with hidden cameras for a whole week, sometimes they do the whole “gather celebrities and talk” bit, sometimes they pull “average” girls off the streets and give them makeovers. Why I have to give this show a nod involves some of the pranks they pull on guys.

Some segments will involve putting guys into situations where hidden cameras are in play, and then ridiculing the guy for what he does. That by itself isn’t too bad, but the unfortunate part is that the situations they put guys in are pretty much situations in which every red-blooded heterosexual male will react in almost the same way – and then they ridicule him for it, on camera.

For example, one bit involves having the target be at a beach. They will have a very attractive girl in a bikini sit somewhere in his immediate area, and then with hidden cameras, count how many times he tries to discreetly check out the girl. The show will start the segment off with a sum of money that they will give the guy for not looking, and continually subtract from it every time he takes a look. The guy, of course, does not know that this is taking place. In the studio, the hosts and the celebrity peanut gallery will laugh at how many times he looks/the ways in which he looks, and sometimes they even bring the guy’s girlfriend/wife in on it, and ask her if she thinks the guy is going to look (to which she usually says something like “I have confidence that he won’t look that much”). To this, I can only say………..OF COURSE WE ARE GOING TO LOOK! WTF DID YOU THINK?! “Oh wow, there’s a hot girl sitting over there rubbing herself down with lotion…but hey look at that fluffy cloud in the sky.” NO. FUCK NO. WE ARE GOING TO LOOK.

So, I don’t understand the humor/entertainment of laughing at a guy doing something that is completely and totally natural. They might as well have a seqment where they ridicule people for breathing. “Look at this guy! Look at his dependence on oxygen and his constant need to expel carbon dioxide from his body. Look, he just exhaled again! Let us laugh at his shame!” To further add insult to injury, the segment will end with the bikini girl going up to the guy, and verbally accosting him for constantly staring at her. The guy will be bewildered until the staff comes up to explain that he was just targeted by the show.

And yes, to all the girls/women reading, we look. Accept it.

In another epic trap segment, they will have a cute young girl (they often use models for this) give her email address to one of the celebrity guys. The guy may email, at which point the “girl” will email back – but in reality, its the (male) host of the show. The girl will express interest in the guy, which eventually leads to a date. For the date, the original model will come back, and with an earpiece and the direction of the hosts, will be very into the guy. This will culminate into her asking him back to her apartment to spend the night. As the two walk back to her place, the guy will fall into a hole that the show has constructed in the ground. “From Heaven to Hell”, they call it. As the guy, understandably upset, climbs out of the hole, he’s greeted by lights, cameras, and the show’s hosts + peanut gallery standing around the hole and laughing at him.

This shit just ain’t right.

Give a guy a model-calibur girl, have her hang off his every word and be totally interested in him, and then have her invite him back to her place…what guy isn’t going to go for this? And then as the guy is all happy and preparing himself for a nice night of sex, he gets dropped in a hole. Because the cameras are on him, the poor guy can only smile and laugh it off, but I think the most usual response here would be: murderous rage. At least, that would be my response. Like I would instantly double in size, start glowing green, and then just Hulk Smash whatever happened to be in my line of sight.

So yeah, the epic trapping is just plain wrong. As a fellow male, I cannot condone this nonsense at all. Even if it is kinda entertaining. I can’t help but to think “What if that were me?” For the bikini girl segment, I’d end up owing the TV station money. Luckily, I have an understanding wife – not only does she not care if I look at other women, she’ll even point out women she thinks I should be looking at. I think that’s a pretty good deal. But yeah, for the humiliation of men doing ordinary men things, London Hearts earns an honorable mention on my list.

Next Entry: Getting started on the Top 5!

Categories: Gaijin Smash
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