TV in Japan

Michael Badzik mike
Thu Aug 27 21:52:40 EDT 1998

I wasn't going to respond to the dare that started this thread. But then 
Aaron wrote a very insightful response to it that I would like to make 
a few comments on:

>But I gradually stopped watching dramas. ... The acting, screenwriting, 
>and direction was often so cliched and conventional that I could not 
>help laughing.

This is true more often than not. But not watching means missing the 
exceptions like _Aoi Tori_, _Aishiteiru to Ittekure_, 
_Age 35, Koishikute_, _Furuhata Ninzaburou_, to name a few.

>Even _Futarikko_, which my wife and I religiously watched and which 
>was one of the better asaren in a while, had a script full of holes 
>(I can't believe it won most of the TV scriptwriting awards 
>that year--are standards that low?)

Aaron, you wrote about how we must pay attention to modes of viewing; 
I certainly watch NHK morning dramas differently than I would an 
evening drama or a movie, and suspect a lot of other longtime viewers 
do too (and so am curious as to how it was received by your wife). I have 
long imagined that inside NHK was a check list of requirements that any 
story considered for the morning drama series must have (e.g. young 
female hero, either she or her parents work in a "traditional" Japanese 
field, despite continual obstacles and adversity success is found 
through working hard and never giving up, and in the end realizing that 
the traditional Japanese ways are the best). So one has to look past 
these obligatory inclusions to see what the story is really about; I see 
here a story that often questions tradition and satirizes Japanese 
society in a gentle way (something also done in _Otona no Otoko_, the 
other Oishi Shizuka written drama on the air here now). From one 
perspective one certainly could bemoan the cliches, from mine I am 
impressed at how many it avoided.

>As for TV game shows, while I don't watch it myself, _Shiawase no
>kazuko keikaku_ was recently selected the best TV game show at a 
>major TV festival in Europe--the first time any Japanese TV program 
>has won a prize.  It has been so well received abroad, it is being copied 
>right and left.  

Japan also produced _Naruhodo the World_ -  an absolutely brilliant 
concept as well as one of the best game shows ever. It was also copied 
right and left, and you can still see the influence it had in other game 
shows. It had an impact on society as well during its fifteen year run 
that was both significant and fascinating.

>As a longtime fan of comedy, however, I cannot say I am satisfied with 
>TV comedy here.  There is little of the well-scripted, well-acted TV 
>comedy one saw on _Monty Python_, _Mary Tyler Moore_, _Murphy
>Brown_, or _Seinfeld_.

One of the funniest shows that I have ever seen, and one of the few 
Japanese shows that might be classed as a sit com, was the Furuhata 
spinoff/takeoff _Imaizumi Shintarou_ starring Nishimura Masahiko and 
written by Mitani Koki. It is available on video if you have never seen it.

The comedy  dramas written by Mitani that I have seen 
(_Furuhata Ninzaburou_ and _Ousama no Resutoran_) were quite good as 

>While I have still not seen anywhere near enough, I do get the 
>impression from my limited viewing that Japanese TV was better 
>than it is now. 

This does seem to be the conventional wisdom, and it might even be 
true. But it is also true that an awful lot of the Japanese television 
that I saw ten or twenty years ago wasn't very good or original. A good 
case could be made that the variety segment is actually improving. You 
rightly point to the (critical) failure of the television adaptations of 
manga author Saimon Fumi's _Tokyo Love Story_ and _Asunaro Hakusho_, 
but I found the adaptation of her _Age 35, Koishikute_ to be 
entertaining and provocative. _Aoi Tori_ had a famous writer, very 
capable actors, and lot to say. Mitani's works are the most sophisticated 
comedies I have seen on Japanese television (for anyone who can't lower 
themselves to watch television at least rent his movie _Rajio no Jikan_). 
So even if it is true that television is not as good as it used to be,
are still things on that are worth watching.

Michael Badzik
mike at

More information about the KineJapan mailing list