Thursday, January 20, 2011

Japanese Television Programs

In Japan it is not uncommon to have the TV on during dinner time. Dinner here is usually around 7:00, and that’s when the news and weather are broadcast. Therefore, the majority of my television viewing is in the evenings. Usually I’m out of the house during the day, and I rarely resort to passing time by watching TV.

If there’s one thing about Japanese TV that I find better than American TV, it is ironically the commercials. I would gladly sit and watch a channel dedicated to commercials here if there was one because they are absolutely ridiculous. I frequently burst out laughing, much to the surprise of my host parents.When it comes to regular programming, however, there are a handful of shows I know by name and look forward to seeing.

My absolute favorite show is called Tsurube no Kazoku ni Kanpai (Tsurube’s Cheers to Families). The plot of the show is basically Tsurube-san and a guest celebrity travel to some remote town anywhere in Japan in search of their local food specialties. Throughout their mission they invade houses and crash stores, but since everybody knows the celebs and Tsurube’s show everyone eagerly invites them and chats with them. The pure candidness in displaying lifestyles and interaction unfolds in heartwarming comedy of the purest kind.

My second favorite show is called Close-up Gendai (The Present Close-up), which is on every weekday. The show is basically the same as Dateline NBC, picking a story topic and presenting journalistic research on some of the most prominent topics in Japan at present. The hostess is fluent in Japanese and English, which really impressed me. It’s really interesting to learn about some of the current concerns looming over Japanese society or some of the recent developments in technology. Just recently they did a feature on android robots that looked almost human!

Other popular programming seems to fall under one of two categories, either game show-comedy or game show-informative. Game show participants are almost always TV personalities and popular celebrities. The comedy oriented game shows tend to be much more competitive with ridiculous challenges, while the informative game shows are more trivia based.

I really enjoy the show Gatten which focuses on a new health topic each week with the aim of demystifying the science behind it and making the audience aware of ways they can maintain good health. Demonstrations involve ridiculous enactments such as women dressed as ovaries or estrogen, or dump trucks delivering cholesterol to a cross section of a vein. There’s no scoring, but the guest celebrities are asked questions at random throughout the examination of health experiments, and little to no supporting information is given prior to their responses. Basically they guess an answer and then are told the correct response. Several programs follow this format.

My host mother is mildly obsessed with police and detective shows, so I catch episodes of that very popular genre every so often, though they hardly compare to shows like CSI and Criminal Minds. Just last night she was stoked to see the premier for a new series called Honbon (True Ciminal), which is pretty much the same plot as the show Lie to Me, discerning lies from suspects interviews.

Aside from that, there are comedy sketch shows, popular dramas, anime during the day, and music programming as well. NHK has weekly concert broadcasts with popular enka singers, and other regular programs feature pop and rock performances too.

Compared to watching no TV back at school in the states, I’ve watched TV pretty regularly here in the evenings, but I don’t spend an absorptive amount of time engrossed in it. I am glad to have found some quality shows to look forward to during dinnertime though.

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