Japanese TV programmes tend to fall into two broad categories: 1. celebrities eating food and 2. everything else. Usually you can find, at any time of day, at least one celeb-food show on the air. The perplexing thing is that most of these programmes are not cookery shows in the Jamie Olliver sense of the word (ie, they don’t teach you anything about how to cook), rather they involve people standing around in an insanely-coloured studio stuffing their faces. Invariably, the food is declared to be “oishii” (delicious), and the celebrities spend the next ten minutes prattling on about the time their mum made the same thing, or when they went to Osaka and saw locals putting mayonnaise (shock horror!) on the food in question.
Admittedly, now and then some TV shows do actually have celebrities eating in proper restaurants, but I really don’t care to watch them noisily slurp an enormous bowl of greasy ramen in a random Yokohaman restaurant. “What am I getting out of this experience?” I say to myself. Apart from the knowledge that that particular celebrity likes eating katsudon, or whatever, and what the food looks like, it offers me nothing. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a restaurant because I’ve seen so-and-so eating there on TV, in fact it works more as deterrent: the place would be so busy that I’d have to queue up for an hour just to get through the front door. If I’m going to eat out, I’ll either wander around and explore a few places by myself, or search online for a reasoned opinion that stretches to more than just “umai!”
Perhaps the one decent food programme I’ve seen while in Japan is, unsurprisingly, not Japanese. It’s called Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and you can watch it on the Discovery Channel. Bourdain is not only a trained chef; he is also a witty, down-to-earth host who travels the world in search of new experiences. The idea is that yes, food can be nice, but it can also be bloody awful. Food is used more as a means to exploring the people, places and culture of wildly different places, rather than an end in itself. And that’s the way food programmes on TV should be.
Daitokai (大都会 – or ‘Big City’ in English) has to be the best cops-and-robbers programme, ever.
Starsky and Hutch may have had its fair share of action, but the producers of Daitokai went absolutely, stark-raving bonkers with cheesy – but awesome – shoot-outs, car chases and explosions. And let’s not forget the ultra-cool cast, which included Tetsuya Watari (centre) and Japan’s very own Steve McQueen, Yusaku Matsuda (bottom left), at the height of his powers. Matsuda would go on to star alongside Michael Douglas in 1989′s ‘Black Rain’, shortly before dying of cancer.
For those of you in Japan with access to Nitereplus (日テレプラス. Channel CS300 on SkyPerfecTV) you can catch the third series of Daitokai every Friday night from 9pm. As for the rest of you, well, you’ll have to make do with the following snippets:
Three months is a long time between posts, especially when you’ve got no excuse for not writing anything. So, as I still don’t have much to write about at the moment, please direct your moist little eyeballs in the direction of the following video:
Japanese stand-up show Enta no Kamisama has produced its fair share of superstar comedians. One of the most popular at present is Kameko Nobuo, who bounces around stage in a ridiculously tight spandex shirt waving gold pom-poms in the air before telling the audience some decidedly kimoi (disgusting or gross) things.
I haven’t been able to add Japanese subtitles to any of Kameko’s YouTube videos (anyone know if it’s possible?), but even if you don’t know what he’s saying I think the general kimoiness of his character shines through in this clip:
Posted 20 Aug 2008 — by Andy in Tokyo Category Events, News, TV
While “Team GB” (what’s wrong with “Great Britain”?) enjoys its best Olympics for 100 years we ex-pats in Japan have so far been unable to watch most of the action. As Chris Hoy won his third gold medal three TV channels were broadcasting the men’s parallel bars. One channel is enough, surely?
Yes yes, I understand that Japan is good at judo and gymnastics and therefore it’s natural that TV companies would focus on them, but it’s damn annoying. Plus I can’t watch the highlights on the internet due to regional licensing restrictions.
Ah well, at least I was able to watch the women’s 400m final last night.
One more thing: since when has it been okay to use the word “medal” as a verb?
Despite my moaning about the general rubbishness of Japanese TV, the internet still manages to provide the odd gem from its “prank” heyday. One of my all-time favourites is the “100 man troop”:
I can’t imagine this kind of thing would ever be able to happen in the UK: the very idea of sending 100 screaming nutters down a street towards a retirement-age salaryman (with a possible dodgy ticker) would have TV executives wetting themselves.
Way back in November 2006 I wrote about Tommy Lee Jones advertising Boss Coffee (“Hollywood Celebrities and Japanese advertising”). We’re now up to episode 14 of this bizarre alien-in-Japan saga, and thankfully some kind soul has collected the first thirteen together into one YouTube compilation so you can catch up with the story so far:
When I first came to Japan I expected that – seeing as the economic bubble burst in the early 90′s – the trend of Japanese companies paying horrendous sums for past-it Hollywood “talent” to advertise their goods was well and truly over. Oh how very wrong I was…
Tommy Lee Jones is currently the face of Boss Coffee, one of many, many canned coffee companies that provide that essential caffeine-boost for your average nine-to-nine salaryman. The basic premise is an alien being lands in Japan, takes the form of Tommy Lee Jones in order to “blend in” with the locals (err, well…), and attempts to understand the nature of human society by taking random part-time jobs in Tokyo. The end result is a collection of bat-shit insane TV adverts that, thanks to the power of YouTube, you too can now enjoy! Here’s the latest one, in which Tommy takes a job working the night shift in a karaoke bar:
There’s also Meg Ryan currently advertising Nescafe, but sadly with Nestle being a nondescript multinational corporation with an international brand image to uphold, all the commercials are about as amusing as an evening down the pub with Michael Howard.