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Why Japanese TV Sucks

If you're in America right now, I'm really jealous of your horn of plenty that is American TV.  I took my home country's TV for granted, and now I realize how good I really had it.  The USA makes the best freakin' TV shows in the world, and to quote the most awesome guy in the universe Joe Donatelli, "right now is the Golden Era of Television."  I soon realized shortly after moving to Japan that Japanese TV sucks ass.  Let me explain the primary reasons...

 

No Budget
Japanese TV producers are either given no money to make a decent show or they just don't care.  Whatever the reason, they spend next to nothing on producing crappy TV entertainment, and it shows.  I spend more on my own YouTube videos than they do on their TV shows.

Many shows fall into 1 or more of the following 4 categories:

  • People sitting around on a gaudy 1970s Las Vegas-looking set and talking--usually about current events or stupid stuff that other people on the show did or said.
  • People eating food far superior to whatever you're eating at the time and making a huge deal out of how delicious it is.  This is the perfect show to watch while you eat Cup Noodle after a hard day of shoveling heaps of corporate donkey shit.  Pour yourself another glass of vodka to wash down the MSG noodles, then cry yourself to sleep.
  • People playing some trivia game or Japanese kanji quiz on a gaudy 1970s Las Vegas-looking set.
  • People watching videos or re-enactments of stories from the USA, Europe, Australia, etc.  Flash back to the gaudy 1970s Las Vegas-looking set, and the celebrity guests will comment on whatever top YouTube video was just shown.  Shameless robbery of Western entertainment wallowing in sheer laziness.  Well, I suppose the West steals from the East at times too, but this just pisses me off.

Then there are Japanese dramas.  Sometimes good writing makes up for the lack of budget, but the fact that they often film them in and around the TV station's office building severely limits the show's creative stretch.  If the show is on Fuji TV, you'll see Fuji's offices in just about every drama.  They'll almost never build a set, and the rare times they do, it will look like the set from your high school's production of "Carousel."  The reason behind this lies in the 3-month cycle that all Japanese dramas follow.  A drama is on for 3 months, then done.  Unlike kick-ass American shows like "Lost," their dramas don't go season after season.  Why spend money on a set for a 3-month show?

Stage Acting
Aspiring Japanese actors and actresses are obviously trained in stage acting and not TV acting.  Stage acting is meant to be big and exaggerated so that audience members in the back of the theater can see, hear, and appreciate the stage action.  TV acting should be far more subtle because the camera puts the audience in close proximity to the players.  Over-acting is unnecessary.  Watch an American TV show from the 1950s, and you'll see plenty of stage acting.  Fortunately, we matured out of it.  Japan hasn't yet.

Most Japanese actors and actresses tragically overact.  It's so obnoxious that any shred of entertainment value remaining drips directly from the abysmal performance.  It's like watching bad karaoke.  It's so bad it's entertaining (for the first 3 minutes).

Always Dubbing, Never Subtitling
When they do show an American movie, they most often dub it in Japanese as opposed to subtitle it.  So obnoxious.  Every Hollywood blockbuster is instantly transformed into a cheezy 1970s kung fu movie.  I wanna hear Jessica Alba's sexy voice, dammit!

Johnny's Boys
The largest and most famous talent agency in Japan specializes in boy bands.  After paying their dues as hot pants-clad, pretty-boy singers, these boys inevitably end up being the next generation of actors, announcers, and commentators on TV.  Imagine Hanson reading your daily news to you.  Imagine the New Kids on the Block commentating on Obama's administration.  Imagine Marky Mark in big Hollywood movies.  Oh, wait...that actually happened.  Well, it's still freakin' obnoxious--kinda like the way I keep over-using the word "freakin'."

What's Up With All the Transvestites?
Japanese must love transvestites because they're all over the TV.  "Whoa!  That chick is hot...oh wait...that's a man...dammit...got me again."  Where transvestites in the Puritan US often fulfill a "circus freak" role; those in Japan enjoy mainstream entertainment jobs as announcers, comedians, and commentators.  One is even featured on a commercial for women's leg-shaving gel.  Yeah, if I were a woman, that would be my brand of choice--you know it could stand up to some pretty tough leg hair situations.  Just as Jewish people rule the American entertainment industry, transvestites must rule the Japanese one.  I gotta remember to dress like a chick at my next audition.

Conclusion
This is where you tell me, "Hey David!  If Japanese TV sucks so much ass, then don't watch it!"  I won't.  Luckily, I recently implemented an XBMC PC loaded with the "Navi-X" python script.  You're totally cool if you know what that is.  This computer dork gadget/software gathers hundreds of online video feeds so that I can enjoy as much Discovery channel, Animal Planet, and Angry Video Game Nerd as my soy sauce-marinated heart desires.

Although this article was intended to rag on Japanese TV, rarely do I find that things in life are that clear-cut.  Japanese TV does have 2 saving graces:

  • There is no shortage of cute girls on Japanese TV.  God bless them for that.  I'm like a dog reacting to a loud sound.  My eyes and ears will focus on it for a bit, then I'll get back to biting my balls.  It's the cheapest form of stimulation and the highest form of marketing, and every TV show production company in every corner of the universe knows that.  Japan is just far more obvious about it compared with the USA.  Cute young girls will sit in the background on talk shows.  Imagine 20 hot young models just sitting in the background on the set of Oprah.  Then my mom and I could both watch together.  Now that's awesome marketing.
  • Japan has a show where they mess with animals in the most hilarious ways.  For example, one show messed with one of those professional frisbee-catching dogs.  They substituted a frisbee with other similar objects (like giant cookies) and watched the confused expression on the dog's face as he caught (and destroyed) them.  The best was when they tossed a disc of raw pizza dough, and the dog's face got encased in it.  Now that's entertainment!  If they tried that in the USA, PETA would probably be all over their ass.

Now that I think about it, I should be grateful that Japanese TV sucks.  Not watching it allows me far more free time to work on more creative and constructive endeavors (like writing this blog article).  Nevertheless--dear fellow American--the next time you switch on your TV, say a pledge of allegiance for me.  Don't take what you've got for granted, you lucky couch potato mofo.

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  • Guest - mitchell foye

    Thank you, I’m not the only one who noticed that

  • Guest - flyjin

    yep i can't stand the mindless variety shows that are just one big reaction video. Why is that entertaining watching people eat food and puttin on a stupid face and saying uuuumai! Oishiii! ?? or these "talent" and washed up personalities who are like the same people on every show on every station omg dont get me started on those smap douchebags.
    All you hear on tv is KAWAII this KAWAII that and eeeEEE! reactions. Anime is awesome .
    Luckily i have cable so i can watch discovery and nat geo tho not much better its just stupid reality shows about fixing cars , that and Hitler shows .

  • Guest - Greg

    Your observations are amazingly on point with what I have observed after living here in Japan over a year now. I find it very difficult to sit through a variety show or a drama where the only action is an emotional outburst or a child with a high fever. Japanese television executives and studios should visit several Western countries (USA) to get a better understanding of how to incorporate television programs that entertain instead of stale programs that are not interesting at all.

    from Tokyo, Japan
  • Guest - Ebsolas

    Trinity just to point out. You just listed the shows us Americans make fun of. You know the shows directed specifically at women. Try watching some How I met your mother, or Futurama, Maybe Psyche, or The Office. There is a ton of good television just not daytime television. That's directed at a small targeted demographic since the majority of America during the day happens to be at school or at work. The good shows come on after 6.

    from United States
  • Guest - D G

    So true!
    I am fed up of Japanese TV.
    There are actually a few good programmes on at like 1AM like some better anime, interesting documentaries and international topics, but most programmes during the day or on at prime time are exactly like in this article.
    It is well worth looking into Sky Perfect TV, JCOM TV, Hikari TV, renting from cheap places like GEO, or online alternatives if you want to watch a lot of TV. They can be a little expensive though.
    This author compared it with the US. I compare it with the UK. I bet it could be compared with countries with much lower budgets too.

  • Guest - Me

    Actually I rather enjoyed Japanese TV when I was there. I thought it was hilarious. I though it was so funny that I would often stream it live to my friends back in the US, who, incidentally, also thought it was ridiculously funny. If you like overly PC, poorly executed left-wing political humor or equally bad reality TV shows, then yes American Television is much better. I personally don't though.

    On a side note, I'm not saying all American television falls into these categories, but sadly the majority now does. I would say though, that both countries TV has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and a good mix of your favorite shows (from whatever country) would be the best approach.

  • Guest - Mike

    Spot on, thanks for this post. Sometimes I felt like watching television in Japan just to study my listening comprehension or what not, but usually I would get frustrated quickly when all I could find were shows with the same annoying "tarento" oo'ing and aa'ing over gourmet food. And it's always the same reaction (make stupid face followed with "oishii!", "umai!" or "yawarakai!"). I remember once they had Western celebrities on the show (which show specifically I don't know, since they're all essentially the same), and had them eat some gourmet food for a change. After every freaking bite, they're asked, "how is it?" and they'd respond, "It's good." After the third or fourth time, you could tell they were getting a bit irritated like, "...How many different ways can I answer this?" :)

    Chalk it up to a cultural divide. My Western mind will never understand the appeal of Japanese television. Your points were spot on... granted, there is an occasional Japanese drama or anime that I enjoy, but it's few and far between. As others have said, American television (especially network TV) can be pretty low brow at times.... but at least there's usually some production value involved, if nothing else. Still love Japan, but spare me of the TV please :)

  • Guest - Justan

    So true.. You forgot one thing. How good is Japanese Anime though.

  • Guest - Dave

    Spot on!

    I want to watch Japanese tv to improve my Japanese, but I can't get over the acting or the B grade celeb opinion variety shows.

    from Tokyo, Japan
  • Guest - Trinity

    American TV is not so good, I can make you a list of shows that are boring, predictible, filled with lame actors and actresses, characters involved in cheesy romances and that have been through so many things they should be medicated or retired, supernatural inaccurate assumptions, the all-time favourite "Well, let's see Mr. Hero save the day, give us a lesson and finish it with a peek to his tortured soul", and all the cliches you will find on half and hour of Glee... oh and Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant and all those shows about celebrities...
    You are lucky you have The Walking Dead otherwise your TV would be as bad as Japanese TV!

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