Saturday, January 28, 2012

Charlie Brooker on Japanese TV

Charlie Brooker, currently in Japan, wrote an excellent piece in which he gave a graphic description of Japanese TV. The following summed it up rather well I thought:

The vast majority of programmes consist of several seriously overexcited people sitting in an overlit studio decorated like a novelty grotto made from regurgitated Dolly Mixture, endlessly babbling about food.

That said, I don't think it went nearly far enough in describing just how goddamned awful it really is.

One of the biggest problems is that TV never really evolved as a visual media, which is ironic given that all national terrestrial channels currently broadcast in high definition. The content of programming is largely an evolution from talk radio, the role of visuals being auxiliary illustration. They can't just show you something; popular personalities have to explain to you what you're seeing, and then discuss their reactions to it. The show format would work without showing us anything, and would probably in fact work better.

What makes the programming worse though is that the talent agencies hold all the cards, and wield those cards without any thought for the quality of the viewing experience. A common scenario is that a production team will approach an agency to hire a particular talent, but if the agency is pushing a different talent that week then that's the one they get. Hence we constantly see the same few faces appearing in everything, regardless of their suitability. Where this goes beyond mere insanity and enters the realm of self destructivity is the following common scenario. An actor has a major part in a high budget TV drama (or occasionally movie), so to plug the movie they have the actor dress up as the character they portray on all other television appearances, which has the knock-on effect of destroying the credibility of the character when the show eventually airs. Just to knock down any last remnants of the fourth wall though, all the advertisers that have used that actor in a commercial opt to air those commercials during the breaks.

This is why Japanese TV is for the most part utterly unwatchable.