Saturday, September 20, 2008

Japanese Game Show imports

I remember when I first saw a link to "Japanese Tetris" where various contestants try to fit through various shapes or risk landing in a pool of urine (according to this source, it is urine they land into, I thought it was a pretty cool idea for a show and judging by how popular these clips were.

So when they decided to build an American game show out of this Japanese game show, in Fox's new game show "Hole in the Wall," why is it all of a sudden pegged as one of this Fall TV season's most likely failures?

Well, in truth, even though the American version is mostly the same as the Japanese version, there is a slight difference: The Japanese videos are exotic. They're doing something completely out of the ordinary and they're also acting in ways that seem unusual to us. The Japanese participants are being slapped around and falling into vats of urine and are still laughing and having a good time which is somewhat odd. Wierd music is playing in the background and of course, everyone is speaking in a language you don't understand. This enables you to use your imagination a little bit to figure out what everyone is talking about.

When you Americanize it, you take away the mysteriousness of this outside culture. You also feel the fakeness of the whole thing. Sportscasters are giving commentary on what's taking place as if this is a sport that's been around as long as baseball, when in fact, only 24 Americans have played this game in history (4 episodes of 6 contestants each). The contestants on the Japanese shows play the game as if they're taking it seriously and because the average American doesn't know much about Japanese culture, for all we know, this is as much a part of the Japanese way of life as Samurais, origami, and bullet trains are. Therefore we think we're peering into Japanese culture. In America, there's now cultural foundation for this game, the contestants' enthusiasm is not an enthusiam for this game....they just want to make money and the only reason they want to make money through squeezing themselves through enroaching shapes is because that's the avenue laid out for them by American TV executives hoping to artificially create a cultural phenomeon by cashing in on a Japanese trend. It's all too transparent.

So in this case, the exoticness makes all the difference

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