Japan's extreme game shows could find their way onto U.S. TV
hollywoodreporter.com -- Sep 29
The image around the globe of Japanese TV is often one of wild and wacky programming in which contestants perform bizarre and sometimes stomach-churning tasks in front of shrieking hosts. And yet, unbeknown to many, some of the world's most successful game show franchises are based on Japanese formats.
Executives in Japan's television industry believe many more undiscovered gems in their vaults are ripe for global audiences. It has been many years since a Japanese drama made an impact overseas, and comedy often struggles to cross language and cultural barriers, but game shows can be localized relatively easily.
The format shows no signs of fatigue in Japan, where variety programming dominates ratings in the 7 to 10 p.m. slot known as "golden time." And if the networks can sell a fraction of the ideas in those shows overseas, they might become export earners as big as Sony became with the Walkman.
Now, in an effort to take advantage of the rich potential of programming from its domestic industry, Japan's five major commercial networks (TV Asahi, Fuji TV, NTV, TBS and TV Tokyo) -- along with public broadcaster NHK and regional station Asahi Broadcasting Corp. -- have joined to promote their formats internationally. The Treasure Box Japan venture will launch with a gala Oct. 7 at MIPCOM, where the nets will present a selection of new formats. These include TV Asahi's Stuck Till You're Done, on which contestants are locked in a restaurant and forced to eat until they can identify its 10 best-selling dishes. Then there's Fuji TV's G Wars, which challenges celebrities with everything from "pudding speed-eating" to "candle blowing-out." Meanwhile, NHK provides the more cerebral Doctor G's Case File, on which young doctors must solve real medical problems.
Curiously, one of the first and most extreme Japanese game shows to become famous in the West nearly has been forgotten in its home market, where it never was a hit. Za Gaman (Endurance) exploded onto British screens during the 1980s when footage aired regularly on Clive James on Television, a weekly show dedicated to strange programming from around the globe. The game show featured contestants in a series of ordeals that almost certainly breached the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the winner being the one able to endure torture the longest.
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