Japanese TV often leaves us feeling a little exacerbated. It’s a cultural barrier that still stands strong after a number of years ‘in country’; the loud studio sets, unknown (by us) celebs that seem to cross pollinate across channels, emotive reporting of news, filthy camera angles, and breaks for commercials at any moment that could just about be described as a cliffhanger. Not that Japanese TV is alone in it’s scraping of the bottom of the cultural barrel.
Last night however, it seemed to us (well, this poster at least) that the creative powers that be really rolled up both sleeves to put their best elbow grease into the barrel scrapping.
The program concerned tried its hand at that sure-fire way to get the viewing figures up, televising the already excruciating processes of trying to start a romance.
Back home, these ‘dating/blind date’ things are normally seen as a bit fun by all concerned, with ‘contestants’ who are usually up for a laugh and who tend to be more focused on the prospect of a free holiday on the studio’s money. Exploitation of vulnerable hearts isn’t the order of the day.
Not so last night, where the crux of the ‘matchmaking’ and the ‘entertainment’ seemed to be based on the exploitation of already exploited, and in some way traumatised, single mothers who’d given up any hope of finding romance. One by one each single mother came out, and sobbed through a speech aimed at tugging at the nation’s heartstrings, and their potential beaus, while cameras gave us an insight into their struggles as single mothers. Tough stuff, and that is sincerely meant. These people had suffered more than their fair share of hardships. But it’s OK, because on the other side of the table the studio had lined up a choice selection of single gents that will surely be the answer to their woes. How so? By being single (presumably), and wealthy! Yep, echoing the lyrics of that Destiny’s Child classic, Bills, Bills, Bills, ‘Can you pay my bills?’, if the answer’s, ‘No!’, then you ain’t allowed on this show.
Were it not for all the 80’s glam of the studio set, we would have felt like we’d been transported back to the 1950s, such was the gaping gender gap on display.
‘Contestants’ sat lined up either side of table and pressed buttons to declare their interest or lack thereof. Neither side looked to be having much fun. In the end, only four people walked away as one half of a new couple; a 36-year-old ‘advertising’ bus driver (on a surprising salary of 5,000,000 yen a year) and a 22-year-old mother of one, and then two contestants in their early-thirties, one a mother of three, the other a man who does something to command a salary of 10,000,000 yen a year.
There was no round two. No runners up prize. For those that missed out, it was back to being a single mother or a single gent with money. As for what happens to the couples beyond this TV time slot, how the mothers are going to integrate this strange rich man into their children’s lives … we’d venture to say that the studio doesn’t care, and that the audience cared for about 5 minutes, until they got settled into the next program.
Maybe we’ve looked into this too much. Perhaps the gender gap we saw, was our misinterpretation of a show that was genuinely trying to afford these women the time and chance to meet someone new, in a vetted environment. Perhaps it was more tasteful than throwing a bunch of lunatics together in house and hoping that at some point a night vision camera might let us watch them ‘bump uglies’.
What do you think? Does Japanese TV frustrate you?