Japanese television relied heavily on proven formulas in 2019

Japan has not been short of change in 2019, whether through the arrival of a new imperial era or the ongoing transformation of Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. There was at least one place, however. , where people could turn to the familiar: television.

Japanese terrestrial television has occupied a strange space in the fabric of the country over the past year. Young people listened less, according to a Jiji Press poll last month, but the media has always remained a reliable source of information. according to a study by the Nippon Foundation.

However, even as some demographics tend to go down, television remains vital in the country, especially when it comes to newsworthy moments, with 2019 being full of eye-catching stories, from the induction of the Emperor Naruhito at Japan’s Rugby World Cup performance.

Traditional television remains important in Japan, even though the actual programming that takes over the airwaves resembles a throwback to the past rather than a reflection of the changing world. TV shows have mostly stuck to proven formulas in 2019, with the exception of a few notable arrivals which offered a glimpse of what the 2020s could potentially offer.

By browsing through evaluation reports provided by groups such as Video Search Ltd., the biggest winners of the year were familiar shows, ranging from long-running news programs to musical specials. Narratively, 2019 saw the stations succeed by sticking to familiar characters and tropes. The 18th season of “Aibo: Tokyo Detective Duo“, a crime drama reminded us that if something has worked for almost two decades, don’t kid it. Season six of the medical roller coaster”Doctor-X: Surgeon Michiko Daimon”Also performed well in the fall.

The new offerings have also generally stayed true to the familiar, with most shows leaning toward “mystery drama” (Fuji Television’s “”Sherlock: Untold Stories“, who asks” what if that last year’s “Miss Sherlock” show dropped the “Miss?”) and “A Complicated Journey to Realizing the Drama of Your Dreams” (the “Big House Tokyo“by way of example, and”Kizuna without pedalWhich deals with a dilemma involving organ donation and the desire to be a cyclist, being another). Even a more low-key show like TBS’s offer “the good womanWas just a Japanese version of an American creation.

The winner of Consistent Ratings in terms of original content, however, came via NHK asadora (morning drama show). The national broadcaster’s morning drama niche has been booming since 1961, and the 2019 productions “Natsuzora” and “Scarlet” carried on the tradition. It’s tempting to think of these series – which focus on women trying to break into the heavily male-dominated spaces of animation and ceramics, respectively – as progressive developments in broadcast television. But of course, this has served as a model for asadora for decades, which says more about the familiar state of storytelling in 2019 than anything else, besides maybe it will take more than everyday drama to do. overthrow the patriarchy.

Even scandals seemed much more mundane in 2019. As 2018 began with one of the biggest New Years Eve specials mingling with blackface and violence, sparking a broad debate on both topics, the bigger 2019 televised kerfuffle was a TBS variety show called “Crazy Trip” plant alien creatures in places that hosts would encounter shortly thereafter. Nothing so salacious, though, and a good sign that television has pretty much dodged serious racist scandals this year, leaving these to the worlds of advertising and comedy, which haven’t stayed that clean.

The real narrative shift regarding Japanese television has come through streaming. It was the year Netflix broke through with frontier-pushing series like “The Naked Director,” which gave many the chance to experience something that redefines what Japanese television could be like.

Earth waves, however, have changed a lot over the years, and part of the familiar feeling of 2019 was that once radical ideas were turning ho-hum. Matsuko Deluxe’s ​​various shows remain a must-see for many in Japan, giving the personality the status of one of the country’s most unlikely entertainment players. After the overwhelming success of last year’s “Ossan’s Love”, “What did you eat yesterday?”Once again put same-sex relationships in modern Japan in the spotlight, coupled with stunning images of food. Meanwhile, Fuji Television’s “My Husband Won’t Fit” offered a welcome subversion to the romantic drama genre by making the central tension about, well, guess where exactly the husband doesn’t fit.

The station that did the most to bring a new twist to Japanese television, however, was somewhat unexpected. Traditionally viewed as somewhat stuffy, NHK has spent the last few years going in unexpected directions with its lineup, especially after dark. The past 12 months have seen a continued love for interviews-shows-meets-puppet theater “Néhorin Pahorin”, while the slightly disturbing character Chiko-chan has become popular enough to warrant its own range of food. New offer “Numa ni Hamatte Kite Mita“presented topics in a manner suited to the Internet crowd, while”Oshiète! Sei no Kamisama”Offered a simple roundtable in which two facilitators and a rabbit puppet (again with the puppets!) Answered questions from young people on sexuality and identity.

Change in Japanese television has been bubbling for some time now, although no paradigm shift is on the horizon. Rather, it’s a lot of familiar with new pockets lurking around. Still, these programs provide an intriguing picture of how easily broadcast television can feel fresh with a few tweaks and maybe a few conditions.

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Marie A. Evans