Thoughts on Terrace House, Netflix’s rebirth of a Japanese series (and early reality TV) – blurry reality

Two years ago, Netflix relaunched Terrace House, a Japanese reality TV series that follows six young people who do not know each other but live together. They also relaunched The real world. This seems to be the consensus of his many fans, many of whom have written to me with their deep love for this series galore.

After watching parts of both seasons of Netflix, I found them to be wonderful callbacks to reality TV’s early days – and also a damning commentary on our role as viewers in reality TV today. .

The first season of Netflix, Terraced house: boys and girls in the city, had 46 episodes and 17 cast members, although there were usually only six people in the house at a time. People are leaving. Others join. It’s refreshing that it’s unpretentious or any sort of artificial construction.

The cast members also have a life outside the house and – hold your breath – sometimes even works. Not those put in place by the producers. Real places where they will work. To do things they’re good at besides being on TV.

There is an underlying vanity though, and that is romance.

While Terrace House is decidedly not The Bachelor, the cast members are single, straight men and women, and somewhat focused on relationships, usually with each other, albeit in a much gentler way. that, say, The Challenge. There is no immediate hugging while intoxicated; there is a slow and deliberate courtship.

Slow and Deliberate also describes the series, which begins each season with the cast members arriving slowly, one by one, sitting down and talking to each other. There is no mad rip through the house to see the luxury they live in, nor to drink immediately.

It’s not dry, however: there is alcohol and laughter; there are consequences for actions; and, eventually and usually, a conflict between the residents of Terrace House arises. Yet any conflict burns more like a tealight than the raging wildfire that American reality TV usually airs.

What Terrace House Commentators Really Reveal

The second season of Netflix, Terraced house: State of Aloha, launches its fourth part today, the last 12 of 36 episodes. (The series is a co-production with Fuji Television, and Part 4 just ended yesterday on Fuji.) The series left Japan for the first time and is set in Honolulu, where some of the cast live.

Like Netflix’s first season, it’s calm, almost hypnotic. There is a theme song and music, but there are long periods of silence, and not much in the editing or production that goes overtime to elicit an emotional reaction from viewers.

There are no interviews or confessionals, so unless an actor talks to another person, we don’t know what they’re thinking or why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a delicious respite from the over-explanation that drowns so much reality TV.

But: there’s another element, and that’s a panel of people in a studio commenting on the show. The show is interrupted at the beginning, middle and end with fiery, sometimes exuberant comments about what we just watched.

It’s less The People’s Couch and more like Twitter, with people saying shit about the people they watch on TV. (I say this without any illusions that I spent many years making some version of this.) “I want to know now who will be my target for the next 18 episodes,” Ryota Yamasato said in the first episode. boys and girls of the city.

The contrast between the calm, reserved conversation in the house and this kind of blunt commentary from the panelists is stark, and the interruptions in the middle of the episode are shocking.

Whether the comment is just a version of the celebrity panels common on Japanese shows, a reality TV version of a Let’s Play video, or the Twitter id basically, it’s obnoxious and has yet to grow on. me.

I haven’t watched all of the Terrace House episodes yet, and maybe I haven’t watched enough to get to know the panelists. So I decided to see what the others thought of the panelists and found that for some they were actually the best part of the show:

  • Samantha Rollins of Vulture calls it “the highest grossing feature film: the hosts have excellent chemistry, and their often genuinely insightful comments become more and more cowardly and more and more filled with innuendo as the game goes on. season advance “.
  • BuzzFeed’s Mia Nakaji Monnier says that if the panelists are “raunchy, cynical, intrusive and yet also friendly. Most importantly, they help prevent this international fair from becoming an easy fuel to generalize or misunderstand Japan. “

I appreciate that possibility, but just didn’t see enough genuine insight to make these three interruptions per episode worth it.

Of all the ways that Terrace House does, these segments undermine it for me, reminding me of a significant shift in the way I watch reality TV.

The real world was born at the same time as the Internet, pre-social media, pre-blogs, pre-instant commentary. Back then, in the Dark Ages of the 1990s, I would often watch and bond with those on screen, instead of using those people as targets and then bonding with others on our screen. common targeting of reality TV actors.

Watching the Terrace House panel constantly come in and recap, fade, or shred what we just saw leaves me wondering just how ruined reality TV is by the need to publicly comment – and tear down – the people who have. decided to live part of their life in front of the cameras.

What have we done? What am I doing?

Terrace House offers us a satisfying and pleasant window on the lives of young people, but its commentators are a hell of a mirror to ours.

Marie A. Evans