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Essay

Terrace House

By Patrick St. Michel

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Non-Japanese people living in the country often hate domestic TV offerings. It's one of the most common complaints about living here — in English-language circles at least. The shows are hyperactive and downright stupid, some argue. And then you have those panel shows, where a set of talking heads talk about boring stuff. Live in Japan long enough, and these grievances start to feel as predictable as the TV programs themselves.

Yet over the past year, one of the most surprising international TV hits has been a Japanese show. That would be the reality series Terrace House, available on streaming service Netflix. It has become a cult hit abroad.

The series finds a handful of young people living together in a house. That's it. They go about their lives, working and having fun and going through the struggles all young people do. Drama happens, but usually revolves around one roommate eating another's food. So, unlike the Japanese shows that expats hate, it's not hyperactive and it's not stupid. But it does have a panel of TV talents talking about stuff.

Terrace House first started airing on Fuji Television in 2012, and wasn't a particular hit. Episodes for the first season ran every Friday night, which isn't the best time slot for a show. But then, in 2015, a new season was made for Netflix, and a growing interest in the easygoing show blossomed. The first set of episodes took place in Tokyo, while the most recent season was in Hawaii.

Part of Terrace House's newfound success comes from the ability to watch it whenever one wants. In 2017, nobody wants to be chained to specific airing times. Rather, people want to watch things at their own pace. Netflix allows just that, and even enables viewers to binge-watch whole seasons — or whole series — in marathon viewing sessions if they want. Terrace House works especially well for this purpose, as many international fans say the program has a calming, almost therapeutic nature to it. Just put it on, and relax.

Its undramatic nature stands in strong opposition to American reality shows, which rely on drama and interpersonal conflict. A lot of Western viewers are drawn to Terrace House because of how different it seems. Many are tired of the over-the-top programming in their home countries, and find a slow-moving show — especially the panel parts, which help clarify what's happening — far more interesting.

Having heard so many people moan about Japanese TV's panels of nattering talents, it's funny to see how popular Terrace House is overseas. It just goes to show that what some people dismiss as bad can actually end up connecting with many other people. And that a lot of foreign residents shouldn't get into the television business.

『テラスハウス』

見ず知らずの男女数人が、一つ屋根の下で共同生活する様子を記録する人気リアリティー番組 『テラスハウス』。この番組は、外国人の視聴者にもヒットしているようだ。その理由は?

The Japan Times ST: September 22, 2017

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2017年10月27日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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