Saturday, June 09, 2007

My favourite Japanese TV show

I don’t watch a lot of TV out here. I only get two channels and my choices are usually limited to baseball, sumo or one of those mind-numbing variety shows (and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, Full House dubbed in Japanese).

But there’s one show I’m completely addicted to. It’s probably the most low-budget thing on television. There are no actors, no special effects and no complicated plotlines.

The show always begins the same brilliantly simple way. The host stands in a room that has nothing in it but a huge map of Japan. He stands about 15 feet back from the map and throws a dart at it. Then he and a friend rush over to the map, pull out their atlases and pinpoint the exact location where the dart landed.

Thanks to the magic of television, the dart almost always lands on some small town in the middle of nowhere. This is when the real fun begins. The host and his sidekick pack their bags and fly out to the town armed with little more than a video camera and a sense of humour.

Once they arrive, they simply drive around looking for unsuspecting locals to ambush. Whenever they find someone doing something outside (usually a grandmother working in a rice field), they jump out of the car and start interviewing them. The victim is usually bewildered at first but the host is so charming and funny he has them laughing and relaxed in no time.

This leads to all sorts of adventures. Sometimes an interview will turn into an invitation into someone’s home for lunch. Or they’ll stop to speak to a guy cleaning a boat and the next thing you know they’re on the open ocean trawling for fish. Or they’ll stumble across a group of kids playing drums in a garage and end up taking part in an impromptu concert later that night.

The show gives us a glimpse into small-town Japan and the people who live there. It’s spliced with interesting facts about the local history, population, economy and culture. It’s also hilariously funny (which is saying a lot considering I can only understand half of what’s being said).

I’d love to produce a Canadian version of this show. Canada’s so big and we have so many small towns. This is the kind of show that could bring us a little closer together. I mean, how many of us really know anything about Dildo, Newfoundland? Or Faro, Yukon? Or Kamsack, Saskatchewan?

I’m curious about each of these places. What are they like? Who lives there? What do they do? Each of these towns must be overflowing with stories and quirky characters.

I’m toying with the idea of pitching this to the CBC when I get back but I have no idea where to begin. I suppose I should figure out if this is even worth pursuing in the first place. Would a Canadian version of this show work? Or would it be better as a 10-minute segment on a show like The Hour? Would it be something people would want to watch? Or is this just a case of me having too much time on my hands out here?

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