No Country Loves ‘Ted’ Quite Like This One
When Peacock’s TV adaptation of Seth MacFarlane’s hit movie series Ted premieres in January, it will mark the third time in recent history that there was a massive moment of unity between Boston and Japan outside of both regions’ historic problems with the Dolphins — Miami or otherwise.
The cultural interchange between Japan and America has been bringing beloved pieces of media both ways across the Pacific Ocean since the end of World War II — like when classic Japanese samurai films inspired the Golden Age of the American Western, or how Fiddler on the Roof, the quintessential Jewish-American musical, is one of the most popular stage productions in the Land of the Rising Son over the last half century. While the concept of international entertainment exchange between the United States and Japan likely brings the image of an unkempt, body pillow-owning, white weaboo to the minds of most Americans on the internet, the mutual fascination with media on the other side of the ocean goes far beyond anime and video games.
For instance, American fans of anime and Japanese video games were surprised to learn that the popular franchise Danganronpa had a cross-promotional campaign with Ted, sparking the revelation to many that, in Japan, the indulgently profane, Boston-born talking teddy bear is a massive sensation. The Ted franchise continues to inspire all sorts of collaborations, adaptations and — seriously — a Ted-themed cafe in the bustling Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo. No one let Mark Wahlberg know that his work is popular in Asia.
As it turns out, crude, over-the-top slapstick comedy centered around a talking plushie translates very well into Japanese, and, when Ted first hit the international movie market in 2013, it spent four straight weeks at the top of the Japanese box office. In fact, Ted was so universally beloved in Japan that, when Ted 2 came out two years later, Universal made a PG-12 translation just for Japan so that children could enjoy the phenomenon alongside their parents. They even held a bizarre press conference wherein Ted apologized for his profanity.
And, as for the Ted Cafe in Tokyo, the restaurant opened its doors in 2016 featuring hanging bras on the walls, a signature pizza bearing (hah) Ted's face and, of course, a giant stuffed Ted at every table — no word on if he washed his hands before eating. Despite lackluster reviews for the actual food, which also includes questionable hamburger dishes and an “American Teddy Mojito,” the Ted Cafe has remained popular and profitable for seven years and continues to attract tourists from Japan and beyond.
Despite the international popularity of Ted, when the Peacock series premieres on January 11th, it will, unfortunately, be region-locked to the United States as the streamer does not yet offer its services in Japan. If the Ted series is NBC’s plan to create demand for their streaming service in the Asian market, it’s a much, much better idea than just rehashing the strategy they used to sell Americans on the service — The Office probably doesn’t translate quite as well into Japanese, and I can’t imagine anyone there wants to meet Ping.