5 Lessons American TV Should Learn From Japanese Game Shows

5 Lessons American TV Should Learn From Japanese Game Shows
It was recently announced that Hole In The Wall - a popular Japanese game show where contestants contort their bodies to fit through oddly-shaped holes - will soon be coming to America. And while I'm thrilled to have a ridiculous new television show to watch, I can't help but picture the American TV executives throwing up their hands in frustration and saying, "Fuck it - let's do the one where the people have to make themselves shapes." It could be a good thing, though: Japan has all kinds of awesome ideas about what makes for good television, and if this becomes a new trend, we could be in for some crazy things in seasons to come. Network executives take note: here's how you make a good TV show.

Lesson #1: Always Dress Your Contestants In Bug Suits

THE CONCEPT: Say you've got an idea for a show and it's not particularly exciting - like one where the contestants have to push a sliding door really far, and if they can't do it, a woman eats something stinky and blows her gross breath in their faces through a glass tube. On its surface that might sound like a recipe for failure, but here's an idea: put the contestants in bug suits and make the woman with the terrible breath a spider. Within hours you'll have an smash TV hit on your hands, and you'll be scrambling to think up spinoffs and find a decent sweatshop to mass produce bug suits emblazoned with the show's logo. Soon you'll be rich and you'll have your own TV network where everyone wears bug suits on every single show, but by then the viewers will be burned out on watching people run around in bug suits and your company will go bankrupt. Then you'll be like, "Why, Ross?! Why did you tell me to always dress my contestants in bug suits?!" and I'll be like, "Why didn't you read any further than the first lesson?! Way to start a company and fail, dipshit."
AMERICAN TV APPLICATIONS: American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Deal or No Deal

Lesson #2: Human Anguish Is Funny

THE CONCEPT: There is nothing more satisfying to the average television viewer than watching a fellow Homo sapien experience excruciating pain. Whether you're baffling your contestants with oddly-placed obstacles, tormenting them with vile-tasting powders, or causing permanent damage to their spinal cords by having them slip and fall on a well-greased staircase, the "people hurting themselves for money" format is a tried-and-true formula for success that is guaranteed to do wonders for your bottom line. But why stop at physical torment? Try dangling some spiders in front of arachnophobics, or forcing a guy to put together a jigsaw puzzle over and over and over again in a clockless, windowless room. Glue a pair of headphones to a contestant's head and force them to listen to "Sugar, Sugar" day and night for a month straight. Sure, they'll complain at first about being psychologically tortured, but they'll pipe down after you tell them they've won FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!
AMERICAN TV APPLICATIONS: The Hills, Survivor, The View

Lesson #3: If At All Possible, Try To Make A Guy Wrestle An Octopus

THE CONCEPT: People like wrestling, and people like octopuses, so why wouldn't they want to watch a guy wrestle an octopus? Do the math: If half of all people like wrestling, and half of all people like octopuses, then a show featuring a guy wrestling an octopus will appeal to, oh, let's see - let me do some quick calculations here... oh, yeah - EVERYONE ON EARTH. It's all about combining niche markets. Just because you can only broadcast one show at a time doesn't mean that you can only cater to one demographic! Want to reach more male viewers on your female-oriented morning talk show? Make it a naked talk show. Want to reach more teenagers on your cop drama? Give the main detective a Fall Out Boy t-shirt and make him talk about how his parents don't understand him. Need more white viewers for your sitcom about an African-American family? Make them eat paninis. Other possible combinations might include a home repair show that teaches you self-defense, a cooking show for single dads that runs personal ads at the bottom of the screen, or a sitcom about a gay car mechanic that lives with a black zoologist who's trying to learn how to paint watercolor landscapes. Don't be afraid to get creative, but remember: If at all possible, try to make a guy wrestle an octopus. Seriously. That's the best one.
AMERICAN TV APPLICATIONS: American Gladiators, WWE Smackdown, House (House goes on a tropical vacation and encounters an ornery octopus while snorkeling)

Lesson #4: Funny Faces Are Funny

Over the course of millions of years, evolution has provided mankind with facial muscles that are capable of expressing numerous unique emotions. Using this ancient non-verbal form of communication, we can express everything from joy to fury, desire to disgust, love to hate. We can also strap rubber bands around our faces and try to eat marshmallows dangling from strings. It will make our faces look funny, and c'mon - everyone likes a good funny face. If you don't have a rubber band or marshmallows handy, other funny face options include the "Home Alone" (palms on the cheeks), the “Steamed Larry” (red-faced, smoke coming out of the ears - named after Larry, the maddest guy of all time), and the classic "I Can't Believe It!" (rub eyes with closed fists while making squeaking noises, follow up quickly with several exaggerated blinks).
AMERICAN TV APPLICATIONS: To Catch A Predator, Grey's Anatomy, Charlie Rose

Lesson #5: Do This

When all else fails, when you're at your wit's end and your boss is breathing down your neck, urging you to find the next "big thing" and you're coming up blank, when that special you came up with, Crashing Cars On Purpose didn't do so hot and you're starting to think to yourself, "Geez, maybe I'm not cut out for working in TV," mark my words: DON'T QUIT. Instead, take a deep breath, straighten your tie, and dust yourself off. Then march down the hallway, storm into your boss's office with your head held high and confidently proclaim, "SIR - I'VE GOT IT!" Then he'll look up at you and be like, "You've got what?" and you'll be like, "Oh, sorry - I figured out the next big thing. You know - for TV. Like we were talking about before." Then he'll be like, "Oh, yeah - what is it?" Then you'll be like, "Uhh, well, it's kind of hard to explain. Here - let me show you something on YouTube." Then he'll be like, "I can't use YouTube - it's blocked by the firewall," and you'll be like, "But you're the CEO!" and he'll be like, "I know - it's crazy, isn't it?" Then you'll explain this video to him and he'll be like "Whoa - that sounds awesome," and then there will be all these people on TV jumping over hurdles while running on giant treadmills, and then hey, congratulations! You just saved television! AMERICAN TV APPLICATIONS: This could effectively replace every single television show that I can think of.
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