Crazy Game Shows Go Mainstream

2008-06-30 21:03 - General

Quite some time ago, I discovered MXC (Most eXtreme Challenge) on Spike. It's a crazy Japanese game show, with silly English commentary dubbed over the audio track. The commentary is sophomoric, and on the border of off-putting, but something about watching those people fall down, trip up, and generally make fools of themselves is quite entertaining. I gobbled it up.

More recently I discovered Ninja Warrior on G4, again a repackaging of a crazy Japanese TV show. It's much of the same, but slightly more serious. The sort of thing where 100 people try, and 90 or so of them fail, usually miserably. Next I found Unbeatable Banzuke again on G4. This was yet more serious, with an even higher failure rate. The competitions are truly random, everything from walking-on-your-hands to unicycles to men pushing women on wheelbarrows.

Long story short: I'm a big fan of crazy Japanese game shows. They generally involve people falling down in an attempt to do something with almost no chance of succeeding. Apparently I'm not alone. Yesterday I found out that ABC is getting in on the act. They've got Wipeout, which I was lucky enough to catch by accident. It's very Americanized, but it's basically the same stuff: a bunch of people competing in nearly impossible competitions, with lots of falling down. Then, during that show I saw a commercial for (also on ABC) I Survived A Japanese Game Show. Even more a mix of the two, this is a real crazy Japanese game show, on air in the US, with American contestants flown out. All I know, yet, is what the commercial said; I haven't seen an episode yet.

One of the saddest things, though, was noticing the extreme difference between the Japanese game shows, and the oh-so-American Wipeout. In the former, the commentator is always talking up the contestant, making a big deal of how well the contestants are doing at such challenging tasks, and always surprised at the failures. On Wipeout, instead, the American commentators are slinging insults right and left, at any flaw they can find. It's not entertaining, it's depressing. More depressing is that they're really just pandering to the market they've got.

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