“I Survived a Japanese Game Show”
June 24th, 2008
Tonight’s primetime lineup was almost to the point of parody: NBC trotted out Celebrity Family Feud (I’m questioning their definition of celebrities) and the second week of lifeless America’s Got Talent (Really? Are you sure?), and ABC countered with what on paper seems like two signs of the telepocalypse. “Wipeout” is an Americanized equivalent to Most Xtreme Elimination Challenge (MXC, for short) that has aired on Spike TV in recent years, and “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” is a more traditional reality series in the vein of Survivor but with challenges being on a Japanese game show soundstage and featuring various costumes and other such gimmicks.
And after a group of friends and I figured that there was nothing else to really do with our time this evening, we sat down and started watching. And, what can I say? We laughed a lot. And while I have no intentions of nominating them for Emmys or even suggesting that you as readers rush out and watch them, if you want something that’s silly and light-hearted in your summer lineup that you can watch with friends or family (With a disclaimer for impressionable youth about the realities of Japanes Culture) look no further than these two shows.
It is an epic battle for the ages, and one that’s happening much sooner than we assumed it would. Last night and tonight, NBC and FOX will each air a reality show that basically devolves down to karaoke and lyrical skills. People have to sing lyrics of hit songs, and then they receive money. They’re basically the same show…in theory. But, based on tonight’s edition of The Singing Bee on NBC, and descriptions of FOX’s Don’t Forget the Lyrics, it appears as if we’re preparing for two different types of show.
How is this all happening, two shows almost identical making it to air? Well, NBC announced The Singing Bee as a fall show in May. And then, in early June, FOX announced that it had its own show, hosted by Wayne Brady, premiering in July. NBC, not taking too kindly to yet another The Contender/The Next Great Champ debacle (Where NBC’s Mark Burnett produced boxing reality show was beaten to air by FOX’s near identical show), rushed The Singing Bee into production to beat it by a night with Joey Fatone (Of N*Sync fame) as their host. I’m almost surprised FOX didn’t rush to air their edition on Monday, although it will have a cushy So You Think You Can Dance lead-in to match NBC’s America’s Got Talent lead-in.
But what about the shows themselves? In terms of NBC’s The Singing Bee, it’s actually a really interesting experience. Because, much like America’s Got Talent, it is really hearkening back to an older generation of variety and game show television. There are no million dollar prizes, no friends from home there to root them on, and the show begins and ends all within a single thirty minute episode. People are even pulled from the audience, even when you know it isn’t close to random. Does this make for good television? Well, sort of.