Media Mix, Nov. 25, 2018

Daisuke Miyagawa (middle)

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the Nippon TV variety show Itte Q, which has been accused of fabricating foreign “festivals” for one of its most popular regular segments. One of the points I wanted to make in the column is that “yarase” (faking it) is a function of variety show production and not an anomaly. The cliches that have developed over the years through countless variety show formats dictate what audiences expect from the genre, and so producers work with those cliches, even if they don’t adhere to “reality.” Of course, television is a malleable medium, and anyone with so-called media literacy understands when they are expected to suspend disbelief. The most glaring example that comes to mind is the situation that occurs in many travel variety shows of someone going somewhere to look for a certain person. In every instance the reporter/talent finds the sought individual, and over the years it’s become commonplace for the encounter to be a chance meeting. The viewer probably understands that it’s all a setup if only for practicality’s sake. Why would the producers spend all that money to send talent and a crew all that way, sometimes to a foreign country, without a guarantee that they will have footage to bring back? In the case of Itte Q, as the professor quoted in the Tokyo Shimbun article pointed out, the producers have to work around talent Daisuke Miyagawa’s schedule because he is central to the appeal of the “festival” segment of the show, so they aren’t going to risk wasting resources and time by sending him to a place where he isn’t going to have anything to do. They’re going to make sure everything goes as planned and so will game the system, in this case the “festival” he’s checking out. The point, however, should not be that viewers are being fooled by all this. I’d prefer to think that fans of Itte Q and similar variety shows are wise to the subterfuge and accept it as part of the fun. On the surface, at least, the producers and the network have to make it seem as if it’s all on the up and up, but in the case at hand, the producers definitely misrepresented Laotian culture by inventing something that didn’t exist, which makes the subterfuge unacceptable. Nevertheless, as Donald Trump likes to say, it is what it is.

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