American TV, Big in Japan

July 25, 2007 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment

“Baywatch” isn’t the only show with a worldwide following. While living in Japan a few years ago, “Beverly Hills 90210” was the country’s most popular import. Yes, snuggled up with my futon blanket I tuned in weekly to the lives and loves of Brandon, Brenda, Kelly and Dylan. The syndicated show was already a decade old but felt like a completely new program, seeing the characters brood over premarital sex and peer pressure in dubbed anime-like voices.


I used to watch the show in high school. It served well as mindless entertainment after expending all my brain power on final exams. Growing up 10 minutes from the infamous zip code, it was hard not to be cynical of their so-called Los Angeles lives. I mean, talk about ethnic cleansing – how can you walk into a restaurant and not find an immigrant clearing the tables?

“Beverly Hills 90210” was indeed a fantasy world. But it was a world that, after living in Japan for a while, even this Los Angelino started buying into. It’s what happens when you’re situated too long in a country full of black-hair, brown-eyed people who drink tea and bow excessively. The banality of Japan’s homogeneity made me susceptible to unreal life on the other side of the Pacific. And before I knew it, I was daydreaming of mall-hopping with blond pal Kelly, bitch-slapping Brenda, and sipping milkshakes at the Peach Pit with the rest of the gang.


It’s fantasies like these that keep the good people of Japan glued to American TV imports of which have included “Dharma and Greg,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Ally McBeal.” They’ve also had a taste of our recent batch of must-see TV like “Prison Break.” On top of being an action-packed drama, I think most Japanese women would agree it’s the show’s handsome hero, Wentworth Miller, who keeps their hearts pounding.

Right now, I’m imagining millions of Japanese women sitting in their office cubicles, daydreaming about running through a prison maze with Miller hand-in-hand. Sure it’s a silly fantasy about life in America. Sure it’ll never come true. But television is such a powerful medium, and sometimes it can all feel so beautifully real.


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Entry filed under: Japanese Entertainment.

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July 2007


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