Archive for June, 2008

Hey! I Survived Mama-san!

Monday, June 30th, 2008 | SMASH TV with No Comments »

You’d think that a TV program called “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” just has to stink. Thanks to You Tube and the Internet, and even tawdry shows on Spike TV like MXC (with those cheesy voiceovers), we have a basic idea of what these game shows are: boisterous, screaming crowds, over-the-top hosts and contestants performing all sorts of humiliating tasks to try and score cash and prizes.

There was even a “Simpsons” episode about this several years ago. Homer and family fly to Tokyo and commit all the worst and base cultural faux pas relative to the Land of the Rising Sun. Out of money, they go to work at a sardine factory, but are then transported to the set of a noisy Japanese game show, where they perform stunts so unbelievable that, well, they belong in a cartoon.

That’s exactly what happens on “I Survived”. Except that there is no rickety bridge with hot flames like in “The Simpsons”. Here it’s just regular people, typical Americans who are not even told when they arrive at LAX what they have been chosen to do. They proceed to take the next flight to Tokyo and attempt to take in the sights and lights of Shibuya Square, which the show calls the “busiest intersection in the world”. They are pretty overwhelmed and can’t believe what they see. And here you have, as far as reality TV casts go, the typical awful American who a.) is a sassy, spoiled girl from Staten Island; b) a brotha with the street-cred from the inner-city; c) the hick from the “dirty South”; d) the meek young housewife from the Midwest and e) the middle-aged balding schlub from Punxsutawney, PA. Yes, there are others (10 in all), but you get the picture: no one has ever traveled outside of their respective towns (surprise, surprise) and they really seem to stick out in this faraway land. As they stood there that evening on the bustling Tokyo street, I also thought this: there’s a TV show is being filmed here with panicked Americans, but the average passer-by doesn’t seem all that fazed..

The conceit of the show is quickly revealed by Read the rest of this entry »

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The Push-comes-to-shove Economy

Monday, June 30th, 2008 | SMASH Politics with No Comments »

A friend and I have been keeping a mental scrapbook of how grim this economy is nowadays. We drive by new car lots full of SUV behemoths that no one wants to buy. We see the lines of cars snaking around, waiting for gas at Costco. (Damn it, why do people have to stretch that hose to the other side of their cars?)

Fewer people seem to be at the malls. There is an increase in car break-ins in San Francisco tourist spots. Cranky diners seem to be less willing to cough up an extra dollar or two when they tip. Welcome to summer 2008 –the days will be hotter than ever, the gas prices will continue to rise, and so too will our collective impatience. The blunt fact is this: this condition is largely of our own making, and there is little hope that things will get better soon.

To put it plainly, we are creatures of habit. We consume too much, we drive our cars in clogged traffic, and we spend well beyond our means because we know this feels good. If there were some kind of instant gratification quotient that the average American consumer achieves each day, I’d say we were a randy, lustful bunch by now. We pile into the yellow Hummers and the black Escalades with the 22-inch rims because Read the rest of this entry »

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