Newest Japanese Import: Game Shows

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game show

A game show on TV in Japan. HamonRye/Flickr hide caption

itoggle caption HamonRye/Flickr

You don't have to learn Japanese these days to appreciate Japanese game shows.

Well, you didn't really need to before, as you would know if you watch any of them on YouTube.

Gavin Purcell, who has been blogging about Japanese game shows for two years, thinks he might enjoy the weirdness of the programs even more without knowing the language.

But tonight, you don't even have to think about learning Japanese because you can watch two Japanese-style game shows in American incarnations on ABC: I Survived a Japanese Game Show and Wipeout.

Purcell is eager to see how mainstream America will receive them.

In understanding Japanese game shows, says Purcell, who runs the Web site TVinJapan.com, there are two important words: absurdity and pain.

"A lot of it involves very strange, very weird things you wouldn't imagine people putting themselves through," Purcell says. Contestants can be hit or beaten, often by people in weird costumes.

"Being humiliated in front of an audience is something that everyone goes through," he says. "So it kind of makes it communal."

One of Purcell's favorite shows is the Do Not Laugh series, in which a bunch of comedians are put into a big room and forbidden to laugh. "If they do laugh, somebody will come in, in patent leather, and beat them with a stick," he explains.

It doesn't seem that funny when you describe it, but when you watch it, he says, "it's amazingly hilarious — these guys are all laughing at these other guys getting hurt. It's this kind of group understanding that being hurt is an OK thing, as long as you get past it."

Purcell isn't sure what U.S. audiences will make of all this, because, he thinks, "Americans may tend to turn more angry when they get hurt."

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