Organized Panel Session
This paper reframes the importation of Iron Chef (Fuji TV, 1993-1999) and Takeshi’s Castle (TBS, 1986-1989) in the US within a broader historical global media ecology. While conversations about global television have increased in recent years, television continues to be nationally specific. The study of Japanese variety programs are limited due to its cultural and linguistic specificities. As previous scholarship have outlined with quiz shows in Japan (Niwa 2003, Hase2017), early Japanese television took inspiration from many American programs and television genres and localized these formats for local consumption. Variety programs was no exception. The success of these programs abroad is not only an example of Japanese television expanding abroad, but an important turning point as a genre that was once “imported” from the US is exported (back) as a Japanese product.
The reframing takes into consideration four frames: the historical creative exchange between US and Japan, the post network era conditions of the 1990s / early 2000s, the peculiarity of canned Japanese programs on US cable ecology, and the different ways both countries “colonized” the programs to serve local needs. In doing so, I argue that there were similar needs in 1950s Japan and 1990s/2000s US television industry that called for transnational media exchange. These exchanges are often uneven and like early Japanese variety programs were not official format or program purchases. In other words, the study of (Japanese) variety programs show us the most localized programming emerges from the complex cycles of global creative exchange.