Japanese TV shows usually take three basic forms, the genres of drama, anime, and variety show (バラエティー). Comedy is not typically it’s own television genre as the Japanese seem to get their laughs from comedians on variety shows. News programs are what you would expect, half hour blocks that air in the evening and late at night. There are also seasonal shows that coincide with Japanese holidays and traditional vacation periods. For example, New Years week is a huge time for Japanese TV. Budgets increase and the amount of TV specials is astounding. Families tend to spend News Years hanging out together and eating, much like Christmas time in the West and the media companies take full advantage.
The media market in Japan is much different than it is in a country like the U.S., mainly due to the smaller size. Television show budgets are limited, which explains how the variety show seems to dominate. Reality TV in America has become commonplace largely to how much cheaper it is to produce them, so variety shows are essentially Japan’s reality TV. The variety shows are filled with comedians and celebrities. Interplay between the comedians and celebrities is the driver, with the celebrities being the “straight-man” to give the comedians material. Food is king on these shows. They go to restaurants and sometimes play games where they try to guess the price. The subjects that fuel the interaction between the TV personalities is endless. After food, the most popular themes of the variety shows are things like current pop culture trends and health topics.
Japan is famous for its animated series and anime is extremely popular in the country. Anime genres are almost limitless, as sports, food, drama, action, fantasy, and science fiction top the list, but there is almost an anime about any subject you could think of. You will find anime on most of the stations, but NHK mostly has educational anime. Mornings and evenings are for the anime targeting kids. At 11pm you can find more adult anime with violence and sexual themes. Cable TV has two channels completely devoted to anime, Animax and Kids Station.
TV dramas are really popular in Japan. They have a number of themes, with mystery and love being the most common. The actors and actresses tend to be pop singers. Members of boy bands and girlie groups like AKB48 get time playing characters, which is how the Japanese media companies like to work it. While you are watching a drama staring a particular celebrity, numerous commercials featuring the same celeb are aired in every commercial break. NHK dramas are more historical pieces and it is common to reboot classic dramas with the newest celebs that are trending.
Ryan’s Rant: My 2 Yen
Japanese TV has become awful over the last 5 years. It used to be filled with insane shows that put celebrities in crazy situations, but now all they do is talk about food while an audience of women just say “ehhhhhhhh” in unison. Making things worse is how bad the acting has gotten now that boy band and idol group singers are the main actors. Even their news has joined the party, as a member of boy band Arashi is a news anchor. Yup, imagine if a member of One Direction was the main news anchor on a major network. Absolute trash. Late night TV used to have sexy shows and that would make Cinemax blush, but no more. Now late TV is full of shows that have celebs playing Pachinko. Terrible. Japan’s anime has also been bad too. I am so sick of schoolgirls and maids. That seems to be all the anime playing at night. Space Brothers is great and I like Detective Conan, but most everything else is all cutesy girls that are supposed to turn me on. Less anime girls and more real women being sexy.