December 20th, 2007
I've been watching a few Japanese dramas lately and I've been really enjoying them. It's interesting to compare to American TV. The biggest difference is the format. American shows are created open-ended, with the hopes that it will be popular enough to keep making season after season, thereby making more money. Japanese shows usually last for only one season, with about 10 episodes in each. Below, I've listed some advantages to doing it this way.
- Focus on Story - Because most dramas have a set length, there's no need to drag the story through season after season. The story can be told and that will be it.
- Fresh Ideas - Ever watch a show that just gets stale after a while? The term "Jumping the Shark" has come to mean the moment at which point the series becomes no longer interesting. Japanese dramas don't have time to jump the shark. They tell the story in 10 or so episodes and then they move on to something else. This keeps the ideas new, fresh, and interesting.
- Less Time Commitment - Lots of people have recommended the Lost series to us, but we haven't started it because we're not sure we want to commit to it. It's not even over and it's into it's fifth season. With Japanese dramas, you know the story will end in 10 or so episodes.
- Acting Opportunities - Popular actors get cast a lot. This allows them to improve their skills by playing different roles. Plus, when the turnorver for dramas is every season, there's always new work.
- Less Typecasting - It's been hard for a lot of American actors who played characters for 7+ seasons to get cast as anything but that type of character. Sometimes it's hard for them to get cast at all because everyone thinks "Hey, it's George from Seinfeld!" With the drama rotation, there are enough roles for you play that you're unlikely to get stuck as "That one guy"
- Easy DVD Purchases - When the show was only one season long, with a complete stroy, buying it on DVD isn't such an investment. We've purchased every Frasier that's come out at $20-$30 a season (X-Files is at least twice as much). Getting an entire show you liked with one purchase is kind of refreshing.
- Novelization Sales - Almost every drama I've watched has an advertisement for the novelization of the drama. That spells a nice extra bit of cash for the producers. This couldn't happen with a multi-season show like ER.
- Theme Music - Remember how the Friends theme became an unexpected hit? Japanese dramas leverage big names in music to create music for the show. It's not uncommon for theme songs to become hits.
- Soundtrack - They actually release the soundtrack for some of the shows. In many cases, it's probably the quickest way to get the aforementioned theme music. That's extra revenue that wouldn't cost too much because they've already assembled the music for the show.
- Casting Pop Stars - There is sometimes a fuzzy line between music artist and actor in Japan. If you think about it, the roles aren't too different--both the pop music artist and the actor are preformers after all. Success in acting and pop music often depend more on your looks than talent (sad but true). So sometimes they cast pop music personalities in lead roles, and they often do a surprisingly good job. This creates the type of symbotic promotional relationship that's every marketers dream. Here's an example. This is the music video for the theme song for Nobuta o Produce sung by the two main stars. This song was number one on the charts and was chosen for some song of the year award. This gave the drama a huge boost as I'm sure the song got a boost from the show (which was given a "Best Drama" award).
With the end of the writers strike nowhere in sight here in America, those who are bored with American TV can learn about Japanese dramas at DramaWiki and then download them at D-Addicts.com. I'll soon be doing a post about the ones we've watched so far and which I recommend. Stay tuned!