A Japanese variety show is an entertainment television program made up of a variety of original stunts, musical performances, comedy skits, quiz contests, and other acts.
You’ll see that the shows I picked are mostly contests and talk shows. I’m not that into musical programs since there’s not much opportunity for the guests to interact and show their personalities. And also, ever since they ended Utaban I lost interest in musical programs.
Utaban was a pretty interesting show since aside from showing musical performances it also involved games and talks with guests. And it was also a show that didn’t take itself too seriously. Due to both hosts, Takaaki Ishibashi (who is a lifetime comedian) and Nakai Masahiro (former SMAP member), it was pretty hilarious to watch.
Now to my current top five:
This TV show is basically a game show hosted by idol group Arashi. Each week they have a guest team (with at least six members) play against them in a series of games. Since Arashi consists of five members, they also invite a “plus one guest” to their team. This guest’s identity is kept from them until the beginning of the show.
The show began airing in 2008 with three main games: Falling Pipe, Cliff Climb, and Rolling Coin Tower. Since then, several other games have been making their appearances little by little. These are some of them:
- Pinball Runner
- Jumping Shooter
- Bank Bowling
- Giant Crush
- Bound Hockey
- Jungle Bingo
- Kicking Sniper
- Dual Curling
- Korokoro Viking
- Shotgun Disk
- GoGo Sweeper
- Balloon Shooting
- Bomber Striker
My favorite game is Cliff Climb. It was one of the original games but has been through several upgrades since it began. In this game, two players have to climb a wall with the help of the grips that are distributed along it, there are also several buttons on the wall they have to press in order to accumulate points and to increase their score.
When needed, the climber can ask for an extra grip from the other team members and it will be thrown in a bag for him to catch.
The reason this game is my favorite is that it is hilarious to watch the climber fail and get stuck on a certain part of the wall or missing a grip.
I really like this talk show, mainly because it is hosted by seven comedians which makes it pretty entertaining to watch. The hosts of this show are comedy duo Cream Stew, comedy duo Tutorial, and comedy trio Neptune. Ueda Shinya works as the main host while the other six members work as panelists seated close to the guest(s).
The guest is asked several questions by the main host, for example, their hobbies, who are their friends, and interests. They also prepare a special corner where a specific aspect of the guest is revealed. There are always many adlibs since the comedians are very spontaneous people and out of nowhere, they may request the guest to make a gag or be part of an improvised skit.
One of my favorite episodes was when they had Kamiki Ryonosuke and Sato Takeru as the guests. Since Kamiki loves taking pictures, he wanted to have Sato work as his model for a photo shoot so they make that happen right there on set. The comedians also taught Kamiki how to bow when greeting while making a pose with your hands.
This show is hosted by comedy duo Tunnels and what I like about this show is the segment “Kuwazu Kirai”.
This corner is basically two guests up against each other, both having previously selected four plates of food, three they absolutely love and one they can't stand. They take turns eating the plates of food in the order their opponent requests. They each have to guess which food is the one the other one hates based on their expressions and some questions they are allowed to ask them such as “Why do you like this food?”, “When do you like eating this kind of dish?”
Each of the hosts teams up with a guest and helps them make up their decisions and ask the questions.The guest that loses the game has to pay a penalty, such as doing an impersonation, dancing, or singing.
This show is also very interesting due to the hosts, especially Takaaki (I mentioned him previously when talking about Utaban), who is always joking around and is very instigating.
One episode I remember being very entertaining was the one with idol group Momoiro Clover Z and baseball pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Masahiro was very calm and quiet and Momoiro members were pretty loud and cheery, they even brought a special jersey for Masahiro to wear with their group’s name written on the front.
Oshareism is a talk show hosted by three people. The main host is Ueda Shinya and the supporting hosts are Fujiki Naohito and Mori Izumi.
In this program, they have a guest who will be interviewed by the hosts, they usually show some pictures of the guest's private life and people close to them send a video message or written message about an interesting anecdote involving them.
I like the combination of the three hosts. Ueda is very experienced in hosting so he leads the program’s flow very nicely. Watching Fujiki as a host is refreshing since he has always very interesting opinions. Finally, Izumi brings brightness to the show with her simpleminded attitude and amusing opinions.
This is another one of Arashi’s TV shows (you may have noticed by now that I’m a huge fan) which has greatly changed since it first aired. One could say the show has been through three stages. The first one was about inviting a “Big Bro” guest who will teach Arashi something, like when they had Ueda Shinya teaching them about hosting on the first episode, or Gackt teaching them how to have his lifestyle.
The second stage was not that interesting, I barely remember anything remarkable and it only lasted for a short period.
And the third stage is the current one where they have a guest at the studio with whom they normally play “Food Death Match” or have a “Memorial Hall”. After that, they show the members’ individual corners.
Food Death Match is a quiz game where the first person who answers correctly gets to eat a recommended dish. Five of them, including the guest, will be able to eat the dishes while one person will be left at the end.
Memorial Hall is a corner where they introduce the guest’s professional career so far and some outstanding events in their life.
My favorite of the members' individual corners is Matsumoto Jun’s “This is MJ! – cool men’s battle”. In this segment, a male guest (though they also had a female guest once) challenges MJ to a three-way battle in order to decide who is the coolest man. I have so much fun watching this since they have all kind of battles, like who can flip a really big Okonomiyaki better, who can do the whip off the tablecloth trick better, or who can make the best omurice.