Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I know Kung Fu

The Scaryduck Movie Quote Poll is go. I have movie quotes coming out of my ears, for you have chosen. From your huge pile of suggestions last week, I have whittled them down to twenty by way of a final vote. Some films actually have more than one quote listed, and the fact that one of these is the cinematic masterpiece that is Flash Gordon worries me somewhat.

The voting form doesn't fit on my page, so click-o to vote-o!

Word of the Day: Schadenfreude

noun: Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Today, we are firmly in You've Been Framed and It'll Be Alright On The Night territory, having a good guffaw at somebody's granny severing both legs in a bizarre spacehopper tragedy. All this and Dennis Norden too.

When it comes to Humiliation TV, you can trust the Japanese to do it better than anybody else. The Japanese culture of "face" and the losing thereof, means that there is a near inexhaustible supply of easy targets.

Now, some of these shows are nasty in the extreme, but it is the original and best Takeshi's Castle - enjoying a bit of a comeback over here - that I'm a bit of a fan of.

Tokyo Broadcast System hasn't made any new Takeshi's for the best part of fifteen years, but it is still a stead seller on the TV export market with a worldwide cult following. In the UK, it's currently shown daily on Challenge TV on Sky Digital, frankly the only thing worth watch on that particular slice of TV mediocrity. I first caught up with the programme over a decade ago on Moroccan TV, and it is as incomprehensible now as it was then.

So, what was the point of this particular gameshow? One hundred competitors compete for a million yen prize (about 5,000 pounds these days) by flopping about in mucky ditches in a very muddy field just outside Tokyo, heaping shame on the family name. Fail, humiliated, you are out. Get to the end, storm the castle owned by Count Takeshi -a gentleman sporting a huge papier mache head like an oriental tribute to our very own Frank Sidebottom, and the prize is yours. I've only ever seen one winner, it's that tough. Pointless, even.

The games. Where do I start? Most involve some feat of individual skill, dumb luck or a mixture of the two, usually ending with a face full of muddy water "specially imported from a pig farm in Southern Japan." Most of the time, this means crossing a pond on booby-trapped stepping stones, log rollers that throw unsuspecting dopes to their doom, or vaulting across on a pole whilst being chased about by various sumo wrestlers and otherwise unemployable actors in daft costumes. The joy is not in the human endeavour, rather than in these nameless hopefuls failing. Spectacularly. You don't care about the winning - it's the crapness that counts.

So, the hundred contestants could be - and usually are - anybody, from What-in-the-name-of-Hirohito-am-I-doing-here housewives to Banzai bank managers. Tight editing, no sappy interviews, no names, no packdrill. It's just pain all the way.

I'm sure an ITV version would spoil it by adding Davina bloody MacCall thrusting her microphone into competitors' faces and spending half the show gassing. If the BBC weren't so scared of killing their contestants (Late Late Breakfast Show, anyone?) this would be ideal fare for BBC3 with a bunch of students competing for their tuition fees and a sack of beer money. I'd watch it, but only if they ditched Craig Charles and got General Li to host it. In the original Japanese.

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