Let’s face it: Film is ugly. American mainstays Law and Order and 24 do little more than recall ancient relics of the inferior 20th century. Beta is the future. Japanese television has openly embraced majestic advances in cinematography. The brilliant harsh tones 2-3x the luminescence of real life! The green glow of indoor fluorescent lighting! The ever-present feeling that you are merely watching the output of cameramen filming actors somewhere in Tokyo! Can you even envisage the travesty of celluloid capturing the brilliant exaggerated overacting of Japanese talent?
On a totally unrelated note — video is cheap! Dirt cheap! allowing the Japanese broadcast companies to pass those savings back to… themselves!
For the last month, various business publications have been compiling master rankings of Japanese corporate salaries, and almost all of them agree that the highest paid domestic employees are in the television business. By Weekly Toyo Keizai‘s October 7th figures, a 30 year-old at Asahi Broadcasting should be reaping in more than ¥10 million a year. A Fuji Television employee (#3) has a higher hourly rate than a Mitsubishi Corporation wonk (#4) or Dentsu ad man (#5).
For anyone who has ever wondered why Japanese TV has so many variety shows with a shoestring budget, the answer is now clear: Superior programming would take away from superior salaries. We viewers are delighted with fifteen straight minutes of an overweight cat stumbling around (and then the eventual “quiz” section to kill more time) so that Mr. Tanaka at Nihon TV and his cronies can have that extra hour of entertainment at one of Ginza’s top hostess bars. Just like Latin America and Eastern Europe, there is just no more money in the Japanese system to build the high-quality television programs that other developed nations export to the world. They need that hard-earned ad money to feed their wives and families.