14 January 2017

Gentle Media Review: "Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City" (Netflix)

Promo for "Terrace House"

I first heard about "Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City" when one of the brothers mentioned it in passing on the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. For most of 2015 and 2016, I felt like Netflix was bringing me the same few shows over and over when I would browse, so I always take a look if someone mentions a show that I haven't seen. I'm glad that I did.

"Terrace House" is a Japanese reality-TV series that is like a kinder, gentler version of the MTV series "Real World". Six people living in a house with cameras and no script -- sound familiar? You may know the setup, but this show stood out to me for what it didn't have. There is no prize money, no challenges, no confessionals, no eliminations, and no yelling. The "members", as the housemates call each other, are there for two reasons: to find love and to work on their careers.

The show ran for eight seasons from 2012 to 2014 on Fuji Television in Japan and even had a movie to wrap up the events in the original house. Unfortunately, those episodes are not available on Netflix US.  In 2015 Fuji Television teamed up with Netflix to start a new series subtitled "Boys and Girls in the City" that takes place in a new house in Tokyo.

Two or three times throughout each episode, a panel of six Japanese celebrities comment on what they have seen. It reminds me of "People's Couch" or "Gogglebox" and I think it makes watching a reality show more fun. The panel also clarified some scenes for me when I thought that I was missing something due to cultural differences.

Another unique element is that the members are not in isolation like they are on many American shows. The episodes were treated like regular TV in Japan and released on Netflix Asia once a week. The members would watch the episodes as they were released and would talk to their family and friends about what was shown. New members who came into the house would watch past episodes to find out about certain events that had occurred before they arrived.

The biggest difference for American viewers may be the way relationships are conducted. Every little step of expressing interest in another person is considered a big deal. Anyone who has watched Korean dramas knows what I am talking about. Cooking a meal with someone is almost like a date. Holding hands is a big step, and couples don't kiss until they have declared that they are going steady.

I think that "Terrace House" is the perfect reality show for my pals who enjoy Hallmark movies. It may sound like a show where nothing happens, but if you give it a chance you will get sucked in. The 48 episodes of "Boys and Girls in the City" are still available on Netflix, and the new series "Aloha State" will be available 24 Jan 2017.

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