Oldies but goldies – The Quiz Show

This time around 'Oldies but Goldies' will deal with a particularly poignant drama, The Quiz Show, at first an experimental project which was then repackaged as a more polished and mainstream product.

The Quiz Show (ザ・クイズショウ) was aired in Summer 2008 on NTV late Saturday slot, reserved for more experimental works and the same slot where Mōsō Shimai was aired. The series features 12 episode of 30 minutes each.

Tazaki Toru (Katagiri Jin) is locked in a psychiatric ward where he blankly stares at walls all day long; yet, producer Yamanobe Kengo (Totsugi Shigeyuki) decides to dress him up and feature him as the host for a weekly prize show, The Quiz Show.

The contestants, chosen by the production team, are not subject to the usual array of trivia questions. Instead, they are questioned on their past life and deeds, finally prodded into revealing hidden past crimes. Each of the seven contestants represents one of the seven deadly sins, and with each episode we soon realize they are all embroiled in one, tragic accident. What is the connection between Tazaki and Yamanobe? Why did Tazaki lose his memory?

The Quiz Show is a little hidden gem, made up of short but intense episodes, where the growing tension is enhanced by a relatively unknown, yet skilled cast of actors. The theme song, Pay Money to My Pain by Paralyzed Ocean, is a growling metal song that underlines the tension and the drama in the story.

The Quiz Show has been a hit with the public and producers alike, and a second season, The Quiz Show 2, was produced and aired the following spring.

The new season, consisting of ten one-hour episodes, is a reboot. The two protagonists are performed by two well known figures from Johnny's Entertainment: Sakurai Shō (Arashi) is presenter Kamiyama Satoru, and Yokohama Yu (Kanjani8) is producer Honma Toshio. The cast features other well known faces, such as Asano Yuko and Narimiya Hiroki, and the production value is generally higher.

The Quiz Show 2 follows fairly closely the first series' plot, but is generally more commercial and youth oriented. The tension in the original it taken down a notch, also thanks to the increased episode length. The theme song Ashita no Kioku (明日の記憶, Tomorrow's Memories) is a Japanese ballad by Arashi, giving the series a very different atmosphere than the previous' metal piece.

Most of the drama is relegated to the two protagonists' interactions within the psychiatric ward where the presenter lives, which bears similarities to a seme/uke, or s/m relationship – barring the sexual aspect. This is likely to be a calculated move by Johnny's Entertainment: a pair of idol/actors is created, which can then be shipped and fan fiction-ed by the Jani-ota (female fans of Johnny's Entertainment). The move does not have an immediate economic return, yet it increases interest toward commercial, 'official' products.

Other smart moves by JE are the choice to give the role of presenter to Sakurai, who also works as a newscaster; and giving the surname Honma to the producer, a shout out to the Kansai area where the word is used (meaning 'a lot') and where actor Yokoyama comes from.

While the reboot bears the mark of JE quite heavily, it still is an enjoyable product, more palatable to the general public compare to the earlier, more experimental version.

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