Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Japanese TV seems to annoy me more and more each day. Lately I can't be in the same room as a TV without shuddering in disgust at one of the idiotic shows passed off as entertainment on the Japanese airwaves. For that reason, today I'm starting a new feature called Kiru Your TV. Kiru is a handy Japanese verb that simultaneously means "cut," "kill" or "turn off." SAFETY FIRST! If you decide to "cut" your TV with any kind of bladed weapon, make sure to unplug it first.

My first nomination for being kiru'ed is a show called SMAPxSMAP (with a silent "X"), the foremost televisual vehicle for the ever-aging idol group SMAP. SMAPxSMAP is a multi-segmented show which aims to prove that SMAP (Nakai Masahiro, Kimura "Kimutaku" Takuya, Inagaki Goro, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Katori Shingo) can do everything. They cook fancy food for celebrity guests in a segment called "Bistro SMAP." They perform comedic sketches. They do all sorts of fun and interesting things, but the show always ends with a musical segment.

At this point, it's important to know one thing about SMAP: They are funny comedians and talented actors (and, apparently, gifted chefs). But one thing SMAP cannot do is the very thing they were assembled by Johnny's idol talent agency to do, which is singing.

A typical episode of SMAPxSMAP ends with a special musical guest appearance by a "real" musician. The guest participates in a question/answer session with the SMAP boys, after which they all share the stage for what can only be described as an orgy of musical pain: SMAP joins their musical superior in a poorly-arranged ensemble, often presented in a horribly out-of-tune unison.

I cannot help but ask, Why does this show exist? Certainly I'm not the only person who feels the ear pain and embarrassment that comes naturally when SMAP collides with a musical legend like Stevie Wonder (pictured above). But I always reach the same conclusion: Self-indulgence. It's undeniably fun to sing. And it must be even more fun to sing with a musician you really admire. But SMAP's attempts to do so are not fun for anybody but SMAP, and should not be televised.

Witness the video. Watch an amazingly patient Stevie Wonder share the stage. The SMAP boys do nothing but sit quietly and bop around on their seats during the first song. Then, around the 3:53 mark, "I Just Called to Say I Love You" starts...and with it, the agony. Highlights include:

4:12 - Nakai looks really funny when he sings the word "hearts."

4:21 - SMAP can't agree on the vocal rhythm for "no song to sing."

5:00 - Nakai attempts some artsy hand gestures.

5:37 - The bottom of Kimutaku's heart is actually his liver.

5:51 to 6:13 - Nakai and Kusanagi sing something other than the real lyrics and are bailed out by Stevie at the last second.

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