One of my current favourite shows watched on Netflix is the Japanese Reality show Terrace House. This reality show is very different to your usual reality shows of drama, conflict, scandals, competition and huge personalities. Instead we are faced with the exact opposite when it comes to Terrace House. Each season documents the lives of six strangers, three men and three women, who share a house together, working their day jobs, cooking, cleaning, forming friendships and falling in and out of love. The people are generally nice and demonstrate basic courtesy. Low-key drama stems from the realistic friction and misunderstandings that naturally arise when different personalities are forced into close quarters — like frustration at a housemate’s laziness, or having feelings for someone who doesn’t entirely reciprocate. The unscripted show has its members choose when they believe it’s their time to leave and their journey at Terrace House has come to an end.
Terrace House has gained international attention from countries such as the United Kingdom, America and Australia. The fan base has grown so big, the show has its own online active fanbase that uses Reddit and Twitter to catalog the best moments from each episode.
How has a show that is deemed “one of the least eventful shows on television” been able to captivate an audience as large as it has?
When reading Joseph D Straubhaar’s “Choosing National TV: Cultural Capital, Language and Cultural Proximity in Brazil,” we are introduced to the “cultural proximity theory” which suggest cultures and countries tend to prefer their own local or national productions due to the appeal of local themes and issues, the local knowledge needed to understand humour and the familiarity of local styles and locales. It is also stated that audiences tend to reject programs that are distant from their own reality.
Although Terrace House is enriched with Japanese culture, I believe the attention gained surrounding the show is due to the fact it’s the closest program depicting reality and the most relatable compared to most reality shows. Stated in an article in Vanity Fair magazine by Sonya Saraiya, she explains “Most reality television offers up drama; Terrace House allows the viewer to create the drama out of the mundane. Instead of making us numb to the screeching chaos of “reality,” the show sensitises the viewer: it makes us care about the subtle gestures of being human, as experienced by several people halfway around the world.” With further research I conducted about the show and why it has become so popular among people, I came across an article in Time Magazine where the writer expresses “The people on Terrace House are often likeable but never perfect, and their flawed relationships illuminate the less idyllic aspects of dating: the unreciprocated crushes, the terrible first dates, the unbridgeable gaps in age or experience, the curse of mutual physical attraction between otherwise incompatible cast members. All of it feels uniquely real, because all of it unfolds on a human scale and timetable” (Berman, J 2018). Therefore the Global success of Terrace House develops from the simple, everyday mundaneness that mimics our experiences of our own reality.
Aswell, S 2017, ‘Enjoy the show: Reality TV is nice now,’ Culture, viewed 8th of August 2019, <https://theoutline.com/post/2593/terrace-house-great-british-bake-off-reality-tv?zd=3&zi=ld5btkh3>
Berman, J 2018, ‘Reality TV is obsessed with Romance, But only Terrace House gets it right,’ Time, viewed 8th of August 2019, <https://time.com/5421311/terrace-house-review-reality-tv-romance/>
Hanaway, T 2019, ‘Terrace House returns to Tokyo,’ The Japan Times, viewed 8th of August 2019, <https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2019/05/16/tv/terrace-house-returns-tokyo/#.XWNMqi1L1QI>
Saraiya, S 2018, ‘Can Reality TV ever really be nice?,’ Vanity Fair, viewed 8th August 2019, <https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/07/reality-tv-nice-terrace-house-great-british-baking-show-queer-eye-making-it>
Straubhaar, Joseph, D. ‘Choosing National TV: Cultural Capital, Language and Cultural Proximity in Brazil’ in The Impact of International Television: A Paradigm Shift’, edited by Michael G. Elasmar, Oxofrd: Routledge, 2014, pp. 77-110.
Squires, B 2019, ‘Every Member of Terrace House,’ Vulture, viewed 8th August 2019, <https://www.vulture.com/2018/10/every-terrace-house-cast-member-ranked.html>
Zhang, J 2018, ‘A Guide to Navigating Netflix’s food filled Reality show Terrace House,’ Eater, viewed 8th August 2019, <https://www.eater.com/2018/5/22/17377626/terrace-house-netflix-review-food-moments>