Terrace House is putting the reality back in reality TV.
In 2012, the Japanese reality show proved to the world that the reality genre doesn’t have to be outrageous to get viewership. Instead, they just paddled along in ordinary everyday life, and it worked.
The gist: Six young people (three male, three female) start out as strangers living under a single roof, as life takes place the way most of us know it – in a rather uneventful manner.
But that’s the narrative this show excels in — it’s a testament to the fact that there’s no shortage of imagination and character when it comes to real people. The show’s relatability to millennials has proven to be incredible, and since Terrace House became a Netflix Original in September 2015, it’s maintained a modest but loyal following.
A few key points:
- Unlike similar reality TV shows, you can’t get kicked out of this house, but you can volunteer to leave.
- Apart from the participants, there’s a [hilarious] panel providing commentary about the goings-on in the house, which helps the viewer piece together their thoughts about what’s happening.
- The thirst for voyeurism is real. The Japanese stars of the show are immensely polite and conservative, and this has stoked the curiosity of a largely Western audience which is completely unused to this kind of behaviour from our reality stars.
That last point is best explained by Justin McElroy for Polygon:
“Take, for example, a three-minute scene devoted to unwashed dishes. While American viewers might brace for that sort of issue to devolve into a drunken screaming match, the residents of Terrace House make their displeasure known and then — this is the really revolutionary part — resolve it like actual adult humans who care about those around them.”
That’s bound to change, perhaps drastically, as the show’s already reached American shores:
We’re crossing our fingers, though. We hope the show stays true to its mundane roots. As McElroy writes, “Reality TV tries to pervert people into creatures of perfect ambition, whose every move is a calculated step towards getting what they’re after. Terrace House shows people as they are, big, dumb wads of conflicting, unexamined emotions just trying to get by.”
As of writing, Terrace House: Aloha State is currently on an extended run, and will end at 36 episodes.