I am not a fan of reality TV. The excessive makeup, meaningless drama, transparent pettiness, and scripted dialogue have always seemed like a waste of time to me. Why spend thirty minutes of my day watching dance moms give each other shady looks when I could get quality gossip from eavesdropping in Peirce (C’mon, we’ve all done it)? I figured that nothing on reality television could show me anything true or interesting about the world that I lived in, that it would always be trapped in the fantasy realms of housewives and heiresses. That’s when my friend Mikey introduced me to Terrace House.
This Japanese reality TV show ran in its native country from 2012 to 2014 before it was picked up by Netflix in 2015 and run for two more seasons. The premise is simple. Three men and three women in their early 20s live together in a house. That’s it. The show is an unscripted look into the way that six strangers learn to coexist with one another, working through skirmishes and navigating romantic situations. Terrace House also offers something that most television in the United States is unconcerned with: a look at daily life.
When asked why they love the show, Mikey said that Terrace House succeeds where other reality TV fails by “making the characters real and human and by not ignoring the mundane parts of life that make us all who we are.”
From Terrace House: Aloha
While a lot of Terrace House focuses on the blooming relationships between the entirely heterosexual cast, it also takes time to examine the everyday interactions that propel life forward. There will often be scenes in which the characters discuss what they’ll make for dinner (which always looks mouth-wateringly delicious) or what they did at work that day. Scenes like these make me appreciate the minutia of my own life more and how sometimes the best part of my day is sharing a meal with friends. Another interesting part of watching these scenes is that they give American viewers a candid view of Japanese culture. When I watched the first episode, I was struck by how reserved and polite each of the cast members was towards one another. On American reality TV, it’s common for there to be outlandish personalities who try to compete with each other for time in the spotlight. On Terrace House, however, all of the characters are allowed to be who they are and to engage in the sort of awkward interactions most people have when they first meet each other. It’s incredibly refreshing to watch, and it has also made me more aware of how I interact with people at Kenyon.
At the same time, this ingrained politeness can cause tension between the cast members. In an early episode of Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City, a girl named Minori confides in her housemate and potential love interest Makocchan that she does not feel very close with the other two girls in the house because all they have talked about so far is what type of guy they’re into. Up until this point, Makocchan has stayed out of the conflicts that have occurred in the house, but something changes when Minori opens up to him. Later that day, he gets two of the girls to have an open discussion about their lack of closeness and the conflict is essentially resolved. This is a rare occurrence in a genre that is fixated on prolonged drama, and I was impressed by the display of productive communication that is so often missing from both TV and daily life.
The hosts commentate on what’s happening on the show
Terrace House wouldn’t be as insightful and intriguing without commentary, however, and this is where the hosts of the show really shine. The six hosts give recaps of what has happened in previous episodes, and they also take time to analyze the interactions that happen on Terrace House. They create a fan club of sorts, making predictions about who will date whom and engaging in lively discussion about whether a certain cast member is being charming or annoying. They’re hilarious to listen to as they make strange generalizations (short people are manipulative) and make jokes at each other’s expense. They also get into some of the more serious tensions that exist in the house, talking about things like career ambition and what a healthy relationship should be.
Terrace House isn’t just about young love and drama. It’s a show about people, and how as people, we have to learn to deal with discomfort and the inevitable problems that divide us. It’s a show that reminds me that no one is a villain or a hero and that while not everyone can be rich and glamorous, we can all lead meaningful lives that are worth caring about.