I knew nothing about Terrace House before I fell into the show's rabbit hole. One afternoon, I was just playing around with a newly bought Chromecast when I got the idea to watch it. I've noticed it a few times on my Netflix as a suggestion since I watched another Japanese show, Atelier. I decided to give it a shot given that I'm fond of reality TV and its Netflix description read vaguely like a reality show.
I'm not sure if it was because of my low expectations but I enjoyed its first episode. A bit slow but it built momentum and by episode 3 I was hooked. That day ended with me breezing through half of the available 18 episodes. Overall, what made Terrace House such a satisfying viewing experience for me was how it added or offered entirely different perspective to the overly saturated reality TV genre.
Before I go explaining how it was, I'd better set up the show's premise first.
- Six twenty-somethings (3 single guys and 3 single girls) are asked to live in a beautiful three-story house in Tokyo for 18 weeks.
- Unlike Big Brother where housemates are put in house arrest and media blackout, the housemates still go about their daily schedule, they just have to go home to the titular Terrace House instead
- Housemates can stay at the house for the entire length of the TV show or can opt out whenever they want. A new housemate of the same gender will replace the housemate a day after. This cycle continues until the end of the 18 weeks.
- As far as I know, no one really wins a cash prize or a new house. Fame's only the reward I guess
- The show airs in Japan while they're still taping the show. Which meant that the housemates can also watch the edited show and get the reaction of viewers if they want to.
- Instead of having a narrator for each episode, a celebrity panel discuss and process the events that happened in the episode.
Reasons to like Terrace House
For Reality TV fans: It looks and feels different from the regular reality TV show
- Because it's not a competition, people don't collude or scheme to boot people out of the house. It's a show that genuinely wants its participants to build relationships. The idea of a no-conflict reality TV show may be absurd but it was surely refreshing to see people just try to be decent human beings on TV.
- In addition, unlike PBB that sells each housemates' past struggle, the showrunners of Terrace House would rather focus on the present. They'd rather build the narrative from the current developments in the house instead of digging up something from a housemate's past and use it as stimulus for needed drama.
- Aside from the stipulations above, one thing you'll also notice differently with Terrace House is how polished and orderly it is presented. It's such a far cry from how other forced cohabitation reality shows such as The Real World and Pinoy Big Brother are presented. There's a warm and intimate aesthetic in how it's shot and edited that made it feel so polished to the point that I've had doubts on how much of the show was produced! Check out this clip for further proof:
- The addition of the celebrity panel mixed up the tone as they brought more life to a show that didn't have much high energy moments. It's far different from how PBB introduces analysis in their episodes (often introducing a family member or their resident psychologist).
For the foodies: So much food! So much restaurants!
- One thing that was unexpected from watching Terrace House was how dining was such a big part of the show. Since the housemates still follow their personal schedules, meal times are usually the only time they interact with one another. So a big chunk of each episode have the housemates eating in or eating out in numerous restaurants around Tokyo. Moreover, the big events in the show often happen in the company of either beer, grilled beef or omu-rice (gehd am I craving for omu-rice). The show's also open in naming the places they eat at so you can eventually make a checklist of restaurants you might want to dine in when you visit Tokyo.
For the Japanese culture enthusiast: A slice of the japanese life
- What really made me enjoy binge-watching Terrace House was how it gave me a peek into daily living in Japan. I've been fascinated with Japan since I was a kid, thanks to Yu Yu Hakusho, Evangelion and Oh! Tokyo!. How such a technologically advance country still value tradition and venerate its past. Since animes or j-dramas aren't the best barometers of japanese culture being works of fiction, Terrace House's probably the closest to the real thing. Dating norms and gender roles are entirely different from what I expected. Having a chance to explore other cultures always brings me great joy. More so that it's Japanese.
Terrace House is available for streaming at Netflix. So far only Season 01 part 01 is available for streaming. Here's to hoping season 01 part 02 and season 02 also get distributed outside of Japan!