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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WKRP In Cincinnati - Japanese Tourists

The television show WKRP In Cincinnati was once my comedy show on TV, and the fact that I can quote scenes from it verbatim some 35 years later speaks highly (to me) of just how poignant and funny it was… that or the fact that I have a lot of crap in my head.

Assuming it's the former, let's take a look at one of those funny episodes as it relates to Japan, because that's what we do here.

My friend Michael and I, another former English-teacher in Japan now back here in Toronto, and working with me nowadays, were chatting about baseball, which led us to WKRP in Cincinnati, which led me to recall the time a bunch of Japanese tourists visited the radio station, WKRP.

This is Season 1, Episode 12 of the series - an episode from 1979 called Tornado.

A group of Japanese tourists—radio executives, in fact—complete with cameras per the stereotype, are, for some reason, in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, taking in the sights.

Keep in mind that this IS 1979… only 35-years after World War II, and while it was, even then, a long time ago, many a veteran still alive often harbored a grudge against the Japanese…

As well, no matter how one slices it, the Japanese were still mysterious to most western nations, with stereotypes from TV and movies often all one had to base things upon.

Fair? No. Reality? Yes.

Anyhow… our Japanese tourists… due to an error, the non-English-speaking Japanese are being given a tour by a Spanish translator, as we can guess that "somewhere in Cincinnati a bunch of chiropractors from Ecuador are being taken around by Akira Yamaguchi!"

The Interpreter explains to Mr. Carlson, the WKRP manager: "I was hired to interpret for a group of Spanish-speaking visitors. In my opinion, these people are not Spanish. Watch this. (He speaks in Spanish; no reaction from the Japanese men.) See? In my country, that would be a fistfight!   

Mr. Carlson says: "Wait a minute. I learned a little Japanese when I was in the Marines. Let me think about this... The accent may be off. (He speaks in Japanese; all the Japanese men put their hands up.) Oh boy."

The Japanese men - five of them - though two are credited - one not even Japanese: David Chow and Bill Saito - move around from radio station room to radio station room.

When they see the statuesque blonde bombshell Jennifer Marlowe played by Loni Anderson, standard Japanese photographic mayhem ensues - and stereotype or not, you can bet your bottom dollar that if she was in Japan, men everywhere would be trying to pinch her butt or squeeze her boobs, because sometimes a stereotype exists for a reason. Because it's true.

Loni Anderson
When news anchorman Les Nesman spots the Japanese, he is immediately suspicious of what they are doing here, but Mr. Carleson, he sarcastically says:
"Les, the Japanese are our allies now. As news director, I can't expect you to pick up on little things like that."
When Mr. Carleson shows the tourists the sound room where the music and news is broadcast over the airwaves, he takes them in to meet DJ Johnny Fever, who in 1979 looked like a scruffy-drug-smoking hippie… which he was.

Mr. Carlson: "Gentlemen, this is a disc jockey."
Japanese man: "Discuh jockey?"
Mr. Carlson: "Right. You got it."
Johnny: "Disc jockey."
Japanese man (looking at Johnny's eye): "Ooo. Discuh jockey."
(All the Japanese men whip out sanitary masks and cover their mouths.)

I love it! With all of the ways both parties can misinterpret what the other is saying, it's just like real life!

The last scene I can recall is near the end, when a tornado is approaching the building, and the Japanese spot it and are pointing towards it outside the window, screaming in terror.

One of the WKRP guys asks what is wrong, and I think it's Mr. Carleson who grumpily answers, "Probably one of them thinks he sees a Photo Hut or something."

Owtch! It once again picks on the stereotype of the Japanese propensity for annoying amounts of photography when on a tourist vacation, as a Photo Hut was a large yellow kiosk where one could drop of the camera film for development back in the days before digital cameras.

That's all for now.

Andrew Joseph

1 comment:

  1. I exctly remember that hillarious episode :) especially when the WKRP guys welcomed them and said ... "Ohio" Cincinati ... and the Japanese visitors bowed in a typical Japanese courtessy bow and replied the Japanese word "ohio" ... how could you forget such a genuine episode (Y)