Former TV Tokyo Producer’s Take on “There is a Limit to Inappropriateness”’ as It Fights Compliance, “TV Stations Won’t Protect Us.” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former TV Tokyo Producer’s Take on “There is a Limit to Inappropriateness”’ as It Fights Compliance, “TV Stations Won’t Protect Us.”

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Ignoring compliance, the controversial “There is a Limit to Inappropriateness” according to Toshihiko Tabuchi, a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Culture at Obirin University who has fought against internal constraints at TV Tokyo as a former producer, self-regulation by television stations in dramas and other programs is rare worldwide and extremely Japanese. What is the reality of the production scene shrinking due to compliance?

The fact that there is significant pressure from upper management and various parties within the station towards the courageous stance of the production team is undeniable.

TBS’s drama “There is a Limit to Inappropriateness” (hereafter referred to as “Inappropriateness!”) has been generating buzz for its daring and entertaining approach to broadcasting on terrestrial television amidst this era of stringent compliance. I, too, find myself laughing out loud while watching it every time.

In this analysis of why this drama is resonating with audiences, drawing from my own experiences as a former drama producer, I aim to candidly convey the daily battles that unfold behind the scenes in the drama industry.

It’s not even close to inappropriate!” (from TBS program website)

The first episode of “There is a limit to Inappropriateness” (“Futekitte ni mo Hodogaaru!”) begins with a disclaimer: “This drama contains inappropriate language and smoking scenes. However, considering the nature of this drama, which depicts the linguistic expressions and cultural customs of the time, we have chosen to use the expressions from 1986.” This disclaimer, according to Professor Toshihiko Tabuchi of Ochanomizu University’s Faculty of Arts and Culture, a former drama producer at TV Tokyo who has long fought against the constraints within the station, is a playful and satirical jab at the oversensitivity to compliance. Here lie the points I will be examining:

  1. The Word-Hunt provoked by Appropriate Language
  2. The Taboo of Smoking Scenes

As stated in the disclaimer, these points become particularly sensitive when trying to adhere to compliance. First, let’s explain the Word-Hunt provoked by Appropriate Language.

In “There is a limit to Inappropriateness ,” phrases like “a guy rotten like a woman” or “hey sis” to “you, monkey!” and “do you have balls?” are rampant, and it’s surprisingly refreshing to watch.

However, the reality of intense pressure from the upper echelons of the station and various parties involved lurks behind this courageous stance of the production.

Before such words are aired, a similar disclaimer is shown at the bottom of the screen. In reality, the creators of the work don’t want such text to appear because they don’t want to tarnish the picture (image). However, they are not allowed to overlook it. So, where does such instruction come from?

As mentioned, there is a department within the TV station responsible for checking whether compliance is being properly observed, known as the Inspection department.

Most of the issues communicated from this department are based on past cases and are therefore often reasonable, and the production team can understand them. However, issues coming from outside the inspection department are troublesome, and the production team often finds themselves scratching their heads and wondering, “Why?”

A mosaic-treated sign that says, “Our ramen is MSG-free!”

When I produced the drama “Prison Break,” there was a scene where the actor Takayuki Yamada, playing a convict, had been imprisoned for a long time with shackles on his limbs, causing festering wounds with maggots breeding. The art director prepared real maggots for the scene, and filming took place. I admired Yamada’s professionalism. However, the upper management of the station raised concerns upon seeing the footage.

“Isn’t this depiction of maggots a bit too much?”

I persuaded the company, explaining that the conditions that led to the festering wounds and maggots were crucial for understanding the character’s motivation for escape. After persistent negotiations, we managed to keep the maggot scene, with the condition that we would explain the reasoning if complaints were received from viewers.

Another incident occurred on the set of another drama. During a scene set in a ramen shop, the art director put up a sign saying “Our ramen is MSG-free!” However, the sales department of the station raised complaints upon learning about it.

One of the major sponsors of the TV station is campaigning to eliminate the use of the term chemical seasoning. They now view the word chemicalnegatively, unlike when their main product was first created, and believe it has negative connotations. Therefore, using the term in a TV program was seen as a problem.

At that time, we received a complaint about using the word in the program. The circumstances and background are detailed in my book “New TV Theory in the Chaotic Era” from page 80 onwards, but surprisingly, it was not the sponsor who raised the issue, but rather the sales department of the station. Why did they do that?

The TV station was making considerations for the sponsor. However, that company is not a sponsor of the drama. Yet, the entire TV station was careful. Even if the drama’s sponsor was that company, it might be understandable to consider such things as consideration for the financial contributor. However, is it right for the entire TV station to make such considerations just because they are a major sponsor?

Furthermore, is it healthy for a TV station, which is supposed to maintain a neutral stance and produce programs fairly, to do so? I felt strong concerns. However, the real issue lies in the response to this incident. In the end, during the editing stage, the sign in the ramen shop scene was pixelated to hide the words. The staff member responsible received a severe warning.

The term chemical seasoning is still used today on packaging and ingredient labels of many foods, including flavored seaweed and other products.

However, since the incident with the ramen shop scene, the station’s sales policy has extended beyond just avoiding the term chemical seasoning to also avoiding the use of the term umami seasoning as much as possible. Even the sales department seems confused by this policy. When it comes to this, it’s not just about word hunting anymore. It becomes so absurd that it’s laughable beyond anger.

In the second part of this article, “A Smoking Scene Processed by Computer Graphics,” we will explore the true nature of the excessive self-imposed restrictions that are so prevalent in the TV industry and are a very “Japanese” phenomenon.

Toshihiko Tabuchi’s book “New TV Theory in the Age of Chaos” (Poplar New Book 252) is available for purchase here.

  • Text Toshihiko Tabuchi

    Professor of Visual Arts at J. F. Oberlin University. Born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1964. After graduating from the Faculty of Law at Keio University, he joined TV Tokyo. He has produced documentaries on unexplored regions of the world, and has visited more than 100 countries. On the other hand, he has also been actively involved in the production of social documentaries, tackling difficult issues such as the "United Red Army," "Elderly First Offenders," and "Stalking Perpetrators. He has also produced numerous drama productions. He retired from TV Tokyo in March 2011. His books include "New TV Theory in an Age of Chaos," "Victory Learning from the Weak: The Secret of TV TOKYO's 'Reverse Thinking' to Turn Disadvantageous Conditions into Strength," "Developmental Disabilities and Juvenile Crime," "Stalking Assailants: Please Run Away from Me," and "Learning from Unexplored Places: The Shape of Happiness. He is a regular member of the Japan Writer's Association, a regular member of the Japanese Society of Imaging Arts and Sciences, a regular member of the Japan Society of Arts and Sciences, and a regular member of the Japan Food Service Society. He founded 35 Produce Inc., which disseminates a variety of information through video.

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