'Banzuke' allure is unbeatable

The Baltimore Sun

Everyone's heard of popular television programs like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, CSI, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. This is standard content for the basic water-cooler chat. But here in Janet's World, we are having some difficulty finding friends with whom we can converse about the stunts performed by contestants in the captivating, addictive, nightly episodes of Unbeatable Banzuke.

Unbeatable Banzuke, a Japanese game show on a channel called G4, snuck into my home entirely by mistake one evening, when I was trying to recall the comedy channel's number on my Verizon Fios television system and found myself surfing channels way up in the 170s.

Frankly, it would have been a miracle if I could have remembered the comedy channel number, seeing as I have not yet figured out how to turn on my Verizon Fios television system by myself. Sure, I have an assortment of remotes and components, ironically all in place to make my viewing pleasure a sensory extravaganza. But unfortunately I have to play a good 15 minutes of remote-roulette before I can actually figure out how to turn my television on. Usually, I end up calling one of my children to help me. I try to do this in the same pathetic tone as the actor in the old Lifecall commercial who yells into her emergency alert monitor, "Help me! I've fallen and I can't get up."

But let me seamlessly segue back into my topic, Unbeatable Banzuke, by saying that there is a whole lot of falling that happens in the show, and this, sadly, appeals to many of us with a taste for physical comedy. If you are not amused by the falling, you will be amused by the commentary, translated from the Japanese on your screen in subtitles.

Here is what happens in Unbeatable Banzuke. A large number of contestants with unusual talents for, say, riding a unicycle or walking on their hands, compete against one another on what generally appears to be an unbeatable obstacle course. There doesn't seem to be an age limit, so you may have a 60-year-old competing immediately after a 16-year-old. Hardly anyone wins; hence the term "Unbeatable" in the program's title. Banzuke, as you probably figured out, can be roughly translated from the Japanese to mean "Banzuke." I hope this is helpful.

Throughout the program, the announcer continues to make what we in the United States would classify as highly politically incorrect comments about the contestants. One time, in a segment where a man had to balance his spouse in a tippy wheelbarrow over a narrow course, the announcer kept referring to her as being an exceedingly heavy load, when in fact the wife appeared to be the size of your average American woman! This caused me to realize that, over in Japan, I might be able to make some serious money as a Jenny Craig "before" spokesperson.

And then there was the program when folks competed in the unicycle course, and contestants were continually knocked off-track by awesome flying hammers. The camera angle accentuates the swinging behemoths and the teetering unicyclist, paused between hammers, desperately waiting for the proper moment to dash forward, only to be confronted by a wallop. You may be cheering for the unicyclist, but if you are truthful, you are secretly hoping the hammer claims another victim.

At any rate, I recommend this show because of the non-stop action and good-naturedness of both the audience and the contestants. The whole family can watch. And then I will have someone to talk to, someone who understands the drama of the swinging hammers and the athleticism involved in traveling via pogo stick over a narrow bridge.

Now that's what I call unbeatable entertainment.

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