Japan may be known for the longevity of its people, but the TV programs have a rich and long history as its population. There are some series that have been on air for more than half a century. What's interesting is its variety: everything from talk shows, news, and sports to shows on cooking, music, anime and even a program about the Imperial Family. This article takes a look at Japanese Choju Bangumi (長寿番組), which literally means “long living program”. Definitions for Choju programs range from as young as 10 years or as old as 50.
Oricon, which published a survey-based popularity ranking, defines Choju programs as shows that have aired longer than 10 years. The various genres of these Choju programs are certainly represented in their top 10 most favorites ranking based on the questionnaire in October, 2009.
Fuji TV's “Sazaesan”, which is considered an iconic anime show, came in second. The fourth was “Shoten” by Nippon TV. Both are regulars on Sunday evenings which seem to indicate the popularity of programs that family can watch safely together. As a teenage female responder from Saitama summed it up, they are “the symbols of the time spent together with family.”
It has been said that the ratings corelate to the economic climate in Japan because of its broadcast time of 6:30 on Sunday evenings. With a booming economy, the ratings decline because many families are still out enjoying dining or leisure activities at 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. However, during recession, the ratings go up as more families stay home on Sundays and watch “Sazaesan” together during family supper.
For comparison, I looked up the longest running TV shows in the U.S. which is de facto the longest in the world. This would be “Meet the Press” on NBC, the Sunday morning political talk show that debuted in 1947. Next is “CBS Evening News” and NBC's morning news program “Today.” No. 4 is CBS Daytime drama “Guiding Light.”
What stands out in the list of Japanese Choju programs is the dominance of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), especially when you look at the shows with more than half a century of history. A wide range of genres are represented here as well, including the singing contest “Nodojiman” (which can be said to resemble American Idol), and Kohaku Uta Gassen (= an annual music show), and limited to news programs like in the American list.
PBS, which could be considered the U.S. equivalent as another public broadcasting company that pioneered the industry in their respective countries, barely makes in a top 10.
While asking more than 1.75 million fellow users of the Japanese message board called “Oshiete! Goo” for their favorite shows, many listed one of the Choju programs as favorites.
For most people, I think they'll find that they've watched Sazae-san for as long as they can remember.
What kind of shows do you like? Do you enjoy watching the shows your parents and your grandparents also enjoyed or are they outdated and boring? Do you think shows with decades of history will be around 20 years from now?