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"Banzai" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/16/2003

I have a theory that for every wild reality show we have in this country, like “Fear Factor,” there is an even wilder reality show overseas.  That is because there aren’t protest groups picketing the un-political correctness of their shows.  The proof of this can be seen in FOX’s UK import, “Banzai.”


This show originally aired on Channel 4 in Britain, and it is a cult classic over there.  It’s essentially a parody of the extreme game shows that are popular in Japan.  The gimmick of the show is that you at home bet on the outcome of a series of practical jokes, stunts, and gags using wireless text messaging or through the FOX website.  It is hosted by Mr. Banzai (Masashi Fujimoto), a guy who shouts everything going on (well, actually he is just the visual part of the show.  Narrators Eiji Kusuhara and Burt Kwouk mostly do the shouting.)  He judges the competitions and controls the flow of the show.  He sets up the scenario, gives the multiple choices of the outcome, waits a very short time, and then shows the results.  Other than Mr. Banzai, a couple more characters are recurring.  Lady One Question (Jit Loi Chong) is an interviewer who simply asks celebrities one question, then does nothing else except hold the microphone silently, until that celebrity walks away.  Mr. Shake Hands Man (Ryozo Kohira) is somewhat similar in his interaction with celebrities, except that he tries to see how long he can shake hands with celebrities before they pull away.  Most of the footage was previously aired in the UK version of the show, but there is some new stuff to appeal to American sensibilities.  The new stuff replaced British celebrities with American celebrities, and other stuff involving nudity and body parts was taken out (somehow I bet some of it has aired on HBO’s “Shock Video.”)  In between several segments, Mr. Banzai asks, “Quick!  What else we got?” in order to make it seem like they have a lot of stuff to show (which they actually do.)


On the first episode, there were eight challenges.  Each segment had a name, shouted to you by Mr. Banzai.  In “An Animal Scientific Experiment,” scientists test to see how many helium balloons it takes to lift a chicken off the ground (it took 90 balloons.)  An animal rights group protested the show because some idiot in San Francisco decided to try this segment at home, based on seeing the promo for the show containing this segment.  In “Mr. Shakehands Man,” the title character shakes the hand of Kelsey Grammer (it took Kelsey 40 seconds to pull away.)  In “The Shuffle Of The Sinful Ladies,” three similar-looking geishas stand in a row; two of them are wearing white panties and the third one is wearing red panties; they all shuffle around and the audience has to guess which one is wearing the red panties.  In “Ye Olde Supermarket Trolley Jousting Tournament,” a black knight and a white knight joust in supermarket carts (the black knight wins.)  In “Lady One Question,” the title character asks “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell the difference between that show and “Pop Idol” back in Britain (after saying that American female singers are better, it takes about 77 seconds for Simon to walk away.)  In “Interesting Penalty Shoot Out Conundrum,” a one-legged soccer striker goes up against a one-armed goalkeeper in a best of three kicks (the soccer striker wins two out of three.)  In “Old Lady Wheelchair Chicken Challenge,” two old ladies, named Hazel and Dot, play a game of chicken in their motorized wheelchairs (Dot wins that one.)  Finally, in “The Speed Soul Struggle,” a priest, a rabbi, and “The Incredible Hulk’s” Lou Ferrigno compete for the soul of a baby by pedaling on stationary bikes which must not drop below 20 miles per hour (Ferrigno wins the soul of the baby, and I still don’t know what in the world that means!)  The chicken balloon segment and the supermarket cart jousting contained disclaimers telling home viewers “don’t try this at home,” which you would think was obvious, but some people are easily led to stupidity.


Besides the afore-mentioned animal rights group, this show has also been protested by Asian-American groups.  They think it stereotypes Asians, which would be true if it weren’t the fact that this show parodies a style that already occurs in Japan.  Why aren’t they going to Japan to protest those shows?  Must all shows that air in America be American in style?  The thing I’ve never understood about protestors is why they don’t use the greatest protesting weapon they have…non press coverage!  If they had simply ignored the show and encouraged their fellow protestors through word of mouth not to watch the show, it would go away.


Besides these so-called controversies, is it any good?  Well, it was entertaining, but if it is going to keep doing the same gags week after week, it could get old quickly.  There is only so long that the creepy Lady One Question can be interesting.  Some of the “don’t try this at home” segments remind me of MTV’s horrible “Jackass” (I’m not saying it is horrible for the same reasons that the protestors of that show have.  I don’t like it because it is just immaturely stupid.)

I like the pacing and oddness of “Banzai.”  It never slows down, and it is not boring in the slightest…so far.  One word of advice for you that might be offended by the show…don’t watch it!  Believe me, nothing yanks a show faster than low ratings.


Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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