Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TBS, 2002 and the cancellation of Kinniku Banzuke

Question: What do Kinniku Banzuke, Ultraman Cosmos and Food Battle Club have in common?
Answer: They all caused headaches for TBS in 2002.

Food Battle Club (フードバトルクラブ) was a showcase for the premier competitive eaters of the day including Takeru Kobayashi 小林尊 and his main rival at the time, Nobuyuki Shirota 白田信幸.

However, the death of an Aichi prefecture junior high school student during a bread-eating contest caused such programs (Food Battle Club and other specials) to be taken off the air. The last Food Battle Club (FBC 3: THE SPEED) aired in April, 2002. Competitive eating shows would make a comeback years later due to popular demand but they haven't had the impact they had back in 2001 and 2002.

(As a side note, I remember watching the FBC shows. In one particular contest Kobayashi and some other guy faced off in tuxedos to a steak speed-eating contest. All dressed up...and then they said "Screw the utensils" and just picked up their steaks in their hands and started gnawing on them. Further research finds that that was from FBC The King of Masters )

In June 2002, Ultraman Cosmos main actor Takayasu Sugiura 杉浦太陽 (now known as Taiyo Sugiura 杉浦太陽 and also known as the guy who got Nozomi Tsuji of Morning Musume pregnant) was charged with extortion and assault stemming from an incident two years prior. TBS and affiliate MBS pulled the remaining Ultraman Cosmos episodes and re-ran other Ultraman shows in it's place until the next Ultraman show was ready to go.

Sandwiched between the end of FBC and Ultraman Cosmos was the end of Kinniku Banzuke.

Since Kinniku Banzuke (Muscle Ranking aka Unbeatable Banzuke) seems to be going strong on G4 people are still trying to figure out what it was that actually caused the show to go off air. Mike Hale's review of the show in the NY Times mentions that the show was still getting high ratings when it got pulled due to injuries. So what exactly happened?

(By the way, I'm using various Japanese sources that I'll link to. If you find any errors in how I translate certain lines, please let me know.
Also, the following pictures come from various sites and are linked to or used without permission. If you hold the copyright to them, please mail me)

The answer lay with something called 力島 (chikara jima, which can literally mean Power Island). It was a multi-part course much like the other events on Kinniku Banzuke.

The ball (or in this case the "rock") that you see below seems to have caused the problems.

During a single taping of the show on May 5th, 2002 (this is the date of the incident according to TBS) two university students, a transfer student from China and a local, were injured on two separate parts of the course.

The transfer student was injured during the ロックバレー ("Rock Valley") portion of the course where one has to get on the ball (which is 1.8 meters in the diameter and 47 kilos in weight) and go across a waterway (which is 2.5 meters in width and about 1.4 meters in depth). The student lost his balance and fell, injuring his cervical vertebrae and had to be taken to the hospital.

Despite the injury, the show went on. The other student (some sources say they were injured back-to-back) was injured during a different portion known as the ロックアタック ("Rock Attack"). During the Rock Attack the student was unable to stop the rolling rock (which was coming down a 15 degree incline) and also injured his back. The student was taken to the hospital (some articles say that he was parazlyzed).

Overhead view of the course:

TBS shut down the course - despite saying that others had participated with no problems and that they had had some people test out the safety of the course - and later released a statement saying the show would be put on hiatus while they re-thought and re-examined the safety aspects of the show.

Kinniku Banzuke as it was never went back on the air. Five months after the incident, perhaps to create some distance from the old show, TBS premiered Taiiku Ookoku (体育王国) which was essentially the same program but safer. It lasted until September 2003. The Japanese wiki states that one of the reasons it might have gone off the air was due to the beginning of TV Asahi's 報道Station (Houdou Station) whose main host was Ichiro Furutachi 古舘伊知郎 whom many may recognize as the lead announcer during many Kinniku Banzuke and SASUKE broadcasts. Taiiku Ookoku was followed by Golden Muscleゴールデンマッスル (also known as 黄金筋肉) but that show too only lasted a year, going from 2003 to 2004. The shine (and possibly the thrill) of the shows had worn off. Recently, a spiritual successor to these shows, Taiiku no Jikan 体育の時間 ran on TV Asahi for less than half a year.

So while American viewers are just getting warmed up these shows seemed to have run their course in Japan. There are rumors that they're going to scale back on Sportsman No. 1 shows (perhaps not airing the Geinojin Sportsman shows or making them shorter) and SASUKE has only broken a 16 percent rating once in the last three years. One hopes that TBS doesn't give up on these shows just yet.

Added: DUH. I should have checked the wiki first and saved myself the time. The Japan Times has an archived article here. Eh, it was fun to research and write about anyway.

Articles used in this post:


Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Great post, Ube. Thanks ever so much.

Tom said...

Hey, I was checking the Japanese wiki for Sasuke to find how well Sasuke 20 did. I was shocked to learn that it was the lowest rated Sasuke in history (which had a 14.4). With all the competitors they brought in and with it being the 20th Tournament, I thought that the ratings would be MUCH higher. I do remember you saying that you didn't see any commercials for it, so that could definitely be a problem. Also, even though Sasuke has a good following over here as Ninja Warrior, what do you think the future of Sasuke is? Like how many more competitions will there be?

Arsenette said...

Thanks a billion for that indepth look at the TBS chaos. Explains a lot really.

pamwax said...

Thanks for the information. I hope they keep Sasuke going for awhile. Only thing good on TV right now.

tricia said...

As always, you've given us great information. Wish there was something we could do to let them know how popular the Sasuke is in USA (as if they don't already) and how horrible it would be to take it off. Hope they come to their senses before it comes to that which needs to be sooner rather than later. Your info explains a lot.

Again, thanks.