July 23, 2012
Tsurube's Salute to Families
NHK's Somewhere Street is a travel show that doesn't have a host and never breaks the fourth wall. All you see is what the camera sees. It's the "first-person shooter" of travel shows.
Tsurube's Salute to Families is the exact opposite. Shofukutei Tsurube doesn't break the fourth wall, he stomps through it. The camera crew hustles to keep up, not stopping filming while changing the filters or bothering to do retakes when the boom mike dips into the frame.
(Though not Steadicam cameras, they do a good job avoiding the annoying "shaky-cam" effect.)
Tsurube shoots each episode with a celebrity co-host, who picks some small corner of Japan to visit. They wander around the place, taking in the local attractions, sampling the local dishes, and visiting the town's school. The end result is two forty-five minute episodes.
Tsurube and his co-host do the first episode together, then split up for the second. I suspect a production crew picks out the most promising locations, though Tsurube makes it look completely spontaneous. There is a good deal of editing for time, which consists of simple jump cuts.
As the name of the show implies, Tsurube makes a point of looking for people who have been living in the area for ages, and then meeting as many of their extended family as possible. He's been doing the show for fifteen years so people can trust him not to make them look bad.
He's a frumpy, affable, garrulous man, who's typical outfit is a T-shirt and jeans. If you're old enough to remember, he has the homespun presence of Charles Kuralt in his "On the Road" segments.
Tsurube has a long acting career in movies and television. He is by training a rakugo artist, a monologist that specializes in traditional Japanese storytelling. Rakugo artists are popular choices for television shows that depend on improvisational patter to keep the pace going.
In particular, Tsurube posses that extraordinary talent to become anybody's best friend about five minutes after meeting them. He brings to mind John Althouse Cohen's observation that
Most ordinary citizens who tried to run for president would probably come off as wooden and unhip. The candidate who can "connect" with most people is actually unlike most people.
In a country of 128 million introverts, Tsurube is the extrovert everybody imagines they would like to be or be with. He's your favorite, slightly eccentric uncle, that you love having around, though for no more than forty-five minute a week.