I introduced the program "Enka no Hanamichi"(The Flower Path of Enka) via the entry for Ikuzo Yoshi's(吉幾三）"Yukiguni" (雪国) under the Enka category some days ago. This was a program that used to be the filler stuff for the remaining few minutes on VHS tapes when the main taped program finished up back in the days when my parents used to rent from "Nippon Video"back in the 80s.
Of course, the program got a lot more respect in the home country. "Enka no Hanamichi" had a 22-year run on TV Tokyo from September 1978 to October 2000. It was a half-hour show which was broadcast on Sunday nights from 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and featured some of the top enka singers crooning fan favorites in the first two-thirds of the show before singing their latest stuff in the last 10 minutes.
During those first 20 minutes, singers would perform on rather elaborate sets, whether it be a windswept port at night while ships sounded their horns or inside an expensive Akasaka bar, or even someone's nicely designed Western-style home. For the remainder of the program, the same singers would perform in front of a studio orchestra.
According to Jean Wilson's article on the show, printed in the July 1993 issue of "Eye-Ai"magazine, the original producer had wanted a different concept for the show to distinguish it from the music ranking shows that were popular at the time. All those sets and the singers in their literally Sunday best were to provide a mini-musical story illustrating the usual enka tropes of lost love and urban ennui...it would explain why the performers looked so serious and heartfelt. Everything is all tied down with the narrator, played by Ryoko Kinomiya(来宮良子）. From the same article, Kinomiya's whiskey-and-cigarettes voice apparently came from the voice actress actually hitting a bar and knocking back a few before showtime. It's a tribute to her professionalism (and probably her liver) that she could get through taping.
Part of the reason for the show's eventual demise was the changing tastes of people for music. Enka is no longer as big a musical force as it once was, but "Enka no Hanamichi"still lives on in DVDs and YouTube.