Now I think the same is true to an extent for Japanese TV as well, obviously through their dramas. However, unlike in my continent where the format died long ago (with the possible exception of "Saturday Night Live" on America's NBC), the variety show is still (a)live and well in Japanese broadcasting. Every week, I could see the most popular TV personalities (tarento), comedians, actors and musicians talking, performing and doing some of the craziest or mundane activities, all in the name of ratings. Yup, one could say that all of us may have wanted to be with them over there in the studio or on location, but considering how often these guys show up on the small screen, one could also say that they basically visit us in our tiny living rooms regularly.
So, the mantra that Japanese viewers would say here is: "I want to see my favourite geinojin (celebrity) _________ weekly."
"Yoru mo Hippare"(Night of Hit Parade) fills in that sentence in this way: "I wanna see my favourite geinojin sing karaoke weekly". Yup, for the first half of my long stay as a teacher in Tokyo/Chiba, this was a semi-regular custom in my apartment at 10 p.m. on Saturday nights on NTV (it used to be [and is now] "Hockey Night In Canada" back in Toronto). I watched everyone from Namie Amuro（安室奈美恵） to Kiyohiko Ozaki（尾崎紀世彦） do karaoke sessions.
From 1990 to early 1995, NTV had a late-night program from 11 to 11:30 on Saturdays titled "Yoru mo Issho Kenmei"（夜も一生けんめい....Tonight With All Your Heart） in which a guest would appear for the usual interview but then afterwards, there would be a karaoke segment. Well, from April 1995, the karaoke segment got promoted to a full hour. Hosted by tarento Yuji Miyake and Hideyuki Nakayama（三宅祐司・中山秀征） and assisted by Yasuhiko Akasaka（赤坂泰彦）, a man with a most radio-friendly voice, each week, until the show's finale in 2002, a crowd of regulars and guests from all over Japanese show business would pop up and sing (well/badly....I'll let you decide) some popular tune on the stage. And the tunes didn't necessarily have to be from the Oricon charts. They all came from fan-sent postcards so that songs that didn't even get onto the Top 10 on Oricon or any of the other rankings charts could get their own 15 minutes of fame. In the above video, you can see actress Asaka Seto try her voice at ZARD's "Kokoro wo Hiraite"（心を開いて）.
Ah, one other feature that the show had was whenever the show started and when it came back from commercial break just before the Top 3 songs were performed, the gang would utter the catchphrase "Mitai, Kikitai, Utaitai"（見たい、聴きたい、歌いたい....Wanna see it, wanna hear it, wanna sing it).
There was also a series of female hosts who helped anchor the show throughout its run. The very first one was singer Marcia（マルシア）and then came Noriko Sakai, Shizuka Kudo, NOKKO (from Rebecca), former Fuji-TV announcer Eriko Nakamura, former announcer Tomoyo Shibata (the wife of MLB pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka) and actress Ryoko Yonekura. Plus there were the participatory regulars such as Namie Amuro and The Super Monkeys (now MAX), 90s girl group SPEED (who in fact got their name first selected on the program) and a comic singing duo by the name of The Busy Four Special. And finally there were the guests, so it was a pretty packed all-star lineup on a weekly basis.
And it just wasn't the latest top singers who came on. Some of the veterans showed up as well, such as the late Kiyohiko Ozaki to do Mr. Children's "Innocent World".
Remembering my times watching this program made me realize that I was watching other people having a fine time performing karaoke (which is kinda sad) while I save costs in terms of transportation/karaoke/drinking (which is kinda good). "Yoru mo Hippare" was also rather nostalgic in that the show used a rankings board which had that clapping sound....rather reminded me of "The Best 10". Plus, it was interesting seeing these fresh-faced or craggy-faced singers trying out their contemporaries' hits rather than their own.
But by far, the biggest memory of the series happened while I was just slouching on the sofa watching the show one night. As the show was going to commercial, the camera did the usual thing by quickly panning and focusing on the various celebs making the usual funny faces. But just in the last few seconds, a familiar yet incongruous face suddenly slid into view taking up the whole lens. I internally said to myself: "Hey, that guy looks awfully familiar. Y'know, he kinda looks....OH MY FREAKING GUMDROPS! IT'S TOM HANKS!!!!"
Yup, my posture was a whole lot more erect when the show got back from commercial. Forrest Gump had entered the house. It just so happened that the man was in Japan to promote his first directorial effort with the cast from "That Thing You Do"(1996). I can't quite remember what the gang sang....and yep, Tom did, too....I think it was a Beatles song. I actually kinda wished that he performed Billy Joel's "My Life" from his old TV series, "Bosom Buddies". But such is...my life.
"Yoru mo Hit Parade" left the air for good in September 2002, and in the 11 years since its passing, celebs have continued to be seen goofing around, being tested on their intelligence, and eating orgasmically (if you have seen them try out the fare at various restaurants on TV, you'll know what I mean). But singing karaoke on the boob tube? Not any more (aside from the odd special elsewhere). I don't exactly pine away at the moon missing the show, but y'know, it was rather fun at the time watching the stars taking their turns at the mike and showing us that though not all of them were particularly gifted at vocalizing, they could goof around a bit and turn our living rooms into karaoke lounges for an hour each week.