So when a friend described the Japanese series Terrace House to me last summer as "a slow TV version of The Real World where nothing really happens and it's so soothing--I'm addicted," at the time I thought, life is already filled with the minutia of boring daily tasks; I look to TV narratives to both escape from and justify my warped productivity yardstick. Why would I choose to watch people being unproductive without spectacle and forego the twisting plots and water-cooler talk of serialized TV?
But then Terrace House came to Netflix. The Japanese-American co-production's subtitle is "Opening New Doors," and I have to say, that's exactly what happened. The premise: six strangers--three men and three women in their twenties--are picked to live in a house and carry out their lives. That's it - no script, no manipulative producers. Elsewhere, the movement of "slow TV" has been gaining traction in Scandinavia, but Terrace House isn't just about watching a train lumber into a station. There are humans and hence plot here, but it's subtle, and that's what makes it both riveting and relaxing, because humans are unpredictable. Even better is the group of commentators who dissect the housemates' interactions with just the right combination of empathy and snark, from interpreting their behaviors to predicting impending romantic fallouts.
it doesn't hurt that the housemates (Ami & Shion here), aren't bad to look at.
Take Yuudai, the show's 19-year-old dud. He's a cocky aspiring chef who can't seem to find a job in a kitchen, or even roll out of bed before 2PM, but even though his youth and obliviousness cause him to miss social cues, the older housemates still mentor him like a little brother. When they might get fed up is a compelling dramatic tension not unlike when your roommate leaves dishes in the sink for the fifteenth time and you make it a game with yourself to see how long you can go without blowing a gasket at him. Humans are fascinating creatures to observe, like Shion, the Japanese-American model whose unreserved kindness makes you wonder where he got it from. Six out of eight episodes in and all I can really tell you in terms of plot are: Yuudai gets a job washing dishes, he and Ami go on an awkward date, Taka goes snowboarding, Tsubasa wants to get on the national ice hockey team, Mizuki gets drunk, and it snows. But I love it.
So do me a favor--if you use media to sooth your anxiety like I do, watch Terrace House. Your overwhelmed synapses will thank you.