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Vintage American TV Shows Ride Nostalgia Boom in Japan

September 15, 1988

TOKYO (AP) _ Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise looks skyward from a lonely, wind-blown planet and says: ″Entapuraizu, riku kara tenso shite kure.″

For those listening to the English version of ″Star Trek,″ Captain Kirk would have said ″Enterprise, beam me up.″

Dubbed in Japanese, ″Star Trek″ is just one of many vintage American TV programs boldly exploring the late-night Tokyo airwaves.

During a typical week, insomnia-stricken viewers in the Tokyo area can watch ″Burke’s Law,″ the 1960s adventure show starring Gene Barry as a debonair Los Angeles police chief; Rod Serling’s ″The Twilight Zone,″ the acclaimed science fiction series; ″Bonanza,″ one of television’s longest running Westerns, starring Lorne Greene; ″The Beverly Hillbillies,″ the antics of a backwoods family in Los Angeles’ elitist neighborhood; ″Mission: Impossible,″ the acclaimed Bruce Geller adventure series; and ″The Addams Family,″ a sitcom based on Charles Addams’ bizarre magazine cartoon characters.

″I don’t have any statistics on this,″ said Yoshihiro Mishima of the TV Tokyo network, ″but we think the people who stay up to watch these programs are looking for a bit of the good old days, when they might have been too young to watch the original broadcasts.″

Mishima said the viewers are mainly college students or adults in their 30s. ″It’s part of the ’retro boom,‴ he said, referring to a recent trend among some Japanese to seek out things from the past.

But American TV shows are nothing new to the Japanese audience. ″There have been American programs on Japanese TV for decades, going back to ‘Ben Casey’ and ’Rawhide,‴ Mishima said. ″They’ve lost popularity to domestic programing, but people still watch them to get a look at America.″

Yuji Tagami, an editor with TV Station magazine, added, ″They can develop devoted fans, but ratings for late-night American programs in general are not very high.″

Limited viewership did not stop the Tokyo Broadcasting System from putting the ″Nostalgic American TV″ series on its schedule last October. Since March, the series has included: ″Surfside 6,″ a ’60s detective series set in Miami Beach, starring Troy Donahue and Van Williams; ″Combat 3/8″ the longest of the World War II adventures, starring the late Vic Morrow; and ″Superman,″ starring George Reeves.

″Ratings aren’t a good way to judge late-night television shows’ popularity. In that time slot, viewership is small and more personal. Viewers are more attached to what they watch,″ said Masato Ueda, TBS producer of the series.

To young viewers, the appeal of the rejuvenated old programs is in their ″newness,″ Ueda said.

″We decided to go with the series when we went on the 24-hour broadcasting schedule, and though the ‘retro boom’ was a part of the decision, we wanted to give young people something completely new, which to them these programs are.″

Many of the American programs also feature bilingual broadcasts, with the original English-language dialogue simultaneously aired on a subchannel available on specially equipped TV sets.

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