Re-wrote this article, because I forgot to add a few things. Some reader comments inadvertently removed by mistake, sorry~~~ m(_ _)m
On April 2000, the morning show Hello! Morning was born. It featured ALL of members of Hello! Project family. Check out the lineup - Morning Musume, T&C Bomber, Coconuts Musume, Country Musume, Melon Kinenbi... etc. But as time goes by, probably about a year later, Hello! Morning seems to be reserved to Morning Musume only.
7 years later, on April 2007 Hello! Morning is now replaced with its second incarnation - HaroMoni@, and its airtime cut to half.
This time, it's definitely all Morning Musume. Now that the other units like Melon Kinenbi have been kept busy with other schedules like radio shows and variety shows, I guess it's understandable. Sole member of Country Musume Satoda Mai for that matter has made a name for herself as a popular TV talent - for her simple-mindedness no doubt.
It also have a SNS (Social Networking System) called "Haromoni@SNS Kingdom" where fans can join in and submit their feedback and other activities. From this pattern, I'm guessing that probably there will be more stuff added to it once they think of more segments for the show e.g. HaroMoni@XXXX. (replace XXXX with segment name). Unfortunately, this SNS is invitation-only, and not all fanclubs have access to it.
So far two episodes of HaroMoni@ have been aired, and honestly, I'm having love-hate feelings on this show.
The storyline goes like this:
King Akachin (meaning King Baby) lives in HaroMoni Kingdom. He will selfishly drag his animal citizens, who have been living peacefully on the island, to company him on numerous misadventures.
Trivia: The email that King Akachin sends out using his cellphone reads ->
Morning Musume wear animal motifs on their head and a sling bag with a tail on it to pose as the animal citizens of HaroMoni@ Kingdom e.g. Gaki-san is a squirrel, Mittsi is a panda etc. They push a baby cart where a remote-controlled doll King Akachin sits and goes around to complete the mission for the week.
The missions so far is to return an item that a guest of the king have left behind on his last visit. During the journey, the girls are free to explore around and report whatever "interesting things" to their king. The narrator is a bit annoying though, with the way she talked. And I don't get that cabbage guy interlude...
The theme song for the HaroMoni@ gang is 'Cecilia' by Simon and Garfunkel. Other short classic song clips were played too:
Beatles - With A Little Help From My Friends
The Jackson 5 - One more chance
Middle of the Road - Where's your Mama Gone
The Monkees - Daydream believer
Daniel Boone - Beautiful Sunday
In the first episode, the gang visits Kinsi-cho and on the second episode Kameari, both are districts in Tokyo. The overall enthusiasm has been mediocre at best. There were funny moments. Sometimes, the girls even ignores the king's lectures about the history and origin of the town and does things as they like. Even dumped the baby cart aside when they hear a ice-cream truck coming from afar. ^_^
Throughout the journey, the girls handed out ad tissues to people along the way and exclaimed "HaroMoni@ Desu~~~!" to people they met, in order to promote their show.
One thing I noticed is that the girls have totally exploited the show to get food...... or so I thought. In the end, turns out the girls are even more hard to handle than the king himself. ^_^
OK~~~ As usual, analysis time! (^_^)v
There so many variety shows in the Japanese cable network, which makes me wonder why the producers of HaroMoni@ want to come into direct competition with the other TV programmes. It is so easy for the viewers to switch channels if they find the show a little boring, and it's only a half hour show. Rumours were circulating around that the TV ratings for the show have dropped below 1%. Maybe it's exaggerated, maybe it's not. Maybe the figure are not even accurate, but it has to come from somewhere. But... wherever the figures came from, one thing's for sure - the results aren't positive and fans/viewers acknowledged it.
Japanese BBS goers speculated that HaroMoni@ wouldn't last for more than 3 months, A Japanese friend that I got to know recently also confirms this and also expressed his disappointment.
Personally, I looked at this from a different angle. Here's what I think...
Advertise, advertise, advertise.
Supposing the idea of the old Hello! Morning show is considered as an investment by UFA to market the Hello! Project girls (the cost are covered with a few sponsors of course), then I'm assuming that beginning from last year's Hello! Morning episodes until now, that objective has morphed into 'generating revenue'.
Televisions networks/shows sustains mostly on one thing, and it is one of the most profitable among all their resources - advertisement. Doesn't matter if some of their shows sucks, if they can sustain themselves with sponsors and advertisers, it will be on the airtime slot for a time no matter what. Of course, if the advertisers find that their business and recognition have not improved after a while, or the cable network (TV Tokyo in HaroMoni@'s case) find that less sponsors are coming in, then eventually TV network will pull the plug. End of the day, what's important is making money.
With HaroMoni@ there are 3 types of advertising -> The first type is sponsor advertisements in between the breaks. The second is 'guerrilla advertising' -> the girls were handing out ad tissues and saying "We're HaroMoni@!" to passer-bys. It's a new show, so I guess it's understandable that they were instructed to promote themselves.
The third type is my focus, which is 'embedded advertisements' within the show itself. This way, out of HaroMoni@'s 30 minutes airtime, 6 minutes are for sponsor advertising. With embedded advertising, the remaining 24 minutes are also fully utilised to advertise other stuff. Now THAT's Japanese variety show industry.
Because, I don't think that those restaurants that the HaroMoni@ gang walked into, are by means a coincidence. It has to be scripted somehow. For example, in the second episode a 72 year old owner of the a monjyayaki restaurant came out to greet Kamei at the front door just as she was about to enter the restaurant. He must have been pre-contacted before the HaroMoni@ gang came.
Also, I personally don't buy the idea that Mikitty and Gaki-san are the type of girls that are into listening to amateur folk songs, written and produced by the owner of an ice-cream truck that they have never met. Yet they bought the CD, Mikitty showed it to the camera for a good close-up look, and the cameraman took a clear shot of the CD poster on the truck (with songlist and price) for good measure. That ice-cream truck only comes once a week to that area, it's no wonder the girls chased after the truck to stop it.
As for the acting part... probably a trend in Japanese variety shows. If TV Tokyo were ever questioned on this I wouldn't worry. Their response may be similar to TBS' response, when they were caught prearranging 'off-the-street' interview in the beginning of this month -> "We consider it to be within the permissible scope of acting for a variety show". Whether it is good or bad for the image, you decide. ^_^
HaroMoni@ has turned into a documentary variety show, endorsing commercial attractions and merchandise, featuring location culture & fun-facts, and battling for TV ratings with other variety shows at the same time. Morning Musume will be primary TV talents for this show.
Is HaroMoni@ doomed?
To be hopeful, I think it's still to early to decide the future of HaroMoni@. I guess they have moved on to the next phase, and we fans were expected to keep up with them.
To be fair, Japan IS currently embracing a TV trend of producing variety shows. Fine if the dudes at UFA want to do it this way, but it just... well, although I DO find some of those facts and culture stuff interesting, it is just not the like in the good ol' days of fun-games and electric-chair-quizzes, which I prefer very much.
So far it's only been two episodes, and the SNS network have only just begun building up. On the plus side, we saw some interactions and natural banters between the girls that we may never get see in the Hello! Morning studio recordings. I'm hoping that when the show's popularity picks up, the ROI(return on investment) will be worth it. And things may start to get a little more fun. Hopefully.
Another wait and see again, eh?