Since coming to Netflix in 2017, Terrace House has earned a reputation for being “the show about nothing.”
The premise of the Japanese reality TV show is straightforward: six strangers, consisting of three men and three women in their 20s, live in a house together. There is no script, no carefully crafted storyline – the audience simply observes these people live their daily lives as they would any other day and watches them develop friendships and/or romantic relationships with one another.
While most American TV shows operate based on conflict, drama, and the ‘tea’, Terrace House presents itself as a calming, almost meditative ‘documentary’. The members actually take their time getting to know each other, exchange conversations in a polite manner, and even when a dispute does occur, they resolve it peacefully.
To illustrate how natural and subtle Terrace House is, allow me to briefly introduce the show’s most recent season that took place in Tokyo. In one episode, four members engage in a discussion about their work ideologies and perceptions of the ‘slashie’ phenomenon. In another, a 20-year-old boy named Ruka says that his dream is to become a hero and help others.
The unusual tranquility of the show has not stopped people from watching it, though. There is something enchanting about Terrace House that makes it strangely addictive. In the words of Canadian comedian Mae Martin, Terrace House is “incredibly dull, but so comforting.”
In fact, what makes Terrace House so powerful is how real it is. Rather than portraying the members as ideal figures, the show captures their most casual, sometimes awkward moments in an everyday setting, thus making them very much relatable.
Due to the absence of a dramatic climax, we tend to become hypersensitive to every trivial thing in the show, allowing us to feel as though we know the members on a personal level. In one of the episodes from the latest season, the youngest member, Ruka, cooks for the very first time. Although his attempt to make spaghetti carbonara with broccoli is pretty much a failure, I couldn’t help but want to applaud his first step to becoming more independent and mature.
More than just a dating reality TV show, Terrace House is also about friendships, personal growth, and the pursuit of dreams. In most of the series, the members engage in deep conversations about their life goals, struggles, beliefs, etc. Instead of tearing each other down, which is what we usually see from American TV shows, they genuinely support and encourage one another.
Terrace House gives us a glimpse into the luxurious Japanese lifestyle and, more importantly, the lives of everyday people, people like us – our incompetencies, the awkward moments we all have, as well as the nuances of adult friendships.