Regressing to childhood is an odd and wonderful thing. This is for two reasons. Firstly, being a child was excellent: meals were cooked for you all the time, you had no responsibility of any kind, and if you go back to when you were – say – two years old, running into a door wasn’t a problem, so much as it was an important part of your main past-time of running around and falling over a lot. Secondly, growing up is rubbish. Suddenly, we have to start taking care of ourselves, and earning money and pretending we don’t find Kenan and Kel funny. I think Mr Biffo summed it up best in the dearly-departed games magazine Digitiser:
“The great thing about being a kid is you don’t get humiliated if anyone sees you running around with a tree branch, while pretending it’s a bazooka.
“The minute you hit 15 people start giving you queer looks if you so much as make an explosion sound with your mouth, while simultaneously indicating the size of the explosion by slowly moving your arms apart.”
Being a child is express permission to find everything fascinating and entertaining and hilarious. And as we “mature”, we’re forced to let go of that wonderful openness, and accept the received wisdom that Frasier is more intelligent than Saved By The Bell, even though it’s really not, and you’re just saying it is so you look smart. It’s okay, you can admit it.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I’ve found an easy way to regress to childhood at the drop of a hat, and it doesn’t involve some sort of permanent brain damage. It’s Takeshi’s Castle, and it’s the most entertaining thing to come around since chimpanzees were invented in the 60s by film studios to make comedy even more funny.
It’s basically a contrived excuse to laugh at people who fall over in excellently uncomfortable ways. A kind of deranged Japanese obstacle course hosted by “ladies’ favourite” General Lee, it rarely has any winners, but the people who don’t win aren’t losers. They are, in fact, the entire reason you watch the show. Whether they’re collapsing awkwardly on top of stepping stone, or being knocked off a rickety bridge by a flurry of cannonballs, the painful eliminations are the raison d’etre for this show. It’s rarely high-brow entertainment, but it’s always entertaining, and in the most immature way possible. This is why it’s the most important show on television right now.
The sheer stupidity of the show is acknowledged and prodded by the English voiceover, courtesy of the cheekily charming, often irritating, Craig Charles, of Robot Wars/Coronation Street/hard drugs infamy. They don’t want you to care about the competition – they want you laugh until your stomach explodes. It wouldn’t even work if it was made in England or America – it would be too calculated, too self-knowingly “random”. It works solely because it’s absurd, and it’s different, and it’s colourful, and it’s inherently Japanese.
But really, that’s looking far too deep into it. You’ll watch this show – probably while either drunk or high, or both, but often neither – and you’ll laugh at loud at least once or twice. Sometimes you’ll cry from laughing. And it will be simply because you’re watching people fall over. Being a kid is excellent.