50 Years of NHK Television

One-off Productions and Serials, foreign Dramas

Drama Specials, when excellently written and acted, are works of art. Many overseas productions have become popular due to the warmth of their characters.

Drama Specials, Foreign Dramas

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Award-winning productions
A particularly successful and popular example of NHK's one-off special dramas is provided by the work of Sasaki Shoichiro. The Four Seasons (1980) and Violins of the River Po: A Sound of Italy (1981) created a unique world of poetic beauty by exploring the sounds of piano and violin. These productions scooped a host of awards, including the Prix Italia and the National Arts Festival Grand Prix. Sasaki was responsible for both screenplay and direction and his work won a passionate following.
Another award-winning director is Wada Ben, nicknamed the "Arts Festival Man." The Twilight Sentiments, The Shosha, A Brave Man Does Not Speak, and Before Dawn were among his Drama Special productions. These and his Saturday Dramas, Central Quicksand and Close Encounter from Afar, received, among other awards, the Grand Prix Golden Prague at the Prague International Television Festival and the Grand Prix at the National Arts Festival.

A Son of the Good Earth
A Son of the Good Earth

In 1995, NHK aired A Son of the Good Earth, a Japan-China co-production, to mark the 70th anniversary of broadcasting in Japan. The story is about a man who was brought up by a Chinese couple after being separated from his parents in the closing days of the Second World War. Following the turbulence of the Cultural Revolution, he joins a Japan-China joint venture project to construct an iron works and is unexpectedly reunited with his real father. The novel by Yamazaki Toyoko was adapted for television by Okazaki Sakae.Audiences were deeply moved by many powerful scenes and performances. There were endless requests for repeats and A Son of the Good Earth was shown on both satellite and terrestrial channels, achieving a maximum audience share of 20.3%, an extraordinary achievement in the multi-channel age. This production demonstrated that a strong storyline and good acting can continue to move people to tears, no matter how many times a program is shown.


Foreign Dramas
Some of the first foreign TV dramas to be shown on NHK included Highway Patrol in 1956, and I Love Lucy in 1957. More recent favorites include Columbo (1972), Little House on the Prairie (1975), and Beverly Hills, 90210 (1994). In Columbo, viewers enjoyed not only the patient skills of the eponymous detective but also his deceptively downtrodden personality, tatty raincoat and decrepit car. Little House on the Prairie, about a loving family in the Old West with an ever-dependable father, depicted for Japanese viewers the patriarchal system that prevailed in those pioneering days. As with Columbo, it was the individual characters who made the work so appealing.

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