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Pink Girl and Jeff: Japan’s Greatest Pop Musicians Star in One in all America’s Worst-Reviewed TV Reveals (1980)

In 1963, Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki” proved {that a} track sung in Japanese may prime the charts in america. Not that the American recording business was fast to internalize it: one other Japanese single wouldn’t break the Billboard High 40 for sixteen years, and even then it did so in English. The track was “Kiss within the Darkish” by Pink Girl, a pop duo consisting of Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda, higher often known as Mie and Kei. In 1978 they’d been the largest pop-cultural phenomenon of their native nation, however the next 12 months their star had begun unmistakably to fall. And so, like many passé Western acts who develop into “huge in Japan,” Pink Girl tried to cross the Pacific.

Mie and Kei made their American tv debut performing “Kiss within the Darkish” on Leif Garrett’s CBS particular in Might 1979. Accounts differ about what occurred subsequent, however lower than a 12 months later they’d their very own primetime selection present on NBC. Formally titled Pink Girl, it tends to be referred to those 4 a long time later as Pink Girl and Jeff. This owes to the position of its host, rising (and NBC-contracted) younger comic Jeff Altman, who delivered to the desk not simply his comedian timing and ability with impressions, but additionally his command of the English language. That final occurred to not be possessed to any vital diploma by Mie or Kei, who needed to ship each their songs and their jokes phonetically.

Within the video on the prime of the put up, you’ll be able to see a compilation of the highlights of Pink Girl and Jeff‘s whole run. Then once more, “highlights” might not be fairly the phrase for a TV present now remembered as one of many worst ever aired. “Pink Girl and Jeff represents an unpalatable mixture of establishments that had been on their means out, like selection exhibits, disco, and the tv empire of creators and puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft,” writes the AV Membership’s Nathan Rabin. The Krofft brothers, creators of H.R. Pufnstuf and Land of the Misplaced, inform of getting been tapped to develop a program round Mie and Kei by NBC president Fred Silverman, who’d occurred to see footage of certainly one of their stadium-filling Tokyo live shows on the information.

Sid Krofft remembers declaring his ambition to make Pink Girl “the strangest factor that’s ever been on tv.” The startled Silverman’s response: “Let’s do Donny and Marie.” Donny Osmond himself ended up being one of many present’s high-profile visitor stars, a lineup that additionally included Blondie, Alice Cooper, Sid Caesar, Teddy Pendergrass, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lewis, and even Larry Hagman only a week earlier than the epochal taking pictures of his character on Dallas. None of them helped Pink Girl discover sufficient of an viewers to outlive past its preliminary six episodes (all obtainable to observe on Youtube), a discomfiting mélange of generic comedy sketches, unsuitable musical performances (with treasured few exceptions, Mie and Kei weren’t permitted to sing their very own Japanese songs), and broad references to sushi, samurai, and sumo.

The principle drawback, Altman stated in a newer interview, was that “the variability present had run the gauntlet already, and actually was not a format that was going to dwell within the hearts and houses of individuals throughout America anymore.” Not solely had that lengthy and earnest tv custom come to its ignominious finish, it could quickly get replaced by the ironic, ultra-satirical sensibility of Altman’s colleague in comedy David Letterman. However right here within the twenty-first century, Altman guesses, the time could also be ripe “for a variety-type present to return again.” We dwell in an period, in spite of everything, when a bit of forgotten eighties Japanese pop can develop into a world phenomenon. And nonetheless dim the prospects of the variability present as a type, Mie and Kie themselves have since managed extra comebacks than all however their most die-hard followers can depend.

Associated content material:

David Bowie and Cher Sing Duet of “Younger People” and Different Songs on 1975 Selection Present

Famed Artwork Critic Robert Hughes Hosts the Premiere of 20/20, The place Tabloid TV Information Started (1978)

Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes: Uncover the Postmodern MTV Selection Present That Made Warhol a Star within the Tv Age (1985-87)

How Youtube’s Algorithm Turned an Obscure Eighties Japanese Tune Into an Enormously Well-liked Hit: Uncover Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love”

Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embody the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the e book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Fb, or on Instagram.


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