Mr. Banzai: Masashi Fujimoto
Cheeky Chappie: Jit Loi Chong
Lady One Question: Shizuka Hata
Shake Hands Man: Ryozo Kohira (series 1), Tadao Tomomatsu (series 2-3)
Commentators: Bert Kwouk, Eiji Kusuhara
Radar for E4, 18 January 2001 to 15 May 2003 (24 episodes in 3 series + 1 special)
This is more like it! Who says all light entertainment is derivative with shows such as Banzai around? Who can stay underwater longer - Pat Sharp or a genuine German? How much does Shaun Ryder off of Black Grape weigh in Coca-Cola cans? Who is better - a one-legged footballer or a one-handed goal keeper?
All these and more topics of national importance are considered in this Japanese-orientated madcap betting sensation-type thing.
This show is absolutely bonkers, and as such it transcends the genres of comedy and game show. A proposition is put to you. You have to bet on it. Now, you can have a fun bet at home with your mates, in the kind of You Bet! "Hope you're having a bet at home" stylee. BUT! It's even better than that! Much better!
It isn't explained very well (since most people we've talked to have found it by accident), but if you're eagle-eyed enough to spot a little "Play: Red" icon in the top corner of the screen then... well, waddaya know? You can actually play along at home using your digital remote. It's not really gambling in the sense of betting money, but it keeps track of your score on a percentage scale and at the end of the show it gives you your result depending how many you get right. It's great!
Less great is the fact that you can play via the web but only on the repeat showing, it seems. Boo. Alternatively, you can bet using your mobile phone but to us just shouting at the screen is the best way to participate.
Challenge examples? How about...
The Old Lady Wheelchair Chicken Challenge: Two old women in electric wheelchairs drive towards each other. Using the information revealed beforehand about the women, who do you think will chicken out first and veer off course?
The Animal Experiment: Have you ever wondered how many helium balloons it would take to make an animal fly? Well let's find out! We're assured that the animal is still alive and well by the announcer at the end of the show. Funny and disturbing simultaneously.
Mr Shake Hands Man: Mr Shake Hands man is very good at shaking hands. How long do you think he can shake hands with a particular celebrity whilst interviewing them? Utterly stupid and made funny by the commentators comments and Mr Shake Hands Man's inane questions.
The Trolley Jump Trial: How many chocolate cakes can somebody in a supermarket trolley clear after being pushed off a ramp at high speed by his friend? Almost certain to be something tried by drunk people around car parks on a Friday and Saturday night...
The Nancy Lam Breast Weigh Gamble: How much does Nancy Lam's ("She's a big celebrity, she's been on Channel 5") left breast weigh? The same as a large parsnip? Some broccoli? Or a turnip?
Wheel Of Misfortune: Two contestants play russian roulette, involving spinning the weel of misfortune, games have included...6 eggs, 5 boiled 1 raw, the contestants must smash them on their heads. To the more extreme... 6 cans of hair mousse, 5 with broken nozzles, the contestants must stick them up each other noses and press the buttons. To the... frankly bizaare, 6 umbrellas, 5 with there springs removed, the contestants must stick them infront of their face and press the button, one will shoot up and smack them on the nose, Ouch!
The Speed Soul Struggle: Between a catholic priest, a jewish rabbi and Lou Ferrigno, which is the last the fall below 20mph, while peddling, excerise bikes.
The Mini Cab Monarch Mystery Take 3 london mini cab drivers, guess which one is a genuine chief of an african tribe!
Most of the games made very little sense, the rest are not suitable to be written about in this article!
A good smattering of game-for-a-laugh TV personalities also get in on the fun. This works well, because - very much like Japanese culture itself - it's strange how some stars we pigeon-hole as B-list celebs are actually a lot more fun/versatile/talented than the Western world takes them for.
Some of the games are illustrated by superbly observed Jap-style cartoon animations that could have just come out of the latest Pokemon-style craze. Also, the rounds are punctuated by segue graphics, with the announcer screaming at you "COME ON, BET BET BET! Betting ends."
This is You Bet meets Monty Python meets any Japanese telly programme you can name. It's not, it has to be said, a show to watch if you're after depth because essentially it's just a random series of events interspersed with random resident characters shouting "Banzai!" The only thing that might "get" people is that some of the challenges seem unnecessarily crude, but they are done in a fun Eurotrash sort of way so that's all right then.
We are pretty fond of this because it's so utterly stupid and - even if there is a risk that it's going to have quite a short shelf life - it's offering something different. To be metaphysical for a moment, maybe it also offers a view on different types of society and their cultures. Because these things matter, y'know?
The Japanese-style writing used for the graphics is, in fact, completely meaningless.
Graham Norton was the only celebrity to make Lady One Question talk after an 80 second staring contest.
OH NOH!!! IT'S ALL OVAH!!!
Banzai book (paperback)
All 3 series are available via 4oD's YouTube Player.