Ah, this week a show very often referenced but actually very little seen. Happy Family Plan is, of course, the original Japanese version of the show we know as The Moment of Truth. In it, a member of a family is given a week to learn a tricky task, and if they can successfully perform it on the night then they win massive amounts of prizes for themselves and their families. If not, then they go home with nothing (except the kids who win a small prize, at Cilla’s insistance).
This tale follows one of two families competing on the show. It was originally broadcast on Tokyo’s Broadcasting System, but has since been subtitled and rebroadcast on Hawaiiian television. We would have to guess as to whether edits have been made or not, or whether the lyrics in the opening titles have been especially created for the English speaking audience.
“When you find yourself in danger, when you’re threatened by a stranger, when it looks like you will take a lickin’… there is someone waiting who will hurry up and rescue you…” and then something we can’t quite make out, but clearly mentioning chickens.
This is the title sequence, if you hadn’t gathered already. It shows a cartoon family in a kitchen who hitch a ride on the hand of a giant woman, and then this.
Happy Family Plan formed the basis of a film, once. We haven’t seen it.
Our two hosts. They don’t seem to have been given names on this broadcast, although a little bit of research suggests that they are Wadi Akiko and Furutachi Ichiro.
I’m sorry about the tape creasing at the bottom there, but rest assured you’re only missing them saying “let’s meet our next family”.
There seem to be a number of regular “happiness deliverymen” – the other family featured in this episode have a female deliverer. This is Kuwano, and he’s about to deliver some happiness to a family in Gotemba.
Well she seems quite shocked. We have little idea how much idea the families have that they have been chosen, other than them sending a card in and (if the plot of the film is anything to go by), going to an audition.
These are the Shiokawas, and they are introduced by the voiceover woman and some jaunty jolly music.
Here’s Dad at work. It’s interesting that the voiceover points him out to be a “very conscientious worker”, whilst other people are also “contributing members of society”. Possibly an insight into the Japanese mind there, that we can get behind these people because they are good people.
Before seeing this episode, I was under the impression that the families involved were somehow destitute. This seems to be a tad off.
The happiness deliveryman fainting with laughter at the idea of going to Tokyo for your honeymoon.
Dad’s also a ballroom dancer in his spare time (but not with his wife as his partner, a young college student. His wife doesn’t mind.)
Some things of note: you can often see the hosts’ reaction shots in the top left corner of the screen. And we have very little clue as to what all the writing means (the 300 sign seems to stay in the top right corner throughout the show).
There is the Happy Family Plan, a catalogue of prizes for the family to choose from.
This will be where the idea of The Dream Directory came from for The Moment of Truth.
Unlike The Moment of Truth which just listed the prizes, the Japanese like to tell you how much everything is worth. Dad’s going for a 1.5m Yen holiday, Mum wants a new bath, and the other members ahve chosen much smaller prizes.
And it all comes to… almost three million yen! That’s about £15,000 – probably slightly less than the prize budget for the UK version, in fact.
But now… what of the challenge? It is the father who will be performing it. Is there anything the rest of the family could teach him? He doesn’t want a memory challenge, he admits to being a complete idiot.
His daughter is pretty handy with beanbags as it turns out…
And look! Inside the happiness man’s box is some beanbags! The family are overjoyed.
Sorry for the black and white, this grab was taken at an inopportuine moment.
As it turns out, the father is pretty handy with beanbags as well. This is going to be easy!
At this point however, the happiness man tells them that actually, it’s nothing to do with juggling beanbags. The family are confused.
He points out that Dad seems to have torn one of the beanbags, and there’s a loose thread sticking out…
Oh no! It has pictures of flags of the world attached!
The true nature of the challenge revealed! Dad has to memorise all 185 flags and countries of the world!
In case you missed it first time round.
The rules then, simply the father must be able to recall the formal name of each of the 185 recognized countries of the world from their flag which will flash up in a random order in the studio.
This is actually about twice as difficult as the average Brit memory test, where the average amount of items needed to remember averages about 100.
In this example here, the correct response isn’t “England” (even though that’s wrong anyway), it’s “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
It takes Dad several attempts to get this right…
He is left 184 large cards (As there’s no point in giving him the one for Japan) as well as this large board with all the flags on it.
It also says “Day 1” in the bottom corner, there.
The family have laid out all the flags on the floor. Dad still hasn’t quite got to grips with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland yet.
Dad’s got up early, and over the morning has been practicing forty countries at work.
Although you’d be hard pushed to see this through all the graphics there.
Meanwhile, his daughters have given each of the rooms at home a theme. Each room features all the flags from a different continent.
The family are testing him on the sixty republics of the world. Everytime he gets one right, they do a “bing-bong!” sound effect like in the studio.
He’s done it! And there’s a super golden graphic to prove it.
Day three, and Mum is teaching him a method to remember some of the more obscure countries.
This flag has a picture of a gate on it (which is “mon” in Japanese) – ergo, this is the flag of Mongolia.
However, Dad is drunk today and not really taking it very seriously which angers Mum and daughter. When tested though – it does seem to have stuck.
Dad’s learnt 173 countries, but the family have realised that he’s now confusing the formal names for them all.
To rectify this, the daughter has rethemed each of the rooms – republics in one, kingdoms in another and so on.
The family test him everywhere – at work, at the dinner table, and even on the toilet!
It’s the day before recording, and family and friends have gathered to put Dad under pressure for one last time before doing for real in the studio the next day.
That’s a fairly similar set-up to how it will be in the studio. The family are using cunning videocamera techniques rather than computer generated flags though.
And he’s done it! Good luck tomorrow Dad!
The hosts discuss the family, and hope he’ll samba onto the stage.
And here they are! Dad does indeed samba onto the stage.
You can’t see it very clearly in the picture, but the giant screen at the back does indeed have “Happy Family Plan” written in English.
The host teases them about Dad’s much younger dance partner and whether his wife minds.
And it’s time to take a look at the prizes!
We like the idea of a caption that says “Close-up of Family’s Dreams”.
Unlike the Brit show, here the families are allowed to handle the prizes, to make them seem far more tangible, and inevitably much more disappointing should Dad fail.
But now it’s time to stop the talking and start the walking… the Path of Destiny is now open.
The challenge will take place centre stage (although challenges can also take place on the other stage bottom right of the shot). That monitor will drop down into position. Hosts and family watch from the main stage.
It is time for the exam to begin.
The flag and answer are in the bottom corner, and above that is the count of how many flags he still has to name. 185 in this case, so this is the first flag.
The top left is flashing and the sound of a clock is ticking. This is to remind people that he must respond within ten seconds.
But he thinks this one is Mali…
… but as it turns out it’s Romania. Exam failed.
Dad and family are dejected.
One of the hosts ask what it was like up there, Dad responds that he was absolutely preoccupied with not making mistakes.
The hosts go over the mistake on the large screen. Mali is green, yellow and red, but Romania is blue, yellow and red. Harsh indeed.
There’s no goodbye at this point, it jumps to the hosts introducing the next family. We can’t know if this is in the original or not.
This article was originally written in 2005, the following comments were in the original comment box:
From the lyrics, the theme to “Happy Family Plan” sounds like it was taken from the theme of the “Super Chicken” segment of “George of the Jungle,” the cult Jay Ward cartoon series of 1967. When meek Henry Cabot Henhouse III (a reference to U.S. politican Henry Cabot Lodge, the character’s name was going to be the name of a CBS executive Ward once had an argument over a series pilot with until someone at ABC noticed) drank his Super Sauce, he turned into Super Chicken and with his dimwitted lion sidekick Fred flew around fighting evil in his Super Coop. Since Jay Ward series had witty dialogue to make up for rudimentary animation, it’s not as daft as it sounds.
A favorite passage from the segment:
FRED: Why don’t you use your super vision, Super Chicken?
SUPER CHICKEN: If I had any supervision, I wouldn’t be running around in my underwear!
The music, like all of the “George of the Jungle” themes (generally, Ward shows don’t have nonstop musical scores like most cartoons), was written by Stan Worth and Sheldon Allman, who did a lot of game show work–Allman wrote the signature music for “Let’s Make a Deal” played live by organist Ivan Ditmars and his combo and Worth by himself or collaborating with Allman seemed to write most of the 70s U.S. game show themes not written by the Score Productions production house. Worth died in 1980, Allman passed on last year.
This page has more info on the “George of the Jungle” series:
It was made into a live-action film in 1997 without the “Super Chicken” segment.
Actually, Happy Family Plan was adapted in the United States, not as The Moment of Truth but as The Big Moment, which aired in 1999 and was hosted by Brad Sherwood. It began as an hour series with four families (or groups of roommates) given challenges that were worth $25,000 in prizes of the players’ choosing. Then the show was reduced to a half-hour, with two challenges and an audience game where one member of the audience had until the end of a show to practice a stunt for a shot at $5000.