Melbourne-based TV critic, writer and podcaster Stephanie Van Schilt is also a Terrace House superfan. If you haven't yet discovered the Fuji TV cult-classic, turned Netflix smash, you are, of course, missing out.
We got together to chat over a passive-aggressive omurice. Just kidding, we emailed.
How did you discover Terrace House?
A few years ago, my partner found an article about Boys and Girls in the City (the first Netflix Original) and was like WE MUST WATCH IMMEDIATELY. Essentially, the premise coupled our favourite things (his: Japan; mine: reality TV, clean houses). And just like that *Netflix intro sound* we were hooked, like deeply madly in love with the show and everything about it (except Hayato and his serial killer eyes).
You found Terrace House before you went to Japan. What was it that sucked you in?
My partner, Toby, went to Japan a few years ago and loved it. I can’t overstate how HUGE this is for him – he’s a super nervous traveller (slash person) and I’d rather get a parasite in Bali than go there for a holiday and listen to his paranoid ramblings. But Japan was like his happy place: thanks to the efficient public transport, delicious food and polite people, it made him feel uncharacteristically calm. So when planning our first overseas holiday together (after almost 5 years of dating cos we’re writers), Japan was the perfect fit.
Then Terrace House came along and offered a similar calmness that Toby had experienced during his travels, but as a viewing experience. I looked forward to seeing what the people did, not being distracted by my phone while viewing (because subtitles) and just how thoughtful the whole experience was. So obviously once I was dedicated to the show I was all “I want to go to there” and the planning began.
What Terrace House things did you do, and how can people follow in your footsteps?
We had a spreadsheet of locations from the show to visit (like Daiki’s kickboxing gym, Target). During our trip we happened to stumble completely accidentally into Lattest, a coffee shop where Mizuki from B&GITC works (we planned it but I promise we’re not creeps). I took a photo outside a closed-down sex shop because a condom advert featuring panellist Yoshimi Tokui was plastered across the shopfront. We were even inspired by one of Seina’s early dates to try to actually relax (again, nervous writers) and went to the stunning lakeside spa town, Hakone, which was incredible.
Some people might find it a bit pathetic that we planned a lot of our trip around the show, but fandom is real and important; Terrace House gave me and my partner hope in some of our darkest hours so extending that joy into our first ever holiday together made it extra special and – somewhat ironically given the recent success of Terrace House – personal.
The first season of Terrace House, Boys x Girls Next Door, only screened in Japan, most people who are watching now are picking up from when Netflix resurrected the show, with Boys and Girls in the City. What are these people missing out on?
OMG the original series is so, so incredible. Not only do you get to watch how show develops into its current format (it didn’t always have the panel!) which totally appealed to the TV critic in me, but it’s also about 100 episodes long and has a spin-off movie (kind of, the movie is a bit weird) which appealed to the reality TV tragic that is me.
The main thing though is the characters relationships and their emotional arcs – there were like real life-or-death situations on display, people striving to be the ‘best version of themselves’ and often failing, and I’ve never cried so hard watching a show before ever (not even Six Feet Under finale).
I watch a lot of TV but nothing has moved or consumed me as much as Boys and Girls Next Door. Terrace House honestly has my heart (sorry Toby).
BxGND Seina is a very different person from OND Seina- and fair enough, five years have passed. You've written before about your love of Seina and I totally agree she's the MVP, and also a person I feel oddly protective of. One thing that irks me is that I think the men in the group get a pass on behaviours that are highlighted in her edits, like drinking and being 'forward' in her questioning. I'd love to hear your take on how much Seina controls, or has learned subsequently about the way that she is presented.
OMG I would DIE to have several bottles of wine with Seina. When she left Opening New Doors, the episode was titled “Bye Bye Miss Terrace House” which irked me because Seina is nothing less than the QUEEN of Terrace House. I love that her growth is a combination of actually growing up on screen (she started on the show in her early-mid-twenties), but also discovering her value as both a TV personality and a woman/human. She doesn’t compromise on one or the other: she is who she is, and because of that we love to watch her (over and over and over).
After watching the show, in what ways did Japan meet your expectations, and in what way were you surprised?
I think I was surprised by how few locals even *knew* of Terrace House. Obviously we tried to bring it up in every conversation but much like our experience at home (until the most recent season blew up) we were met with silence. Only maybe like two people knew of it (one was a drunk 30-year-old who sung the Taylor Swift intro to us, apparently humiliating his young date).
The panel is for me the thing that really sets Terrace House apart from other shows, but also a real cause of frustration because they've made some calls that can read as very tone-deaf. How do you negotiate this?
I negotiate it in a similar way as when I disagree a friend I’m watching something – I talk to them. I realise that I’m sounding completely insane by this point of the interview but as if everyone doesn’t talk at the TV! Essentially, I love when the panel echoes something I’ve said or felt during the episode because they make me feel supported. But I’m also conscious that I don’t always agree with them (especially the misogyny) and that my cultural upbringing and politics are very different from theirs. I also like to keep in mind – and remind people – that a panel on a reality show and have a role to play too (think Idol’s trio of supportive/serious/villain hosts).
It’s missing BxGND cast. Fail.
What else do people need to know before they start watching?
It might take you about three eps to get the rhythm or get into it. Or maybe you don’t like in which case that’s totally fine, us Terrace House fans don’t want your cold dead heart anywhere near our beloved show anyway.