Want an antidote to toxic reality TV? Watch ‘Terrace House.’

It’s not particularly novel to point out that American reality television can be toxic — that’s part of why we watch it, after all. But even if you ignore the president of the United States, it’s still been a pretty rough few years for reality TV. A Survivor contestant was outed as trans. TLC has had to cancel multiple shows because of controversies involving child molestation. And much of the most recent season of Bachelor in Paradise was spent trying to skirt around the allegations of misconduct that dogged the show after a drunken sexual encounter between cast members DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios. Bachelor Nation derives a sort of demented glee from the humiliation (and occasional victory) that comes out of the franchise, but the scandal felt like a splash of cold water, and the overly produced, after-school special quality of the cast members discussing consent on the season premiere rang hollow.

Once this kind of shift happens for an audience, it’s hard to undo. “Authenticity” is often just a mildly useful buzzword when it comes to reality TV, but producers still strive to give viewers the sense that what they’re seeing is genuine, unscripted human interaction, free of the specter of monstrosity that might make people feel bad about watching. It’s a pop culture illusion that requires not only likable cast members, but also careful editing, effective music cues and, perhaps most important, at least some warmth from behind the camera.

Enter Terrace House, a Japanese reality show co-produced by Fuji Television and Netflix (where you can find the two most recent seasons, Boys and Girls in the City and the just-concluded Aloha State). As the show’s commentator panel of Japanese actors, comedians and pop stars reminds us each episode, Terrace House focuses on six people living in a house together (in Tokyo in Boys and Girls in the City, in Hawaii in Aloha State), with access to nice cars. That’s it. Imagine a version of The Real World

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