Americans were at the forefront of inventing and making widespread use of television. We were also at the forefront of using it as a teaching tool for uplifting people all over the world. Unfortunately, we were also the first to toss that noble vision right out the window and run cigarette ads thinly disguised as news programs and hundreds of episodes of The Gong Show.
But, despite our own imbecility, Americans are consistently amazed at the surreal TV sometimes produced overseas. Every culture that has adopted TV has approached the medium in its own unique way, from North Korea’s all-propaganda, all the time format, to Japanese game shows that cross the conceptual boundary between lowbrow entertainment and actionable war crimes. It’s as if TV was our kid, who we sent to college overseas, only to have her come back as a Mao-quoting anarchist who runs a scat play blog on Tumblr.
Sometimes, mass media, ratings desperation, and striking cultural differences collide—and the results are then broadcast for the world (and a few aliens, probably) to see. Fortunately, some thoughtful people have done the public service of uploading the weirdest moments of surreal TV from overseas to the Internet for posterity.