TV Series Debut: Hot & Bothard

The big boys are banking on Jaden Smith to bring in the big ratings, streams, and downloads.

Hot on the heels of Tokyo Vice comes a new crime series featuring two deputised cops working in Japan’s capital.  Starring Jaden Smith and Rupert Grint,  Hot & Bothard will be hitting screens across the world from September, and signs are there already that it’s only a matter of time before a second series is commissioned.

Damon “Hot” Somers (Smith) and Brett Bothard (Grint) are two foreigners who get dragged into a Police Box one day after walking across a crosswalk against a red light.  Instead of getting three weeks in remand without being able to notify loved ones, the pair quickly win over the policemen with their witty responses during questioning.  This leads to the pair being recruited by the police to handle petty crimes committed by other foreigners which the local cops don’t really want to deal with.

Rupert’s had to grint and bear being #3 for ages, but his time to shine has come at last.

The second episode, for example, sees the pair overseeing an initiative to stop the occurrence of go-pro arm initiated verbal stoushes on the sidewalks in the vicinity of tourist attractions.  The local cops make it clear that they’re sick of dealing with foreign tourists acting all high and mighty with each other, so Somers and Bothard are called on to take action.  With absolutely no training, the pair come up with unorthodox ways to solve the problem, earning them a pat on the back from the sergeant, who takes them out to a downmarket izakaya to congratulate them.  

The running gag in the series is that the sergeant is originally from Nagoya, and is stereotypically stingy, always conveniently forgetting to take his wallet to the izakaya at the end of each and every episode.    This is just one of the hilarious tropes wheeled out to keep the vibe of the show fresh and light-hearted, something that serves as a relief to the grittiness of the storylines.  Episode 5, for instance, features a young Canadian who has been ghosted by his sexy girlfriend.  Unable to face the reality that he’s probably just been dumped for a rich local guy, the Canadian visits the Police Box every day to demand that the police take action to solve the “kidnapping case”.

These wimpy and annoying little vehicles are bound to be featured at some stage, hopefully in a negative light.

Other episodes are expected to feature typical tourist-related stuff like Mari Cart triggered road rage incidents, oversized suitcases on the trains during morning rush hour, and one guy experiencing difficulty ordering a meal at Burger King.  From the trailer that I saw, he appears to stubbornly refuse to call a “Whopper Combo” a “Whopper Set”, thus setting off a seemingly innocuous international incident at the Ochanomizu outlet.  It quickly turns into a Dog Day Afternoon situation though, with Somers and Bothard called in to calm things down.

Eager to dispel rumours that this is just a cheap series which has been produced to surf the wave created by Naked Director and Tokyo Vice, studio number-cruncher Ira Steinmann stressed that couldn’t be further from the truth.  “This idea was floated years ago, but it was going to be set in Barcelona or Venice.  After the tourist outrage stories coming out of Tokyo and Kyoto, however, we decided to switch the location.  So, if anything, we’re cynically exploiting the tourist outrage stories in the news.”

Kitagawa Keiko will be kept busy in the lab analysing all kinds of body fluids from the streets of Roppongi.

During a promotional visit to Tokyo last week, I was granted a brief interview with the two stars in their hotel overlooking Hibiya Park.  Rather than an interview however, I was treated to a hilarious back and forth between the effervescent duo.  Smith kicked it all off by stating, “Grint has received the lowest amount of sexual advances out of all the young movie stars in cinematic history.”  To which Grint quickly retorted, “At least my character was 100% me.  Ask anyone who played the role of the Karate Kid and nobody, and I mean nobody, will say your name.”  

The non-stop banter,  a clear indication of how the two had become buddies beyond the screen, extends into nicknames that they’ve given each other.  Grint is usually referred to as “Freckly Balls” while Smith finds himself being called “Soaf” (Son of Angry Fist).  At one stage of our interview Grint took out his cell phone and pretended to get acting tips from Ralph Macchio.  Not missing a beat, Smith took out his cell phone and pretended to chat romantically, and have phone sex, with Emma Watson.  It was this good-natured ribbing which has me convinced that these guys have the right chemistry, and could even become the new Punch & John, or Crockett & Tubbs.

Asakusa takes centre stage in the series, which will probably lead to even more tourist pressure on the besieged sightseeing spot.

Predictably, online gatekeepers have made disparaging remarks about a series that they haven’t even seen, with people already getting their schadenfreude simmering on the stove.  “I wonder which one will butcher the Japanese language more,” wondered one poster.  “Jaden Smith won’t stop until he gaijin smashes as many aspects of Japanese culture as possible,” joked another.  There were some brave posts of support for the actors, but these were overwhelmed by a truckload of contempt.

Stateside reviewers have so far gushed over the chemistry between Smith and Grint, which has built tremendous interest in the new franchise.  “The only drawback that I can see here is Grint inspiring hundreds of redheads around the world to head to Japan” said Steinmann.  “I’m not sure if we’re ready for loads of mixed race kids with that particular background.”  It seems a trivial, and certainly far-fetched, concern.  What can’t be denied, however, is that this series has the potential to create a buzz on both sides of the Atlantic, leading to more tourists heading to Japan and the possibility of even more annoying tourist-related storylines being created.    

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