Bless me, Papa-san, for I have sinned.
I have not watched every single minute of "Shogun" this week. I missed the first 20 minutes on Monday night. I now know this was a terrible thing because, heading into the final episode, I still didn't know why Anjin-san (forgive me, but for the first three nights I thought his name was Anderson and he'd taken a wrong turn on the way to the Baltimore debate) was in Japan. Did he win the grand prize Asiatic Holiday for one on "The Dating Game"?
I keep thinking of the newspaper ads for the horror movies -- Absolutely no one will be admitted in the last 10 minutes. I think they should have used the same concept for "Shogun" -- Absolutely no one who missed the first 20 minutes will understand the next 4,500.
Which is not to suggest that anyone who hung in there from the start was any better off. After five nights of "Shogun," the only thing I'm sure of is that Lee Iacocca is some funny guy. Every 10 minutes he came on with his Drop Dead Datsun and Toyota commercials (a real first in point-counter-point programming) and said, "If everyone in America drove a K-car, we wouldn't have to import a drop of oil." Can this guy be serious? What do K-cars run on? Ear wax.
I know my penance, I must say 25 Hail Toranaga-sama-mamas, shave the middle of my head, take a bath with a strange woman, sneer at the Portuguese and jump up and down screaming, "John Belushi is really Lord Yabu."
Even after what seems like years of this show, I still have absolutely no idea what went on. Seventy million people were watching this thing, completely hooked by what must be the greatest piece of mass hypnosis in history. The more I watched, the less I understood. I have less trouble with Charo. "Shogun" was like watching a wash cycle at a laundromat. No matter when you come in, it's always the same show -- things just go round and round.
Talk about your inscrutable conversations. Most prime-time shows allow for dead spots and fill them with car chases. This gives you enough time to go to the kitchen for a sandwich. Since there were no cars in Japan in 1600 -- shame on you, Lee -- "Shogun" filled the dead spots with Japanese dialogue. You haven't heard so much Japanese since "Rodan Meets Godzilla." It was like listening to Abbey Road being played by an all-muskrat band.
You might like the authenticity, but could you dance to it? Do you know how frightening it was on Thursday night when it looked like Richard Chamberlain had actually learned Japanese? If he'd done that, 70 million people would have been watching something totally incomprehensible. The last time that happened was at the conventions.
And because so little English was spoken (by the way, the lovely Lady Mariko seemed far better at it than Anjin-san with his thee and thou; then again, she probably studied at UCLA) you dared not miss a minute in the hope that something would be said to clarify the plot. I wasn't sure of the plot. If I read it right, Lord Toranaga (Toshiro Mifune Valentine) wanted to become Bruce Lee. Anjin-san ("No Coke for me -- I'm into grog") wanted to sail in the America's Cup and hop in the sack with the lovely Lady Mariko. And the lovely Lady Mariko wanted to get a job at the U.N. as a translator.
My favorite line was "wwwwwuuuuuuuuaahhhhh." Everyone said it, but Toranaga-sama said it best. I think he and Benji went to the same acting school. Toranaga-sama has the most expressive eyebrows since Sam Ervin. He said more with his eyebrows than Anjin-san with two languages. Anjin-san was forever using all two of his expressions to stall for time to collect his only thought -- How can I score with the lovely Lady Mariko?
Ah, the lovely Lady Mariko. She knelt politely, smiled sweetly and then translated, from the original eyebrow, something like: "My master says he will cut off your hands, deep-fry them like an Arthur Treacher's fish filet and make you eat them if you so much as blink your eyes in his presence." fAnjin-san was gagging as the lovely Lady Mariko used a tone that made you think she was inviting you into her bathtub. Some piece of work, this one.
What worries me is the possible backlash. It hasn't been that long since Big John Connally used to wow Americans with his position on importing Japanese products: "I say, let them sit on the docks in Yokohama in their Toyotas watching their Sonys." You've got to be impressed with the forests, harbors and costumes of Japan in 1600 but, in all charity, Lord Yabu and Lord Toranaga aren't strong candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yabu threatened to have every man, woman and child in the village crucified if they didn't teach Anjin-san Japanese in a resonable length of time -- like tomorrow. A laugh a minute, that guy; the Shecky Green of Osaka.
As for the other villains, well, it doesn't take Mr. Berlitz to see that the Roman Catholic Church is taking it on the chin. This is not the greatest public relations coup in centuries for the Church.
And the Portuguese have had better moments too. If NBC plans to televise "Shogun" in Lisbon, Freddie Silverman had better bring along a food taster for the premiere party.