TOKYO — Reality bites — just ask Japan’s Fuji TV.
The network has found itself at the center of a scandal after it was revealed that an episode of a top-rated show featuring couples on the verge of divorce was staged.
The reality-based show, “Ai suru futari, Wakeru futari” (Couples in love, couples breaking up), which grabbed audience share of up to 27%, will be pulled from the air because of the scandal, Fuji TV said.
In the show, a couple whose marriage is in trouble take their problems to a celebrity panel, who offers them advice. If the couple decides they cannot work out their problems, they affix their signature seals to a divorce petition and end their marriage right before the final commercial break.
The couple’s names are not used in the program and their faces are not shown.
In a March 8 broadcast, the couple on the show was not married. The so-called wife, a woman in her 30s, said she was having an affair and wanted to leave her husband.
According to local media reports, the woman on the show was actually having these problems and the man sitting next to her was an actor. The woman later committed suicide when her real husband learned that she appeared on the show, the reports said.
In the only official comment Fuji TV has made on the affair, Masaki Miyauchi, head of its programming and production department, admitted that the couple were not married and apologized to viewers.
The show, which took to the air in October 1998, was produced by Tokyo-based Japan Produce.
One of the celebrity panelists on the divorce show, a cross-dressing, middle-aged male singer named Kenichi Mikawa, was involved in another Fuji TV show that touched off an international incident. In 1998, he appeared on a gourmet travel show that featured a dish made with endangered Bengal tiger. Conservation groups blasted the network for its bad taste.