Neomarxism has an interesting post on the lack of complexity on Japanese TV and I agree whole heartedly with him:
In his book Everything Bad is Good For You, writer Steven Johnson has an explanation for why 80s shows have aged so poorly: pop culture's moral and content standards may have deteriorated but the structural complexity and cognitive requirements have greatly increased. So, viewers today are trained to expect less narrative hand-holding and more sophisticated, multi-tiered storytelling. We therefore get easily bored with the slow pace and obviousness of past television. Johnson's book may be the most optimistic thing I've read in years, and empirical evidence certainly matches with his ideas. After watching the entire first season of Arrested Development, episodes from the "high-paced" sixth season of The Simpsons feel rather slow.
Things are not so rosy, however, when thinking about Japanese television in Johnson's framework. Japanese TV is mainly variety shows, featuring panels of celebrities commenting on topics or pre-recorded segments. Drama series are short-term productions, and all television shows are filmed with video. (Think the visual quality of Latin American soap operas.) Despite the fact that the Japanese audience endures more commercials every year than TV viewers in other nations, production value is very low. (Important to remember here that American shows don't really make money until sold into syndication or international markets). The high dependence upon "idols" for the dramas' starring roles creates a palpable lack of acting talent. Reality shows tend to eschew the social psychology and game theory of Survivor or The Apprentice and concentrate on watching people (and kangaroos) eat things. Most science fiction anime certainly include complex plots, but I do not think I would be offbase to say that the networks' strategy is to create what Johnson calls "Least Objectionable Programming." TV is still family-oriented, blunt targeted towards a mass market.
The funny thing is that the American TV show 24 is extremely popular here, so along with Marxy, I ask why doesn't a TV station make a Japanese version? Budgets? It seems that there would be a market for such a show.
Here's the link to the entire post.