What makes this earthquake and tsunami such big TV drama is the sheer amount of as-it's-happening footage.
Usually Mother Nature's special effects extravaganzas occur in backward lands full of howling savages, like Haiti or New Zealand. Japan, however, is a modern, technologically-advanced nation; where New Zealand has far more sheep than people, Japan has something like two or three hundred cameras for every human being: In addition to regular old camera-type-cameras, there are traffic-cams, news cams, phone-cams and, knowing the Japanese and their proclivities for both gadgetry and weirdness, you can probably buy an electric loo with a built-in toiletcam. This Argus-eyed array of lenses means that the airwaves and internets are being deluged with dramatic disaster footage that probably caused Jerry Bruckheimer to hurl a brick through his TV screen in a fit of envious pique.
And if it takes a burning oil refinery being hurled through the wreckage of a nuclear power plant to wash Charlie Sheen off the front page, then at least there's an upside.