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Sunday, Nov. 25, 2001

CHANNEL SURF

WHODUNIT?

Only the garbage knows

One of the things all single-episode TV mysteries have in common besides being single-episode TV mysteries is ridiculous titles. The title of this week's "Monday Mystery Theatre" (TBS, 9 p.m.) is "Obasan Kaicho Murasaki no Hanzai Seiso Nikki: Gomi wa Koroshi wo Shitte Iru," which translates as "Middle-aged Chairwoman Murasaki's Crime Cleaning Diary: The Garbage Knows Who Did It."

Madame Murasaki is the chairwoman of a large conglomerate who nevertheless has a thing about corpses and housekeeping: She disguises herself as a cleaning lady to solve murders. Murasaki is played by veteran actress Tamao Nakamura and her sidekick, Nanako, by Tamao Sato.

News photo
Ken Kaneko and Hiroshi Tachi in "Taiyo ni Hoero!"

A young escort named Masayo disappears from a hot-spring resort, but traces of blood are found in her room. Apparently, Masayo had been having difficulties with the management of the service she worked for and in the midst of the search for her, the owner turns up dead. Murasaki steps in and cleans the girl's room from top to bottom, and then rummages through the resulting trash for clues.

If the story line described above sounds as if it were designed more for the sake of convenience than coherence, bear in mind that the program itself is driven by casting. The producers are promoting the "double Tamao" casting, which is easy to do in this case since both actresses are famous in the media for their "no tenki" (absent-minded) reputations.

News photo
The two Tamaos, Sato and Nakamura, in "Monday Mystery Theatre"

T his week's "Onna to Ai to Mystery (Women and Love and Mystery)" (TV Tokyo, Wednesday, 8:54 p.m.) features a more serious plot and an even more mouth-filling title: "Koto Ryojo Suspense, Kaguyahime Densetsu Satsujin Jiken: Danchizuma Sannin Okiraku Ryoko Jikenbo." An approximate translation would be something like, "Sentimental Trip to the Old Capital for Suspense, the Legend of the Princess Kaguya Murder: Three Housing-Complex Wives on a Relaxing Trip Take the Case." (The joke in this instance is the use of danchizuma -- housing-complex wives -- a term that was widely used in 1970s soft-porn movie titles.)

Kumiko Okae stars as Kaori, the wife of a newspaper reporter, who travels to Onomichi and Takehara with her two friends, Noriko and Ryoko. Along the way they encounter an attractive single man named Ishiyama, but when they arrive at their destination they find the corpse of a man who turns out to be a former classmate of his. The dead man's fiancee, Mitsuyo, is nicknamed Princess Kaguya, after a famous legendary beauty, and soon more bodies turn up accompanied by evidence that can be somehow linked to the legend. What's more, the names of the victims all have something in common with the names of the five fictional noblemen who tried to marry Princess Kaguya.

One of the legacies of the late beloved actor Yujiro Ishihara was the long-running detective series "Taiyo ni Hoero! (Roar at the Sun!)," which made stars out of many young actors, most notably Kenichi Hagiwara and the iconic Yusaku Matsuda, who died prematurely only 12 years ago. Matsuda's spectacular death in the series remains one of the most famous moments in Japanese TV history.

Though the characters and the situations have been revived for three TV specials in the 14 years since the show went off the air, Friday will be the first time that a drama special will use the original title, "Taiyo ni Hoero!" (Nippon TV, 9:03 p.m.). Ishihara, who played the chief of Investigation Section 1 at the fictional Nanamagari Police Station, is replaced by veteran hard-boiled actor Hiroshi Tachi. Though Tachi was not in the original series, former idol Keiko Takahashi, who played the girlfriend of Matsuda's character, will appear. In addition, cartoonist Hiroshi Kurogane will make his acting debut as a veteran detective whose specialty is, naturally, sketching.

The story involves a team of thieves who rob a consumer loan company. A rookie detective (Ken Kaneko) uses a motorbike to pursue the suspects but, due to a mistake by his female colleague, the robbers escape. The police eventually track down two members of the team, but the case turns out to be much more complicated than they first thought.

Cancer is the No. 1 killer in Japan, and since 1983 TV Asahi has run an annual series about the treatment of the disease called "The Cancer Wars." The specials focus on real people fighting the disease and the doctors and hospitals that treat them. The subjects and perspectives of the program are taken from suggestions sent in by viewers.

This year's installment (today at 2:30 p.m.) focuses on women with cancer, specifically cancer of the breast and uterus. Among the segments is one about four American sisters, two of whom have already been diagnosed with breast cancer; a woman who undergoes an operation in which the doctor performs a mastectomy and rebuilds the woman's breast at the same time; and a woman who, following an abortion and a miscarriage, is diagnosed with cancer of the uterus.

The host is announcer Hiroshi Kume, who has been with the series since the beginning, meaning that he has worked on these specials longer than he has worked on TV Asahi's "News Station," which also premiered in 1983.



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