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Sunday, Feb. 17, 2002

CHANNEL SURF

Grow up, get over it or get done

Several weeks ago, Goro Inagaki, the quiet member of SMAP who for three months excluded himself from the group's activities as penance for a traffic violation, returned to showbiz with considerable fanfare.

One of the programs on which he appeared regularly prior to his run-in with the law was "Tokumei Research 200X" (Nippon TV, Sunday, 7:58 p.m.), on which he played agent Toru Date of the Far East Research Co. Inagaki's absence was explained as a lengthy Los Angeles assignment for his character.

Two weeks ago, Date returned from L.A. with a bad haircut to find that he had been transferred to another division. His former supervisor was a straight-arrow organization man. His new chief is a cranky hipster played by Naoto Takenaka with orange hair, ear studs and an allergy to neckties. In fact, the whole division is more laid-back and cynical than the one he worked in before.

The dramatic window-dressing has little to do with the show's main attraction, which is the "research" that the fictional FERC carries out. This research is presented in the form of fast-moving documentaries with lots of talking heads and colorful computer graphics.

To celebrate the new team, the series aired a special two-part report on what would happen if Mount Fuji erupted. Tonight's show will present Part 2 of a report on studies being conducted into whether people can manipulate their dreams. There will also be a segment in answer to the question, "Can drinking sake improve one's complexion?" The report will look at the manufacturing process and how sake affects the body.

* * *

Inagaki's main series is "SMAP x SMAP" (Fuji, Monday, 10 p.m.), the variety show that includes all the members of the popular vocal group. The media provided saturation coverage of Inagaki's tearful return to the series two weeks ago.

This week's guests are French actor Jean Reno and idol Ryoko Hirosue, who will be promoting their movie "Wasabi" during the SMAP Bistro segment, in which the boys get to show off their culinary skills. Hirosue will undoubtedly get to display her French language skills and another member of SMAP, Masahiro Nakai, whose role is that of the Bistro's owner, will supposedly get to demonstrate his newly acquired English proficiency. Linguists will certainly want to tune in.

In honor of their guests, SMAP attempt a synergy of French and Japanese cuisines, a task that apparently perplexed Reno. This is the second time he's appeared on the show, and he had somehow formed the impression that the five young men were singers.

* * *

Monday night, Nippon TV's weekly documentary series, "Super TV" (9 p.m.) will present a special about Kabukicho, Tokyo's main entertainment district, which contains a high concentration of foreigners working in the fuzoku sex business and mizushobai "water trade."

Since much of the video footage was taken with hidden cameras, the documentary purports to show Kabukicho in a manner never before seen on television.

After a short historical overview, there will be a segment about the struggles of a young man who assumes the position of manager in a drinking establishment. Then there will be a profile of an 18-year-old woman who works in one of the area's hundreds of sex-related service establishments. Finally, there is a "shocking" video documentary about the lives of Chinese prostitutes who work the streets of Kabukicho.

* * *

Tuesday night at 11 p.m., NHK-G will broadcast the first part of a weekly four-part drama series titled "Kimi wo Miagete (Looking Up at You)." Based on a novel written 10 years ago by popular TV scenarist Taichi Yamada, it will be the first time one of Yamada's books has been adapted by someone other than the author himself.

As usual with Yamada, the drama is a love story with a social twist. Japanese women have a famous aversion to men who are shorter than they are. It is often said that the ideal height for a Japanese husband is between 175 and 180 cm.

In Yamada's story, a young man named Shoji (Go Morita of the idol singing group V6) falls into conversation with Eiko (the model Miki), the pretty young woman sitting next to him on a flight from Japan to Bangkok. They hit it off, but after they land and everyone rises to disembark, he realizes that Eiko is 20 cm taller than he is.

Though some people will say this sounds like the makings of a comedy (think Dudley Moore), it's mostly serious, as Shoji overcomes his feelings of inferiority and embarrassment.

Yamada has characteristically included a plot device that comments directly on the love story. Shoji is, by profession, a locksmith, and his efforts to overcome his complex and make Eiko love him are set in parallel to a secondary story of his attempts to crack a particularly difficult safe.

Though cosmetic surgery is gaining respectability in Japan, it certainly appears to be less prevalent than in South Korea, where it seems everybody who has the cash undergoes the old nip 'n' tuck. On Saturday, TBS's afternoon documentary program, "Non TV" (2 p.m.), will compare attitudes about plastic surgery across the Sea of Japan.

In the first segment, a young Japanese girl who dislikes her appearance decides to have cosmetic surgery done. But when her mother disapproves, she runs away from home. In the second segment, a Korean woman is so grateful for her new grandchild that, as a gift, she treats her daughter to a plastic-surgery session. Her other two daughters, however, become jealous and ask why they can't have it done, too. In the end, the whole family partakes.

The last segment is about a 24-year-old Korean woman who has already had her nose and eyes done. However, she is not satisfied with the results, and saves up for another operation. When she tells her fiance, he is both proud and grateful. "Thank you for making yourself beautiful for me," he tells her.



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