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Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002

CHANNEL SURF

The 21st-century Yujiro Ishihara's brother

Several years ago, the production company that used to be headed by the late heartthrob Yujiro Ishihara staged a contest to find the "Yujiro Ishihara of the 21st Century." Among the aspiring young actors who entered the contest was Kotaro Koizumi, whose politician father was not yet prime minister. Kotaro didn't win.

Later, of course, his father won big, and thus Kotaro won big, too, riding his father's coattails into an acting career. Monday night on TBS at 9 p.m., Kotaro takes his first leading role in a dramatic production. The drama is a contemporary remake of the 1956 hit movie "Kurutta Kajitsu (Crazy Fruit)," which starred, of all people, Yujiro Ishihara. However, before you start thinking that the guy who won the contest was robbed, bear in mind that Kotaro will not be playing the part that Yujiro played.

Based on a novel by Yujiro's older brother Shintaro, "Kurutta Kajitsu 2002" is the second remake of an Ishihara brothers movie to appear on TBS this season (the other is the series "Taiyo no Kisetsu"). The story involves two brothers who are totally the opposite of each other in terms of temperament, and Kotaro plays Shintaro, who, remember, is currently the governor of Tokyo.

His name isn't Shintaro in the story. It's Harutsugu Kono, a mild-mannered college student who does volunteer work as a storyteller for young children. His wilder, more impulsive brother, Natsuhisa (Kazutera Kitamura), works for an advertising company. Natsuhisa is the kind of person who likes to pick up girls, and he invites his brother along for the fun. Harutsugu is the kind of person who always refuses him.

One day Harutsugu spies a pretty young woman playing in the waves at the beach and is struck by her manner. By coincidence, he runs into her later at the library and gets up the nerve to talk to her. Her name is Eri (Megumi Okuna).

The boys' father, who is a novelist, throws a party to celebrate his latest book, and Harutsugu invites Eri. At the party, Natsuhisa notices Eri speaking French to a foreign man and begins to wonder if she isn't just stringing his naive brother along. He tries to find out more about her.

To further complicate the various identity subtexts, the elder Kono is played by Masahiko Tsugawa, who played Harutsugu in the original movie to Yujiro's Natsuhisa.

As a social problem, narcotics do not receive the same level of attention in the Japanese media as they do in the West, but the fact is that there are 2 million known drug addicts in Japan. Sunday afternoon, the Fuji TV documentary program "The Non-Fiction" (2 p.m.) profiles a private organization that has been helping addicts deal with their addiction and re-enter society.

The organization, D'arc, which began operations 17 years ago, runs 27 facilities throughout Japan. D'arc views addiction as a disease that can be treated and cured. Each of its 2,000 patients is administered to as an individual. Many of these people have been abandoned by their families and have spent most of their adult lives passing between one institution and another, including prison. Their chances of making it in normal society are slim, even if they kick their habit. Many have attempted suicide.

The program focuses on one patient, R, who has been with D'arc for two years. He no longer takes drugs and is presently in the final stage of his rehabilitation; namely, looking for a job.

Rehabilitation of a completely different type is the subject of this week's "Sunday Big Variety" (TV Tokyo; 7 p.m.). Four celebrities will engage in volunteer activities for 30 days each.

None of the celebrities has ever done volunteer work before, and the purpose of the show is to instill a volunteer spirit in the people watching at home.

A famous dancer goes to Kenya, where he participates in a project to dig wells. A famous comedian is put in charge of 10 abandoned dogs and charged with finding homes for them. A former sumo wrestler travels to Okinawa at the height of summer and helps with the pineapple harvest. And the fourth celebrity climbs Mount Fuji with a group of handicapped people.

This Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States, and for the past week there have been several special programs about the subject.

On Sept. 11 at 9 p.m., Nippon TV will join broadcasters in 140 countries around the world for a simultaneous broadcast of footage that was taken inside the World Trade Center right after the attack. At the time the planes struck the buildings, two French brothers were making a video documentary about the New York City Fire Department. It was their video, taken from ground level, of the first plane slamming into the WTC that was broadcast over and over again right after the attack. The brothers then followed some firemen into the buildings with their camera running. This footage has never been broadcast before.

The simultaneous broadcast will coincide with the time of the attacks one year later. The host is Beat Takeshi, who travels to Ground Zero for a live relay of the memorial service.



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