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Sunday, Feb. 2, 2003

CHANNEL SURF

Effects of aging on TV, film and romance

February marks the 50th anniversary of the first public television broadcast in Japan, and NHK will celebrate the anniversary with an extensive historical survey of its archives.

As part of the commemorative celebration, NHK will establish the first television broadcast center at the South Pole. The public broadcaster has also moved its archives to Kawaguchi in Saitama Prefecture to a new center, which will store more than 590,000 separate recorded items, 2,000 of which will be available to the public (who, it should be noted, paid for them).

This week NHK-G will broadcast a series of digest specials from 8 to 10 in the evening. The special on Monday will cover dramatic series, mainly the Sunday night historical dramas and the daily morning serials, which are mostly women's stories. Guests will include many of the actors whose successful careers were launched on these series.

Tuesday night is reserved for comedy, variety and music programs, as well as quiz shows, many of which were patterned after popular game shows in the West, such as "I've Got a Secret." The second hour is all about "Kohaku Utagassen," NHK's venerable New Year's Eve song contest.

Sports is the topic Wednesday night, and not just sumo, which is NHK's specialty, but also high school baseball, the Olympics, soccer, horse racing and even professional wrestling.

The Thursday night special will mostly be about how television made it possible for average people to come into contact with places they could never imagine visiting, as well as important historical events captured on TV. And Friday night will look at special moments in NHK's history.

In addition, starting Feb. 2 at midnight and continuing for 11 consecutive nights at 11, NHK-G will rebroadcast selected excerpts from its classic "Silk Road" documentary series, which began in 1980. NHK was the first foreign TV organization the Chinese government allowed to film along the continental route that has linked Europe and the Orient for centuries.

As everyone knows, the advent of television caused a great deal of pain to the movie industry. In the 1950s, the average Japanese person went to movie theaters 12 times a year, and the Japanese film industry cranked out about 600 productions annually. Those numbers have since dropped to 4 and 120, respectively.

On Feb. 2 at 4 p.m., TV Tokyo will air a report on the current state of movies in Japan. Former Takarazuka star Aso Akura will interview Etsuko Takano, who runs Iwanami Hall, one of Tokyo's oldest theaters specializing in foreign films. Takano is also the chairwoman for a special study group that discusses the future of movies in Japan, both foreign and domestic.

Akura will also visit a Japanese computer graphics expert who works in Hollywood, and follows the fortunes of a student filmmaker from the completion of his graduation project to its actual screening.

In addition, the documentary will feature interviews with young people who hope for careers in the Japanese film industry in both the creative and technical fields; as well as information about local film festivals, regional film promotion strategies and the popular animated movie "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi."

It's not uncommon for love stories to focus on a couple in which the man is much older than the woman. It's less frequently that love stories feature a woman who's much older than the man, and even then, the story often ends tragically (the younger man becomes tired of the older woman, as in the 1959 British film "Room at the Top").

In any case, when such a story is handled in Japan, the title usually refers to the woman, but the title of the new TBS drama series, "Toshi Shita no Otoko," focuses on the "younger man." (Thursday, 10 p.m.)

Hanae (Jun Fubuki) is an average housewife in every way except one: She's having a secret love affair with a man, Isaki (Katsunori Takahashi), who is more than 10 years her junior. Chikako (Izumi Inamori), Hanae's 30-year-old daughter, has reached the age when the prospect of growing old alone has become a matter for concern, and she is desperately seeking a mate. She happens to meet Isaki, who is 10 years older than she is, at the gym where she works out and is smitten. She doesn't know, of course, about his relationship with her mother and is disappointed when he seems uninterested in her.

In this week's episode, Hanae, guilt-stricken, decides to break the affair off about the same time that Chikako finds out about it. Chikako also meets her younger brother's best friend, Kengo, who himself turns out to have a secret crush on an "older woman."



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