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Sunday, June 8, 2003

CHANNEL SURF

Every step you take

As one of the longest-running variety shows, "Downtown DX" (Nippon TV, Thursday, 10 p.m.) is the progenitor for almost every other one. Hosted by the comedy duo Downtown -- Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masanori Hamada -- the shows's format centers on celebrity guests relating anecdotes about themselves.

This week, on the regular "Star's Youth White Paper" segment, in which a celebrity makes a show-and-tell presentation, veteran actor Shinji Fujimura explains a portrait of himself that was painted by the late film director Akira Kurosawa. Many years ago, Fujimura wrote a book of essays and asked Kurosawa, somewhat offhandedly, if he would provide the illustration for the cover. Kurosawa complied with a portrait of Fujimura as a clown. On the program, Downtown has the painting assessed by an expert, who says that it is worth about 10 million yen. Fujimura is dumbfounded.

In another regular segment, celebrities respond to postcards sent in by viewers who describe seeing those celebrities in candid situations on the street. This week, one viewer describes seeing the veteran enka singer Aki Yashiro in a 100 yen shop where she purchased eight baskets of merchandise. According to the "witness," her receipt was "3 meters long." Matsumoto asks her how much she spent and she blithely replies "70,000 yen." The audience is dumbfounded.


NHK is currently airing a five-part historical drama based on a novel by Shugoro Yamamoto called "Yuurei Kashimasu" (NHK-G, Friday, 9:15 p.m.), which translates as "Lending a Ghost." The story is closer in tone to Hollywood poltergeist comedies like "Topper" and "Blithe Spirit" than it is to the usual Japanese jidaigeki.

Osome (Mayu Tsuruta), the ghost of a beautiful young geisha from the Edo Period, appears one day before the woodworker Yaroku (Morio Kazama). She tells him that he is the reincarnation of her former lover and that they both died while trying to escape from her employers after they vowed everlasting love to each other. However, Osome could not achieve nirvana, and thus she is destined to walk the world as a ghost. Her only hope is if Yaroku remembers their past lives as lovers and prays for her.

So far, however, Yaroku can't quite remember his past life, and is thus stuck with not only the dead geisha, but the ghost of her mother, as well. He asks Osome to help out his boss, who is having marital problems, and when she succeeds, he decides to rent out her services.

In this week's episode, a young girl named Oyo requests Osome's services in helping to save her father. The father, an inveterate gambler, uses Oyo as a make-believe ghost in his confidence schemes. Oyo pretends to haunt certain commercial establishments and then the father comes in and exorcises the ghost and demands money. Oyo wants him to stop and thinks if he's confronted with a real ghost, he will.


A very popular brand of tarento right now is one-kyara, which stands for "one-san characters." In this case, however, "one-san," doesn't mean "young woman," but rather men who act like young women. Most of these men did not start out as talents, but rather became famous in their chosen profession and then made the leap to variety shows because of their effeminate charms.

Two of the most popular one-kyara at the moment are guests on this week's edition of Beat Takeshi's art variety show "Anyone Can Be Picasso" (TV Tokyo; Friday, 10 p.m.).

Shogo Kariyazaki had already been a respected and successful flower arranger (kadoka) for two decades when he became a talent in 1999. His exhibitions attract thousands of fans, most of whom tend to be middle-aged women. On "Picasso," he lets cameras into his "gorgeous" home, which contains 21 chandeliers, 31 large mirrors and 41 sofas. Back in the studio, he teaches Takeshi and the other guests the fundamentals of flower arranging.

The other one-kyara guest, Kaba-chan, is a successful choreographer, mostly for idol singers. He himself started out with a backup dance group called dos. When the group broke up he became a freelance dance designer for performers like SMAP, Namie Amuro, Tomomi Kahala and Max. On "Picasso" he does a solo dance performance to Mariah Carey's "Emotions" and then choreographs a dance number for everyone in the studio.



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