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Sunday, June 15, 2003

CHANNEL SURF

Hard balls from the dugout

Professional athletes are a tight-lipped bunch, and even those who are relatively voluble rarely step outside the usual collection of bromides about "doing my best" and "taking one day at a time."

Fuji TV's variety show, "Junk Sports" (Tuesday, 11 p.m.), gives athletes, both retired and active, a forum where they can be candid about the world of professional sports. Hosted by comedian Masanori Hamada, the show avoids "sports news," meaning discussion of skills and records, favors gossip and juicy anecdotes instead.

Each week a half-dozen athletes show up, but this week's special guest is Katsuya Nomura, former slugging catcher and, more famously, the former manager of the Yakult Swallows and the Hanshin Tigers, who was forced to quit the latter post because of his equally famous wife's run-in with the tax authorities.

In addition to being one of Japanese baseball's greatest stars, Nomura is also its most outspoken, and this week he takes on his perennial rival, "Mr. Baseball" himself, Shigeo Nagashima. While the former Giants star will not himself appear on the show, Nomura has plenty to say about him and will undoubtedly say it. He has nothing to lose.


This weekend, the Korean movie "Failan" opens in Tokyo. Based on a short story titled "Love Letter" by the Japanese writer Jiro Nitta, the movie tells the story of an aging low-level gangster and the young Chinese immigrant he marries for money.

On Wednesday at 8:54 p.m., TV Tokyo presents a drama based on the story as Nitta wrote it, with the original title. Toshiyuki Nishida plays Takano, a middle-aged man who manages a game arcade in Shinjuku for a crime syndicate. Once a top sales representative for a major company, Takano was accused of sexual harassment by a coworker, resulting in the loss of both his job and his family. After taking the game-arcade job, his yakuza boss offers him 500,000 yen to marry a Chinese woman so that she can get a visa to work in Japan. A year later, he receives a notice from the police in Chiba that the woman has died. Takano has never met her face-to-face, but he is required to go there to collect her remains and her possessions, among which is a letter addressed to him.


One of the most popular late-night TV shows right now is "Matthew's Best Hit TV" (Asahi; Wednesday, 11:15 p.m.), starring the blond-wigged, green-suited Matthew Minami, who is, in reality, the slightly more effeminate alter-ego of comedian Takeshi Fujii. Matthew's main appeal is his girlish sense of fun, which is why all his guests are young female idols. During the outrageous games and stunts that make up the show's content, they all let down their guard in surprisingly funny ways.

This week, Matthew gets to play with a bunch of girls who really like fun. According to the press release, he and some of his guests will perform some ninja-like "English-language" fight scenes with the stars of "Charlie's Angels." In addition, he'll interview an idol from a previous era, singer Akiko Wada, who's a bit older than the usual "Best Hit" guests, but willing to play the girly games.



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