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Sunday, July 6, 2003

CHANNEL SURF

Labor pains

Story ideas for "trendy dramas" usually incorporate current issues that the target audience will be interested in. A major worry of young people right now, especially those attending university, is job prospects -- and the kind of work environment they'll have to face once they do get a job. Some of these concerns are addressed in "Moto Kare (Ex-Boyfriend)" (TBS, Sunday, 9 p.m.), which premieres July 6. Tsuyoshi Domoto, one half of the idol duo Kinki Kids, plays college graduate Haratsugu Kashiwaba, who, after several months of searching for a good job, finally secures a position with a department store. Department stores have not fared very well in recent years. The only section of traditional department stores that have consistently returned profits are the basement food areas, colloquially referred to as "depachika." Kashiwaba is assigned to the okazu (main dish) section of his store's basement food area. The job, however, turns out to be quite difficult, and his supervisor isn't an easy man to please.

In the opening episode, Kashiwaba strikes up a friendship with Nao (Rina Uchiyama), a young woman who is also a freshman employee straight out of college. Nao is an elevator girl, a position she always coveted, maybe because of the spiffy uniform. Kashiwaba asks her out on a date.

Meanwhile, Chitose (Hiroyuki Amano of the comedy team Kyaiin), a contractor who sells Chinese food in the basement, gets a complaint about some bad dumplings and is forced to go to the customer's house to apologize. Then, Kashiwaba is introduced to the new advertising company liaison who will be in charge of his department. To his shock, it's Makoto (Ryoko Hirosue), his old girlfriend.


'The Happy Prince," another new trendy drama, stays about as far from current issues as you can get. The Oscar Wilde fairy tale on which the drama is based is about a gold-plated statue that gives away its valuable coating to help people in need. However, in this version the hero, Shuhei (Masahiro Motoki), is neither a statue nor a prince -- unless, of course, you consider the scion to a wealthy family that owns a large hospital a kind of prince.

Shuhei doesn't, though explaining this would give away the story, which is told in flashbacks. In the opening episode, broadcast last week, Shuhei, with white hair, a large scar on his neck, and speech patterns more appropriate for an 8-year-old, walks into the office of a loan shark and shoots everyone dead. He then walks out and is himself shot by policemen.

He is brought to a hospital where he remains in a coma while a teenage girl named Mayu, who requires a heart transplant, is given good news by her doctor, a young man named Ryosuke.

Ryosuke was once Shuhei's best friend, and in this week's installment he starts telling Mayu Shuhei's tale, about how he wanted to study music and marry a young cellist named Umi (Miho Kanno), but that his family insisted he become a doctor and take over the family business. They even found a different bride for him.


Because truth-in-advertising rules are lax in Japan, manufacturers often make amazing claims for their products. Right now, especially, there are many products that imply they will help you lose weight or improve your health.

This week, NHK's information quiz program, "Tameshite Gatten" (NHK-G, Wednesday, 8 p.m.) will look at some of these claims and analyze them scientifically. Because this is NHK, viewers are assured that the information will be honest, since the public broadcaster has no sponsors to upset.

A new soft drink features amino acid as an ingredient, which makers imply can help you lose weight. According to NHK, one can probably build muscles more efficiently by drinking amino acids, but only if it is accompanied by regular, strenuous exercise.

Another popular trend is supplemental oxygen. Air conditioners and special devices are used to feed people pure oxygen, which supposedly gives them more vitality. However, NHK found that too much active oxygen in the body can damage your immune system and hurt your lungs.

There is also a report on a popular new skin moisturizer called sodium hyaluronate, a chemical which is produced by the body itself. NHK looks at its effectiveness, whether applied to the skin or taken as a dietary supplement.



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