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Sunday, Aug. 24, 2003

Channel surf

Mr. Marik, Japan's most popular TV magician, takes a big detour from his usual prestidigitational activities on a travel special to be broadcast at 4:05 p.m., Aug. 24, on Fuji TV. "Mr. Marik's Big Adventure" is, believe it or not, actually an understatement.

Marik and female talent Rika travel all the way to the South Pole so that the magician can try out his sleight-of-hand skills in "the world's last frontier." His prospective audience in that icy wasteland is something of a mystery.

The pair fly from Narita to Chile and then travel to the southernmost town in the world. Bad weather keeps them grounded for three days. Five days after arriving at the tip of Chile, they finally make it to Antarctica, and Marik makes the startling discovery that "we are really, really far from Japan."

The two travelers note the magnificence of the landscape and the beauty of the horizon, but then they have to get to work. Marik, unable to actually make the continent disappear, must resort to more commonplace tricks, and starts his performance for his audience . . . a huge flock of penguins.

This week's "Monday Mystery Theatre" (TBS, 9 p.m.) is particularly topical in light of the arrest recently of a mobster who was running a huge loan-sharking racket.

In "The Two Wills," the president of a large loan company with a shady reputation is found murdered and his sister is arrested since it is well-known there was bad blood between them. The dead man's legacy is worth 3 billion yen, and an altered copy of his will is found in the sister's room. With all the circumstantial evidence pointing to her, and minus an alibi, the sister is indicted.

Veteran comedian Chosuke Ikariya plays the woman's wily defense lawyer Bunsuke Ikari, whose strategy is to make a total mess of the case and then pull it all together for a surprise victory right at the end.

On Monday, NHK starts a five-part drama series about a subject that rarely receives attention: orphanages. Right now, there are more than 30,000 minors who have either lost their parents, been given up by their parents, or been taken away from their parents. The institutions that take in such children are usually owned by private, family-run companies who are paid by the government. And as the issue of child abuse becomes more openly acknowledged by the authorities, the number of children in these institutions is growing every year.

In "Ai no Ie" (The House of Love; NHK-G, Monday, 9:15 p.m.), musical-comedy star Mao Taichi plays an orphanage employee named Sato. In the opening episode, she shelters a young girl whom she believes has been abused by her single mother. The girl is reluctant to live in the orphanage, but it may not make any difference. The girl's mother arrives and demands her daughter back. Sato, however, knows that the woman is a professional shoplifter who uses her daughter as a tool for her larcenous activities.

The mother is played by veteran actress Yoshiko Miyazaki, who always plays good-hearted women. The inventive casting also includes former heartthrob Eisaku Yoshida as a cold-hearted bureaucrat who tries to shut down the orphanage.

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