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Sunday, Sept. 28, 2003

Channel surf

Comedian Sanma Akashiya, who has made a living from his public image as "Japan's most irresponsible man," attempts to change that perception in a special drama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the start of Japanese TV broadcasts.

"Satokibi-batake Uta (The Song of the Sugar Cane Field)" -- TBS, tonight, 9 p.m. -- is based on a famous antiwar folk song by Ryoko Moriyama. The story takes place in Naha, Okinawa, during World War II. Sanma plays Koichi, the owner of a photography shop. He and his wife, Michiko (Hitomi Kuroki), have five children, the oldest of whom, Isamu, marries a local schoolteacher and has a baby. In 1944, the American forces are set to invade Okinawa, and both Koichi and Isamu are drafted into service to defend the island. Koichi's first priority is to save his family, a task that becomes almost impossible.

This week, the long-running antiques appraisal show, "Kaiun! Nandemo Kanteidan," will air a special two-hour installment (TV Tokyo, Tuesday, 8 p.m.) focusing on "super historical treasures."

The main feature, however, is about an F1 race car driven by Ayrton Senna, who died in a crash in 1994. The owner of a French restaurant in Suzuka, the home of F1 racing in Japan, was good friends with Senna. The racer even gave him one of his cars, which he displays in front of his restaurant. A team of appraisers decide exactly how much it's worth.

In another segment, a retired man relates how his dream has always been to open a gyoza restaurant where he could display his collection of antiques. However, his family has tried to talk him out of it because they think his gyoza are terrible and his antiques aren't worth anything. His dream gyoza restaurant is created in the studio, and the appraisers evaluate not only his antiques, but his gyoza, too.

On Wednesday at 7 p.m., TV Asahi will present the third in its occasional "Tanken Series," which revives a popular adventure program from the '70s.

In these documentaries, teams of explorers were led by a famous actor into previously unexplored corners of the world. This time, Hiroshi Fujioka captains a group through the jungles of Guyana to find an isolated, legendary tribe that lives at the foot of a huge plateau.

Because of the difficult terrain, it is impossible for aircraft to land in the area, so the team must climb 150 meters straight down the sheer face of the plateau. Very few people have ever seen this tribe, but those who have say the members are covered with reddish hair and have pointy green ears. There is even a popular rumor that they are descendants of extraterrestrials.

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