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Sunday, Oct. 5, 2003

Channel surf

There's been a lot of talk lately about how Japan has lost its envied reputation as a "safe society." Crime has increased 60 percent in the past 10 years and the police now solve only one out of every five criminal cases. What's worse, crime in Japan is becoming increasingly violent.

Tonight at 9 p.m., NHK-G will broadcast the second part of a series on crime in Japan. The episode focuses on juvenile criminal behavior. It is estimated that one out of every 60 Japanese minors will be arrested before they become adults. The program will explore the idea that crime has become part of everyday life for some young people. A group of guests in the studio will "chat" in real time with 700 boys and girls who will communicate through text messages over the Internet. In addition, a video report will chart the usual evolution of juvenile criminal activity, starting with shoplifting. The program goes out live.

This week, the fall drama series begin. "Et Alors" (French for "and so?") premieres on TBS Thursday night at 9 p.m. Based on a best-selling novel by Junichiro Watanabe, who penned the infamous adultery story "Shitsurakuen," the series takes a lighthearted look at the nursing home business.

Etsushi Toyokawa plays Kurusu, a former university hospital physician who takes over the directorship of Et Alors Villa, a private nursing home established by his father.

The home, which is improbably located in Ginza, is different from the usual Japanese old-folks home. Ken Ogata plays Tachiki, a resident who keeps hitting on Reika, a female resident who doesn't appreciate his attention. However, another female resident, Kyoko, develops a crush on her young and handsome physical therapist. The romantic intrigues are played for laughs and pathos, and in the beginning, at least, Kurusu feels overwhelmed with the demands of all these old people.

On Saturday at 9 p.m., Nippon TV airs the first episode of "Ashita Tenki ni Naare (Let's Hope Tomorrow is Fair)," which, as its title indicates, is about a TV weather announcer -- though Hana (Arisa Kanzuki) isn't your usual weather announcer.

She's a single mother who is also very unqualified to be an announcer, which may be the point. Divorced, Hana supports herself and her young daughter, Mimi, by working as a waitress in a cafe. She's poor, but happy; that is, until she's given her notice. Then she's just poor.

She starts looking everywhere for a new job, but since she has no skills she can't find one. Then, during the last day of work at the cafe, a regular patron, who happens to be a producer for a local news program, says he needs an emergency substitute for the station's "weather lady" and asks Hana if she's interested.

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