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Sunday, Oct. 12, 2003

Channel surf

The weekly variety show "Bakumon Shogeki Ranking" (Asahi; Sunday, 6:56 p.m.), hosted by the comedy duo Bakusho Mondai, has a simple premise and extremely redundant content. Each week, the program counts down the top 20 or 50 or 100 people or things in a certain category. On Oct. 12, they finally cover something you can use: the 10 worst housing problems in Japan, as well as the best 10 residences in Japan.

Top 10s will be presented for both rentals and purchases. The main idea is to show people who are planning to buy or rent houses and apartments the kind of problems that tend to emerge only after you move in. The biggest problems are uneven floors and dampness. As for the 10 best residences in Japan, that's included to make you envious.

Lately, actor Toshiyuki Nishida has been getting a lot of work playing miserable men. This Monday, he plays a character who gets a double whammy of misery. In "Rikon Ryoko (Divorce Journey)" (TBS, 9 p.m.), he is Koichi, a middle-aged employee at a supermarket company who is suddenly laid off. Depressed, he goes home and tells his wife, Natsuya (Keiko Matsuzaka), who then says she thinks it will be a good opportunity for her to start a "new life," and asks for a divorce. Koichi is speechless, and after he absorbs the impact of these events he asks his wife for one last favor.

As a odo (go-bbetween), he is obliged to be present at the wedding of one of his subordinates and needs Natsuya by his side to carry out his obligations. She agrees, and they embark on a journey to the wedding in a distant city that allows them to discuss their life together and what the future holds.

Fujiko Hemming is the most popular classical pianist in Japan. Her concerts sell out immediately, and sales of her CDs are extremely high. However, she has only been playing in Japan since 1995, when she returned from self-imposed exile in Europe. Her story is dramatized in "Fujiko Hemming's Footsteps" (Fuji; Friday, 9 p.m.), starring Miho Kanno as the pianist.

Hemming was born in Berlin to a Japanese mother and a Swedish father, but her parents separated early and she moved with her mother to Japan. She started piano lessons at the age of 5 and became something of a prodigy. However, because of her parentage, she had no nationality, and when she went to Germany to study at the age of 29, she went as a Red Cross refugee. She garnered praise in Europe, but on the eve of her first major recital tour she became very ill. The illness was so serious that it left her partly deaf. Her career seemed to be over . . .

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