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Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003


Channel surf

After two years as one of TV Tokyo's most popular late-night shows, "Ganso! Debuya" has finally made the big move to prime time: Friday nights at 9 p.m.

The title of the show can be translated literally as "Pioneers! Fat People," which sounds sort of insulting but is meant to be affectionate. This is a show where calories are your friends.

Basically, "Debuya" is no different from every other travel-food program on Japanese TV. The hook is that the show's two peripatetic gourmands -- comedian Hidehiko Ishizuka and dancer Papaya Suzuki -- weigh in at 135 kg and 108 kg, respectively, and have no use for diets whatsoever. In fact, their specific images as tarento are based on their chunkiness. They seek out the richest food there is and make sure the portions are huge.

Sometimes, for visual and conceptual ballast, they bring along their pal, Iranian body-builder Randy Muscle, whose protein deposits are more aesthetically distributed over his body. Nevertheless, Mr. Muscle can pork out with the best of them. The show has already helped make the exclamation "maiuuuu" (umai, meaning "delicious," but with the syllables reversed) a household word.

This week's show takes the two fatties to Kyoto in search of matsutake mushrooms. They are directed to an old Kyoto restaurant called Tamaeda, which is known to pile matsutake on its dishes. However, they're in for a big surprise, and it isn't the high price.

Many Japanese people become interested in learning English through American and British popular culture, especially music. Osaka-based jazz singer Chie Ayado fell in love with African-American gospel music as a young girl.

In the late '80s, her wildest dreams came true when she lived in New York City and started singing regularly at a church in Harlem.

Ayado will be the special guest on this week's edition of NHK's English-language learning program "Eigo Shabera-Night" (NHK-G, Mon., 11:15 p.m.).

Ayado explains that she first studied English by listening to Frank Sinatra records and going to John Wayne movies. Then, when she was only 17, she moved to the United States by herself to study music. She relates that the experience of singing gospel, in which the singers shed their inhibitions, was central to her success in learning proficient English, because once she became a gospel singer, she was no longer afraid to communicate and make mistakes.

Another special guest is British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, who has recently taken a detour from rock to make an album of original torch songs. He'll talk about the art of lyric-writing and the English music scene. There is also a short segment about the work of The Beatles.

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